Eagles Wake-Up Call: Harsh Criticism For Geno Smith

Most scouts, evaluators and analysts seem to have at least some questions about Geno Smith as a top-level prospect.

Some believe his flaws are fixable and think he should be without question the top quarterback off the board in April’s draft. Others think he’s no more than a second-round talent.

But Pro Football Weekly’s Nolan Nawrocki recently took his criticism to another level, slamming Smith in his pre-draft scouting report. Here’s a snippet:

Not a student of the game. Nonchalant field presence — does not command respect from teammates and cannot inspire. Mild practice demeanor — no urgency. Not committed or focused — marginal work ethic. Interviewed poorly at the Combine and did not show an understanding of concepts on the white board. Opted not to compete at the Senior Bowl and has approached offseason training as if he has already arrived and it shows in his body with minimal muscle definition or strength.

A cross between Akili Smith and Aaron Brooks, Smith is a gimmick, overhyped product of the system lacking the football savvy, work habits and focus to cement a starting job and could drain energy from a QB room. Will be overdrafted and struggle to produce against NFL defensive complexities.

Harsh words, especially when you consider how different they are from some of the other things that have been said about Smith. For example, his quarterbacks coach at West Virginia told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Smith was a “film junkie” and explained that he was more a student of the game than other prospects he coached, like Brandon Weeden.

Back in 2011, Nawrocki infamously ripped Cam Newton, calling him “disingenuous” and writing that he had a “fake smile.”

Evaluating character and leadership is obviously part of the scouting process – especially for quarterbacks. Whichever team takes Smith will expect him to be the face of the franchise. That’s part of the reason why Jeffrey Lurie accompanied Chip Kelly and Howie Roseman to the workout in Morgantown.

Despite Nawrocki’s assessment of Newton, the Panthers still selected him first overall. We’ll find out later this month what teams really think of Smith.

As for the class as a whole, projections are all over the place. ESPN.com’s Todd McShay said on ESPN Radio Monday that he’s hearing Florida State’s EJ Manuel could go as early as the middle of the first round.

Meanwhile, NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah continues to hear that teams won’t reach for QBs in this year’s class, noting that the value is in the second round.

The Raiders pick one spot ahead of the Eagles and traded for Matt Flynn on Monday. That doesn’t mean they can‘t draft Smith with the third pick, but it certainly makes it less likely.

WHAT YOU MISSED

A look at what the Eagles have left from the Donovan McNabb and Kevin Kolb trades.

The Birds recently worked out Stanford tight end Zach Ertz and some other prospects.

Could Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel be available at No. 4? T-Mac takes a look.

In the national media roundup, one writer criticizes the Eagles for the Cary Williams and Connor Barwin signings.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Dave Spadaro of PhiladelphiaEagles.com caught up with some of the players upon their return to NovaCare:

“All energy, straight energy,” said linebacker DeMeco Ryans. “Coach started speaking and everybody — everybody — was right there on every word. No doubt everybody is excited about a fresh start and what lies ahead for us.”

Utah DT Star Lotulelei got good news about his heart condition. From The Salt Lake Tribune:

Star Lotulelei’s draft stock, which slipped in some experts’ opinions after testing at the combine revealed he had a heart condition, could rise again based on his latest round of testing.

Recent testing revealed he has “no evidence of dysfunction,” and that medical exams found his heart function performed “consistently with that of highly trained athletes,” according to Dave Petron, Utah’s team physician.

COMING UP

We’ll be down at NovaCare and plan on catching up with Jason Peters and Brandon Graham. Stay tuned for updates.

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QB Stock Watch: Big Day For Barkley; Geno Update

The primary concern for NFL teams when it comes to Matt Barkley is arm strength. The 6-2, 230-pound signal-caller can help assuage some of those fears with a strong showing at USC’s pro day on Wednesday.

His trainer — IMG Academy Director Chris Weinke – believes Barkley is going to surprise some people.

“His arm strength is even better than I anticipated,” said the former Heisman winner, who is also working with Geno SmithTyler Wilson and Zac Dysert in front of the draft. “There will be a buzz about him after his pro day. On March 27 he is going to answer a lot of questions.”

