Eagles Wake-Up Call: Searching For Draft Hints

We are now less than a month away from the NFL Draft. Are we any closer to the truth when it comes to the Eagles’ strategy? Let’s search for clues:

– One thing Chip Kelly said at the NFC coaches breakfast in Arizona stood out to me. He was asked about the benefit of filling holes in free agency, thereby allowing the team to target the best available players in the draft.

“Yeah that helps. You had some depth issues, obviously, we lost Nnamdi [Asomugha] and DRC. You don’t want to sit there with no corners,” said Kelly. “So you add a couple of guys in that situation, it gives you a little — I guess the best way to say it is — comfort knowing you don’t have to reach for somebody at No. 4 just because you don’t have somebody at that position.”

The question was more general, but Kelly applied it specifically to corner. Does that definitely mean the Eagles will pass on Dee Milliner at No. 4? No. Could it be a smokescreen? I guess. Whatever the case, I am less inclined to think that Milliner will be the pick.

– What we can say is that the Eagles largely targeted positions of need in free agency. They grabbed a pair of corners, two safeties, picked up a nose tackle, and added depth at tight end, linebacker and on special teams. But no real movement yet at offensive line. Kelly is on record as saying, “The five offensive linemen are the key to your football team.” Maybe he likes the current group and believes Jason Peters, Jason Kelce and Todd Herremans can all bounce back from serious injuries. But wouldn’t a coach that values his linemen that much want to stockpile high-end talent along the front?

The Eagles have been tied to free agent tackle Eric Winston, among others, but it’s obvious that they will only bite if the numbers are right where they want them. They are acting like a team that thinks it can get its o-line shopping done in April.

“Certainly you talk about a couple guys [tackles] at the top [of the draft] that are really impressive players and people, and those guys go quick in the draft,” said general manager Howie Roseman. “And as you go through it there are some interesting guys throughout.”

Tackles Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher could both be top-5 picks, and Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson is projected to go fairly early as well. Alabama guard Chance Warmack could be a top-10 selection. I am leaning towards the Eagles using that No. 4 pick on an offensive lineman as of right now. It seems to be an area of strength early in this draft, and the Eagles could use another difference-maker up front.

– Then there is the whole quarterback situation. Kelly needs a franchise quarterback (preferably one with wheels) in order to accomplish what he wants to in this league. You don’t pick this high in the draft very often. You take Geno Smith if you believe he is a franchise quarterback.

I, for one, am not of the opinion that Jeffrey Lurie‘s trip to Morgantown was a ruse. There are plenty of ways to play the misdirection game other than putting your owner on a jet plane. I believe they are carefully examining the option.

“When you select a quarterback it’s a very big decision so you want to have every piece of information you can and just have as many eyes on it,” said Lurie. “Nothing more than that, but it’s an important thing.”

The guess here is they ultimately will not pull the trigger on Smith (if he’s even around). But we’re still four weeks out, and there is still intel to gather.

WHAT YOU MISSED

A personal favorite of mine: Kapadia’s draft tracker – a master list of all prospects visiting with the Eagles.

The Eagles will reportedly work out QB Zac Dysert. 

Free-agent linebacker Victor Butler is coming in for a visit.

The flat cap is changing the way the team goes about its business.

Sheil takes a look at the state of the Eagles’ pass rush.

The Eagles released punter Mat McBriar and signed former Texan Donnie Jones.

Brian Westbrook, already suffering from short-term memory loss, supports the NFL’s new rule.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Greg Cosell, after thorough analysis, believes that Geno Smith is a work in progress.

One final point with Smith, and this is the one that most troubles me. Quite honestly, I do not know if this can be rectified or not. Some I have talked to say yes, others no. It’s what I call “slow eyes.” Smith consistently took an extra beat to pull the trigger on well defined throws that were there. It was particularly noticeable, but not limited to, play action, which provides more clarity and definition for the quarterback since it’s almost always an either-or read. If it’s an anticipation issue, that’s something that must be looked at very closely. I thought back to Matt Ryan when he came out of Boston College in 2008. He threw with outstanding anticipation; he had an intuitive feel for delivering the ball before receivers came out of their breaks. That was one reason I felt very good about his transition to the NFL. Smith did not show that attribute on film. It must be evaluated carefully. It’s not something that can be overlooked.

Gregg Rosenthal has the Eagles as one his free-agent winners.

Sometimes more is more. The Eagles went on a bargain shopping binge to build depth without spending too much. The “Depreciated Team” doesn’t have the same ring to it as Vince Young‘s famous moniker, but the strategy should be more effective.

Cornerback Bradley Fletcher, safety Patrick Chung, tight end James Casey, defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga, safety Kenny Phillips and defensive end Connor Barwin all are young players who have shown they can produce at the NFL level. But they were cheap for a variety of reasons. (Even Barwin’s “$36 million” contract only has $8 million guaranteed in the first two years.)

Then again, a lot of these players haveto produce; the secondary essentially is all new. But you have a better chance of hitting some home runs if you take a lot of smart swings.

COMING UP

We’ll keep the draft and free agency coverage rolling.