Eagles Should Target Defense in First Round of Draft

Written By Bob Cunningham On Saturday, January 29, 2011
The draft, as we know, is an art and not a science.

The fact that there are any number of ways to decide why or why not to draft a player gives that part away, but basically there are three ways teams approach the draft.

One is to draft according to need, the second is to draft the best player on the board regardless of position, and the third is to draft the best player according to need.

Those are, of course, in no particular order.

Personally, I subscribe to the third philosophy -- it's just the one that seems to make the most sense. If you draft according to need, you're likely to reach, and if you draft the best player on the board, you could wind up with 12 right tackles -- maybe they're Pro Bowlers, but what do you do with them?

So in order to come away with the best draft possible, teams should list out their needs, prioritize them, and draft the highest-rated player on their draft board who plays the position they feel they need most.

If this is what Andy Reid and Howie Roseman do come draft day, then there is no way they will draft an offensive tackle as a lot of people have suggested. Maybe this Gabe Carimi is as good as people are saying, but as far as I'm concerned drafting another right tackle doesn't make any sense.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Winston Justice is a Pro Bowl talent. Too often last year he was blamed for things people characterized as mental mistakes when in reality it was the fault of the right guard -- either Nick Cole or Max Jean-Gilles -- playing next to him.

In a recent article by Tommy Lawlor, he claims Justice had trouble with stunts, twists, loops, and things of that nature, but that's not what I saw. What I saw was a guy in Justice who recognized what was going on and tried passing the defender along to the inside, but neither Cole or Jean-Gilles were aware enough to pick it up.

And then, as the season went on, Justice began sticking with stunting defensive ends just a step too long because he didn't trust the guy next to him. Then when he finally came off, he was playing catch-up trying to get to a blitzing linebacker or defensive back.

So yes, offensive line should definitely be an area addressed in the draft, but not right tackle.

Specifically, right guard is a position that needs addressed, but very few guards get a first-round grade. Even Shawn Andrews, who turned out to be a Pro Bowl right guard, was originally drafted as a right tackle. Had he played guard in college, he probably would have been -- at best -- a late first-round pick but more likely a guy taken in the early second round.

As far as the rest of the offense goes, they're pretty much set. I'm not a fan of Todd Herremans, but I've accepted the fact that he's staying. Reid loves him, so he's not going anywhere. But the receivers are set, tight end is set (for another year), running back is set, and quarterback is set as well.

There are certainly areas that could use improvement later in the draft -- finding a backup to LeSean McCoy (unless they do the smart thing and re-sign and actually use Jerome Harrison), another versatile offensive lineman, and maybe even another receiver -- but for the most part, the offense is set.

The defense, on the other hand, is a complete mess.

The only group I really like a unit is the defensive tackles. Antonio Dixon, Mike Patterson, Brodrick Bunkley, and Trevor Laws are all more than capable players and together make a very good group. But the linebackers, defensive ends, and secondary could all use some serious help.

As far as linebacker is concerned, the Eagles only have two above-average players in Jamar Chaney and Stewart Bradley, and even that comes with conditions. Chaney is young and, while logic tells us he can only get better, might not improve from where he is right now. And Bradley should really only come back if it's to play on the strong side.

Outside of those two, I would say the guy I like most is Akeem Jordan. Sean McDermott didn't seem to like him all that much, but I think for the first few games when he was the starter he was by far the most consistent linebacker on the field.

From there, Moise Fokou can be a solid starter at times an Omar Gaither seems to be held back only by his lack of size and strength. He's probably one of the smartest guys on the team in terms of football acumen but he's always getting bullied by offensive linemen. Then there's the rookie Keenan Clayton but he's an enormous question mark and a huge project at this point.

And here's to hoping Ernie Sims is far, far away next year.

The secondary is about three quarters of the way complete assuming Nate Allen can come back healthy next season after tearing his patella tendon. He and Quintin Mikell -- who likely will be re-signed -- give them a good duo at safety and Kurt Coleman is a good backup, although it wouldn't hurt to draft Mikell's replacement if there's any doubt about Coleman's future.

Asante Samuel had one of his best seasons (even though the All-Pro voters failed to realize it), but they still need to find a guy to line up across from him.

Dimitri Patterson did a better job than people give him credit for (52 tackles, four interceptions, one touchdown, one sack, and 11 passes defended in only nine starts), but I still don't see him as a viable starting option. He would, however, be a great guy to have as the primary backup.

Ideally, Nnamdi Asomugha will be in town, but I'm not holding my breath. And with the CBA uncertainty, it's very possible the team heads into the draft without even being able to sign any free agents since there can be no player movement until a new CBA is in place.

Defensive end is also a question mark. The key guy is Trent Cole -- we all know that. Unfortunately, so do opposing teams. There isn't another defensive end on the team that scares anyone.

Brandon Graham will hopefully come into his own, but the injury makes him an unknown. Juqua Parker is what he is at this point, and right now that's nothing more than a rotational guy. Darryl Tapp is a guy they're hoping will take a couple steps forward, but he hasn't shown a whole lot. And as far as I can tell, Daniel Te'o-Nesheim is a complete and total bust. Hopefully I'm wrong, but I don't see anything in this kid.

So now that I've rambled for a little while (congratulations if you've made it this far), I'm hoping what we're all starting to see is that the focus needs to be on defense and, quite frankly, I don't care what position they address first on that side of the ball.

If I were in the war room, I would rank the needs of this team as 1. linebacker (specifically weak-side), 2. defensive end, 3. cornerback 4. guard, 5. kick returner.

Now obviously there are conditions to No. 5 since a kick returner can be gotten in the later rounds and the Eagles don't want to have a Ted Ginn type of pick, but it's still a position that cannot be overlooked (again).

Unfortunately, while I would say I'm well-versed in the NFL and its goings-on, I have never been able to get into college football too much and therefore don't know a ton about the draft classes until I've listened to Mike Mayock for days and watched the combine and Senior Bowl for myself, so I can't comment on who specifically the Eagles should grab, but I do know he should play defense.

The offense was not the problem this past season and all that it will require is a tweak and tinker here or there.

But the defense, which will have a new coordinator (someday), was the weak link and will continue to be the team's downfall if it's not addressed properly via free agency and the draft.

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