Barkley separated his shoulder this past season. Still in the midst of the rehab process, he opted not to throw at the Combine last month. He was in attendance, though, and met with several teams, including the Eagles. Asked how Barkley came across in that sit-down, a team source who was part of the meeting responded: “Very smart. Impressive. Mature.”

Some project Barkley as a top-10 pick, others have him falling out of the first round. There should be more clarity after today.

“The race starts after March 27,” said Weinke.

Reid targeting the next McNabb?

‘Tis the season of misdirection, and the Chiefs seem to be in the spirit.

First, Andy Reid told us at the owners meetings that Geno Smith is still in play for the Chiefs at No. 1 overall despite the Alex Smith acquisition. And now, Smith is being linked to none other than Reid’s favorite QB, Donovan McNabb.

With plenty of teams in need of quarterback help, including the three picking directly behind them (Jaguars, Raiders, Eagles), the Chiefs are smart to create the impression that Smith could be the first player off the board. However, the following quote makes it tough to believe that their interest in Smith is real.

“There is no quarterback where personnel guys can definitely say, ‘He’s a first-round pick,’ ” said Chiefs general manager John Dorsey last month, per the Kansas City Star. “There were so many inconsistencies in the collective group. There was not one guy that stood up and said, ‘I’m the guy in the position this year.’ There really wasn’t one clear-cut guy.

“There are too many technical flaws, scheme flaws. There are so many different variables that there are a lot of people all over the place on naming the top four or five guys and who those guys would be.”

Kansas City went out and traded for Alex Smith less than two weeks after Dorsey went on record with his opinion of the QB crop.

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Eagles Mock Draft Roundup

Here’s our weekly roundup of mock drafts, along with notes on who analysts have the Eagles taking with the No. 4 pick.

Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com has Utah DT Star Lotulelei going to the Birds:

The Eagles have focused on getting bigger on the defensive side of the ball. The trio of Isaac Sopoaga, Fletcher Cox and Lotulelei would be tough to run against.

Click here for our draft profile on Lotulelei.

Will Brinson of CBSSports.com has the Birds taking Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher:

Having added substantial pieces via free agency, Chip Kelly can focus on grabbing an uber-athletic lineman who fits his scheme. Fisher is that lineman.

Charley Casserly of NFL.com also has the Eagles grabbing Fisher:

Both of Philly’s offensive tackles (Jason Peters and Todd Herremans) were hurt last season.

We profiled Fisher earlier today.

Evan Silva of Rotoworld projects Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd:

The Eagles efficiently plugged roster gaps in free agency, signing six new starters on defense and swiss-army-knife tight end James Casey to add a “joker” element on offense. Aside from 2012 first-rounder Fletcher Cox, the defensive line remains a work in progress. Philadelphia intends on drafting the best player available under Chip Kelly, and Floyd would add dynamic pass-rushing ability from the interior on passing downs. Floyd is both a value pick here and addresses a need.

Pat Kirwan of CBSSports.com thinks it’ll be West Virginia QB Geno Smith:

It will be hard to pass on a QB with the skills and production to run Chip Kelly’s offense. Owner Jeff Lurie was at his pro day, and that rarely happens.

Rob Rang of CBSSports.com also says it’ll be Smith:

Michael Vick has proven unreliable. Nick Foles, despite what the Eagles are saying publicly, is clearly not a fit in head coach Chip Kelly’s offense. Thus, this seems to be the logical spot for Smith, the most gifted talent of an average quarterback class. The Eagles are certainly doing their homework on the strong-armed quarterback. Team owner Jeffrey Lurie, general manager Howie Roseman and head coach Chip Kelly traveled to Morgantown to put the former Mountaineer quarterback through a personal workout three days before WVU’s scheduled Pro Day.

Dane Brugler of CBSSports.com still thinks the Eagles will take Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel:

Just like other positions on the Eagles’ depth chart, offensive tackle looked to be a strength, but injuries have really taken a toll on this team. Although Jason Peters’ injury situation will be a factor in Philadelphia choosing a tackle – as will the type of offensive linemen new head coach Chip Kelly seeks – Joeckel has the chance to grow into one of the NFL’s most consistent blockers.

