Philadelphia Eagles Do Not Have a Need at Right Tackle

Written By Bob Cunningham On Wednesday, April 27, 2011
During the lockout, if you wanted football news that did not have some sort of legal jargon mixed throughout, the only thing to look at was draft news.

Mock drafts, big boards, and all other sorts of stuff that usually proves worthless when all is said and done was the only thing to give us our fix.

Unfortunately, as is the case most years, I'm left pulling out my hair wondering how and why the guys with journalism degrees think their opinion should be taken seriously.

Then I get the urge to dive off a bridge when their opinion actually is taken seriously and regurgitated by some fans.

It happens every year in Philly without fail.

This year, the "expert" opinion that has my head spinning is all the talk about what a huge need right tackle is for the Eagles.

Every mock draft --sans the past week or so when some have changed their mind to defensive end or cornerback -- has the Eagles taking a right tackle. Most often it's Gabe Carimi, but Anthony Castonzo and Nate Solder are also popular choices.

Let's forget for a second that, even if you're not a fan of Winston Justice, the Eagles have about five positions that could be considered areas of need before right tackle is even brought up. But there is no way Andy Reid drafts a lineman that he can only use at one position.

Solder and Castonzo could play left tackle as well, but the Eagles don't need a left tackle. Thankfully, Philly fans have jumped off that bandwagon for the most part.

Carimi, however, is purely a right tackle. He slid inside and played some guard at the Senior Bowl, but at 6'7 he's far too tall to play guard. Smaller defensive tackles would have almost no problem getting into his chest and dominating him a la Todd Herremans, who is 6'6.

And yes, any defensive tackle with upper-body strength consistently had his way with Herremans last season.

Reid is looking for guys with versatility. If Reid is going to use a roster spot on an offensive lineman, it's going to be because he can plug him in at least two different places along the line and have full confidence in his ability to produce.

It's not even like the Birds need a backup tackle. Reid is obviously very confident in King Dunlap to back up at both tackle positions, and Justice is still young so there's no need to draft a guy to develop like Reid did when he drafted Justice in the second round of the 2006 draft.

Now back to Justice.

From where I'm sitting, the hate for Justice can be explained by the Recency Effect, something talked about in any Psych 101 course across the country. His first showcase to Philly fans was dreadful as he got beat by Osi Umenyiora for six sacks, and his last showing was pretty bad too as he got called for a few penalties and allowed a couple sacks to Clay Matthews in the Eagles' playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers.

However, in between those two games, what I saw was a guy who was very a good starter with a Pro Bowl ceiling.

And you're not going to catch me making excuses for guys very often, but let's not forget that Justice had a lot working against him in that first start. Tra Thomas was a game-time decision and scratched right at the 90 minute deadline before the game. Umenyiora, at the time, was one of the best speed-rushers in the league, and Justice had very little experience lifetime at left tackle.

Then in the playoffs, most of the people who want to attack Justice and call for his job conveniently forget that he was playing hurt. Again, the penalties are inexcusable, but he was given little help against Matthews, who we all know is one of the best pass-rushers in the league.

In between those games, Justice showed that he has the feet and power to control almost any defensive end in the league in the passing game, and the athleticism to get into the second level in the run game. That's not to say that Justice still doesn't have room to improve, but that's why Howard Mudd was coaxed out of retirement.

Justice progressed by leaps and bounds under Juan Castillo, who has moved to take over the defense, so how much could he continue to progress under Mudd? Personally, I see the makings of a Pro Bowl right tackle, and a guy in whom I have full faith to protect Michael Vick's blindside.

The position I do not have faith in, however, is right guard. Whether it was Nick Cole or Max Jean-Gilles, Justice was left trying to cover up their mistakes. I lost count throughout the season of the number of times Cole or Jean-Gilles failed to pick up a stunting end or blitzing linebacker.

Justice would try to pass that guy on to whomever was next to him that week while he moved out to pick up the guy inevitably coming off the edge, but when that defensive end was credited with the sack, everyone assumed it to be Justice's fault.

After that continued to happen all year, Justice would start following that stunting end just a step too long (because he had no faith in Cole or Jean-Gilles) and leave himself a step behind of the blitzer coming off the edge. Justice was trying to play guard and tackle, and it was obviously too much. But if Reid and company can find a reliable right guard, we'll see that Pro Bowl talent Justice possesses.

So before I draft a right tackle, I would draft five right guards to up my chances of hitting on at least one of them. And then I would still draft a cornerback, safety, defensive end, kick/punt returner, and maybe a sixth right guard before I waste a pick on a right tackle.

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