Josh Norris of Rotoworld also predicts Joeckel:

The Eagles can go a variety of different routes after filling immediate needs in free agency, with mostly young players. The most inconsistent group last season was the team’s offensive line, albeit due to injuries, but Joeckel is an athletic blocker and is a future, or current, starter depending on Jason Peters’ health.

Click here for our profile on Joeckel.

Eric Galko of Optimum Scouting pegs Oregon OLB Dion Jordan to the Birds:

New head coach Chip Kelly has said that he wants more size and versatility on the defense. While Star Lotulelei would add to the interior of the defense, adding his former dynamic defender may have more value for Kelly’s defense.

Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com thinks it’ll be Jordan too:

Chip Kelly takes one of his former players to help amp up the pass rush.

Matt Smith of NFL.com is on the Jordan bandwagon also:

Prior to last year’s draft, we tried to pair up Coby Fleener with Jim Harbaugh, his college coach at Stanford. This year, we’re talking about Ryan Nassib rejoining Doug Marrone in Buffalo and Jordan following Chip Kelly to Philly. In this particular case, it makes sense. Jordan is an athletic freak who has proven capable of keeping up with the pace at which Kelly asks his players to perform.

Here is our profile on Jordan.

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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.

Eagles Wake-Up Call: Tweaking Geno Smith

When Geno Smith recounted his private workout with the Eagles, he did so with a big smile on his face.

That according to Heisman Trophy winner and Director at IMG Academy Chris Weinke, who is working with Smith to help fine-tune the quarterback’s game in front of the NFL Draft.

“He was asked to make a lot of throws and plays with his feet,” said Weinke in a phone conversation with Birds 24/7. “He felt there was a comfortable fit with the people, he felt comfortable in the classroom. He thought he did very well.”

(Chip Kelly seems to agree.)

Weinke has worked with Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, Christian Ponder, Ryan Tannehill and Kirk Cousins since taking on this role a little over three years ago. Right now he is coaching Matt Barkley, Tyler Wilson and Zac Dysert as well. Most of the buzz right now is around Smith. He is expected to be the first QB off the board, and could be selected by the Eagles at No. 4.

Weinke is helping to clean up some of Smith’s technical imperfections. They have smoothed out his drop. Instead of bouncing and lifting his feet way up in the air, Weinke explains that he is now “cutting the grass with his feet” and gliding back. That, in turn, has positively impacted Smith’s upper half.

“He would rock his shoulders a little bit,” said the former Florida State signal-caller, who spent seven seasons in the NFL with the Panthers and Niners. “We fixed that.”

These are minor tweaks, mind you. A quarterback coming off a season in which he completed 71 percent of his throws for over 4,000 yards with 42 touchdowns to six interceptions is not in need of an overhaul.

Weinke was hesitant to compare Smith to other QBs, but ultimately relented and gave two names: A young Randall Cunningham because of his lean body, good feet, loose delivery and strong arm; and RGIII on account of his accurate, high-velocity throws and his likability.

“He is not a read-option quarterback or a dropback quarterback, he is kind of the hybrid that everyone is talking about these days,” said Weinke. “Watching Chip at Oregon, he wants a quarterback that can attack, is able to make quick decisions, is accurate and can change plays.  He wants a good athlete with great accuracy.

“I think it is a perfect fit.”

WHAT YOU MISSED

All the latest draft  buzz right here.

Tom Coughlin said of Kelly: “He should have been coaching for me!”

Sheil goes to the All-22 to explain why Kelly was drawn to TE James Casey.

The Eagles will take an up-close look at DT Star Lotulelei.

Arrelious Benn is unhappy with his career to date.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Is Geno Smith’s stock rising, or is it a smokescreen? SI.com ponders:

Teams litter the pre-draft process with smokescreens designed to throw other franchises off the scent. Maybe Philadelphia really is considering Smith at No. 4 overall. Or maybe the Eagles are trying to make everyone else think that they’re considering Smith at No. 4 overall, so the trade value for that spot escalates.

This type of action will happen with an untold number of prospects heading into late April — it’s already occurring to great degree with guys like Star Lotulelei and Jarvis Jones; teams outside the top 15 would love to use those players’ questionable medicals to push down their value.

In Todd McShay’s updated top 32, he has BYU DE Ezekial Ansah up two spots to sixth overall:

Analysis: Ansah is raw and lacks ideal experience, but his elite combination of size, speed, length and overall athleticism makes him a disruptive presence. After an impressive combine performance, the comparisons to Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul are warranted. Ansah is likely to be a top-10 pick.

COMING UP

Draft inching closer, free agency still in play. Right back in busy season.

Draft Buzz: Geno Smith’s Journey; Mayock On Manuel

With the draft exactly five weeks away, here are some links and notes worth your time…

Much of the recent conversation in Philadelphia has centered around West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith. Jeffrey Lurie explained why he felt it was necessary to attend Smith’s workout in Morgantown, alongside Chip Kelly and Howie Roseman.

If the Eagles do take Smith with the No. 4 overall pick, they’re expecting him to be the face of the franchise. And while on-field performance comes first, personality and character count as well – especially at quarterback. For some background on where Smith comes from and what his background is like, take a look at this feature from Elizabeth Merrill of ESPN.com.

But when it was over, after a 38-14 loss to Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 29, Smith sat dejected on the bus back to the hotel while Spavital tried to tell him what he had meant to West Virginia. Smith didn’t appear to be listening.

“Man, I thought I was playing pretty well,” Smith told him. “But going 7-6 makes me feel like I did nothing this year.”

Spavital, who’s now at Texas A&M, has coached Brandon Weeden and Case Keenum. Spavital says Smith is more prepared for the NFL than any other quarterback he has coached. Smith will surprise people, he said, in part because he can do so many things he wasn’t asked to do the last two seasons at West Virginia.

There’s still the question of whether Smith will even be there at No. 4. It seems unlikely that Andy Reid would take him with the first pick (despite what he says), but Jacksonville and Oakland are still possibilities.

From Don Banks of SI.com:

[Gus] Bradley also echoed what I’ve started hearing a bit from league sources, that Jacksonville was much more impressed with Smith last week than it was prepared to be. Both in his workout and in their one-on-one time. Again, it could be a smoke screen, and the Jaguars have plenty of other needs to address with their first pick. But I wouldn’t dismiss Smith in Jacksonville just yet.

Even if the Eagles don’t take Smith in the first round, they could draft a QB at some point. Arizona’s Matt Scott had an official visit to Philadelphia, and according to Anthony Gimino of the Tuscon Citizen, Kelly made Scott a scholarship offer after he had already committed to Arizona.

“I didn’t really have any interest at that time in changing my decision,” Scott told the paper.

The other name to keep an eye on is Florida State’s EJ Manuel. NFL Network’s Mike Mayock recently had some positive things to say about Manuel.

“I think he’s a better prospect than Christian Ponder was two years ago with more upside,” Mayock said, per NFL.com.

“In all honesty, I had Ponder a second-round guy and Minnesota took him pretty high, and the jury is still out there. I think this kid (Manuel) has better arm talent, he’s a bigger, more physical specimen and really his ceiling is higher. Now, I don’t know if his floor is as high, but his ceiling is higher.”

Mayock has Manuel listed as his second-best quarterback behind Smith, and he said during a Sirius XM interview that he believes three QBs will be taken in the first round. If he’s right, there’s a good chance Manuel might not even be there when the Eagles select in the second round.

But not everyone’s sold. Here’s Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com on Manuel:

As T-Mac reported earlier this week, the Eagles have scheduled a March 28 workout with Manuel in Tallahassee.

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Reid: Geno Smith In Play For No. 1 Pick

PHOENIX — When the Chiefs traded for  Alex Smith, the conversation about Geno Smith being taken  with the No. 1 pick in this April’s draft was shut down.

Andy Reid opened it back up on Tuesday at the AFC coaches breakfast.

“That doesn’t mean Geno is out of the water,” said Reid, surrounded by a group of Philadelphia reporters during the second day of the owners meetings. “I’m going to keep my eyes open on everybody. I think Geno is a good quarterback. We’ll just see how it all goes, get this workout thing going.”

It could very well be that Reid is simply not ready to show his hand yet. Asked how many players he is considering for the top pick, Reid said between eight and 10. That is a really high number at this stage of the process, even if  he is being thorough.

“You can’t force a pick there. You can’t say, ‘I need this position’ or you’re going to miss a good football player, and that’s what you want to get from that position right there,” said the former Eagles coach, who was celebrating his 55th birthday Tuesday. “So we’re going to work everybody out and see what’s available.”

Some other takeaways:

– Reid was asked about the level of interest he had in trading for Nick Foles.

“I had my eyes on Alex really when I took the job there. I wanted to make sure I evaluated the guys on campus and checked them out,” he said. “I really liked Matt Cassell. Sometimes I just think change can be good.”

– On his decisions to speak with Chip Kelly during the Eagles’ coaching search.

Jeffrey [Lurie] asked me if I would do that when I left, and I had no problem doing that. Jeffrey was very good to me. And then, really as a coach you want your players to be taken care of, you want them to have a good coach. Those are all kids we recruited there, drafted there, brought there, so  you want them to have something positive. I think Chip is a good football coach and it will work out great for him.”

– On Kelly in the NFL:

“He’s got different innovative and creative ideas. He has a great relationship with Phil Knight, so he’s on the cutting edge of all their technology. I think he’ll bring that into the league. I think most of what he does will work at this level. I think he is going to blend it. He brought Pat Shurmur on, and I think he’ll blend the pro style with what he does with the spread, and I think the tempo stuff will translate that he uses.”

– Reid said he didn’t talk to Kelly about hiring Shurmur, shooting down the theory that Reid had influenced that decision.

 

Eagles Mock Draft Roundup

Here’s a roundup of mock draft projections for the Eagles at No. 4.

Note that not all of these were released after the Birds made the free agency moves, but as we mentioned recently, those moves really shouldn’t have a huge effect on who they take with their first selection.

Bucky Brooks of NFL.com has the Birds grabbing Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher:

Perennial Pro Bowl OT Jason Peters is scheduled to return from injury, but that won’t prevent the Eagles from adding an athletic edge blocker with tremendous potential.

Russ Lande of the National Football Post has the Eagles going with Oregon outside linebacker Dion Jordan:

Many assume the Eagles are content with Trent Cole and Brandon Graham as the outside linebackers in their 34 defense. However, Cole is 30, Graham is unproven and Coach Kelly saw Dion Jordan’s dynamic athleticism and pass rush ability first hand when he coached him at Oregon.

Josh Norris of NFL.com has the Eagles taking Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner:

After releasing Nnamdi Asomugha, the Eagles signed Bradley Fletcher, who is solid when healthy. Still, the team needs another outside cover man. (Brandon Boykin is solid, but in a slot corner role.)

Will Brinson of CBSSports.com also thinks it’ll be Milliner.

And same with Rob Rang of CBSSports.com:

The physical, long-armed Milliner would be an immediate upgrade at a position new head coach Chip Kelly valued highly while at Oregon. Milliner revealed at the combine that he will need to undergo surgery to repair a partially torn labrum but the tough, long-armed cornerback is expected to be fine in time for training camp and so the injury shouldn’t impact his stock.

Pat Kirwan of CBSSports.com says Milliner too:

Milliner is the best corner in the draft and the Eagles get an instant starter and a chance to get out from under some high-priced defensive backs.

Dane Brugler of CBSSports.com thinks the Eagles will have a shot at Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel:

Just like other positions on the Eagles’ depth chart, offensive tackle looked to be a strength, but injuries have really taken a toll on this team. Although Jason Peters’ injury situation will be a factor in Philadelphia choosing a tackle – as will the type of offensive linemen new head coach Chip Kelly seeks – Joeckel has the chance to grow into one of the NFL’s most consistent blockers.

Mike Tanier of SportsOnEarth.com goes with Fisher. He provides his reason to love and hate each pick. Here’s his “love” reasoning for Fisher:

Chip Kelly opted out of this year’s unimpressive quarterback class so he can rebuild the Eagles offensive infrastructure. Fisher can replace Jason Peters eventually (or immediately, if Peters’ injury problems persist), and he can start on the right side as a rookie, allowing Todd Herremans to move back inside and quell an emergency at guard. Fisher can help Kelly take the Eagles’ signature play of 2011-12 out of the playbook: Michael Vick dropping back, sprinting away from a rush straight up the middle, throwing an errant pass and getting injured.

Chris Steuber of OurLads.com has the Eagles taking West Virginia QB Geno Smith:

At first, I viewed the Eagles’ interest in Smith as a smokescreen. But, after their moves in free agency, it appears they are setting themselves up for a new franchise quarterback to fit Chip Kelly’s offensive philosophy.

Eric Galko of Optimum Scouting thinks it’ll be Fisher:

With Jason Peters likely to return at 100% next year, tackle isn’t a huge need. However, the Eagles offensive line needs to get better and Fisher can play RT and at OG. Don’t rule out Star Lotulelei or Dee Milliner here.

ESPN.com’s Todd McShay says it’ll be Milliner:

Milliner is the only top-tier cornerback in this class. He also answered questions about his speed with an official 40 time of 4.37 at the combine.

ESPN.com’s Mel Kiper Jr. agrees:

Nnamdi Asomugha won’t be wearing an Eagles uniform in 2013, and in a division with Eli Manning, Tony Romo and Robert Griffin III, the Eagles can’t simply attempt to piece together the secondary. They need talent, and Milliner offers the best cornerback talent in the draft. Not a tough pick.

Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com says Milliner too.

Clark Judge of CBSSports.com thinks it’ll be Jordan:

Yeah, it’s a reach, but A) he played for Chip Kelly at Oregon and B) the Eagles need an outside pass rush to help a needy secondary.

Vinnie Iyer of the Sporting News predicts Joeckel:

If the Chiefs take Joeckel at No. 1, the Eagles would need to consider Eric Fisher for their new franchise left tackle, as there is little, if any, dropoff between the offensive line prospects. Chip Kelly’s offense is built on playmakers, but it won’t work without rocks as blockers.

Charles Davis of NFL.com goes with Oklahoma offensive tackle Lane Johnson:

Johnson’s athleticism wowed at the combine. He’s an excellent fit in Philly, with the expected tempo change on offense under Chip Kelly.

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What They’re Saying About the Eagles

Here’s a roundup of what the national media are saying about the Eagles this week:

Dan Graziano of ESPN.com writes that the Eagles’ free agent strategy will allow them to draft for quality in April:

This is the benefit of all that cap room the Eagles had when this week began. They’re able to find all kinds of pieces to fit all kinds of holes. When draft day rolls around and they tell everybody they took the best player available, it’s going to be easy to believe them. Because they won’t be caught in that not-very-fun position of having to draft for immediate need.

Bill Barnwell of Grantland writes that the Eagles are having “a truly great offseason.”

Barwin and Phillips are both 26, so if they succeed, the Eagles will have two building blocks for the future right as they hit their prime. They also added 28-year-old cornerback Cary Williams on a three-year, $17 million deal that’s a step below the $8 million to $10 million range Williams reportedly sought as he hit the market. Williams is a competent starting cornerback; if the Eagles can come away from the draft with Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner, Williams would make an excellent no. 2 starter.

Ian Rapoport of NFL.com believes the Eagles should strongly consider drafting Geno Smith with the fourth pick:

All of this leads me to believe that, once again, quarterbacks will be overdrafted in April. And it also makes me think the Philadelphia Eagles are quite serious about finding out whether West Virginia’s Geno Smith is right for them. With the fourth pick of the 2013 NFL Draft, the Eagles should take him if they believe he’s good enough. If they’re right, they are set for four years, regardless of other quarterbacks on the roster. If they are wrong, the cost is a little more than $4 million per season (average annual salary of the No. 4 pick) — compared to $3.7 million for Cassel … as a backup!

Brian McIntyre of Yahoo’s Shutdown Corner blog calls the Eagles one of the winners in free agency:

General manager Howie Roseman has clearly learned the lesson and, with the team moving to a 3-4 defense, made a quartet of defensive signings to fit the scheme. The centerpiece of the transactions was Isaac Sopoaga, a versatile former 49ers defensive lineman who could play a few spots along the Eagles’ line. The Eagles added cornerback Bradley Fletcher, an oft-injured player who will certainly play on the outside in a secondary that released Nnamdi Asomugha on Tuesday and figures to lose Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to free agency. The Eagles also signed safety Patrick Chung, who should compete for a starting job, and linebacker Jason Phillips, a core special teams guy.

Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com likes the Eagles’ addition of cornerback Bradley Fletcher:

Eagles signing former Rams corner Bradley Fletcher to a two-year deal. Fletcher is a player who has had two knee surgeries, but when he has been healthy he has been a quality man-cover player. Fletcher didn’t play as much as he should have last year because he was on a one-year deal and the Rams were in a youth movement. They played rookie Trumaine Johnson at nickel corner, but Fletcher should have been on the field. The Eagles have a major need at corner, so this is a good move. Here’s a bet he starts.

Chris Burke of SI.com looks at the Eagles’ draft needs:

Philadelphia still needs to address some areas on defense, but injuries to Jason Peters and Todd Herremans last season left the Eagles reeling at tackle. Could one of the draft’s elite talents be the pick at No. 4? If not, grabbing an athletic rush-linebacker might be in the cards.

John Clayton of ESPN.com writes that new coaches like Chip Kelly often make dramatic changes to the roster:

Often, a new coach turns over more than 50 percent of a roster. By late in the season last year, the Colts had 36 new players on their roster.

With eight new head coaches, the roster turnover is happening at a fast pace. Philadelphia’s Kelly and Kansas City’s Andy Reid are leading the way. The Eagles are switching to a 3-4 defense, so Kelly aggressively started filling starting jobs.

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Eagles Wake-Up Call: Jaws Details Geno Smith Workout

West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith worked out for teams around the league Thursday during his Pro Day.

According to a USA Today report, 29 of the NFL’s 32 franchises had a representative there, including the Eagles, who sent senior scouting adviser Tom Donahoe.

Chip Kelly and Howie Roseman did not need to attend because they already worked Smith out earlier in the week. The coach and GM were joined by owner Jeffrey Lurie on Monday in Morgantown.

Ron Jaworski was in attendance Thursday and asked Smith about his meeting with the Eagles’ brass.

“He said the Eagles gave him a pretty rough workout,” Jaws told Mike Missanelli during an interview on 97.5 The Fanatic. “He threw almost a hundred balls on Monday. He said a lot of those were the movement-type throws – sprinting right, sprinting left, coming back against the grain. A lot of those types of throws that we know in Chip Kelly’s offense, he’s going to demand mobility from the quarterback.

“He also said the meeting was very intense at the blackboard. It was Jeffrey Lurie, Howie Roseman, and of course Chip Kelly. He said he felt very comfortable with them. He seemed to think they were comfortable with him. But he said it was a pretty grueling, intense workout they put him through.”

As we mentioned earlier in the week, there are two possibilities here. One is that the Eagles are considering Smith with the No. 4 pick. And the other is that they want to create the impression that they’re interested in Smith for trade purposes.

I tend to lean towards the former.

As for Jaws, he said he’s already seen improvement from Smith since the end of the college season, now that he’s working with pro QB coaches. Asked about Smith’s fit in Kelly’s offense, Jaws said, “I think he’s a guy that’s going to play in this game for 10 to 12 years, be your prototypical pocket passer.

“I would almost say a little bit like Russell Wilson. He’s a guy that will take the running opportunities. And they’ll design some runs for him [Wilson] out in Seattle. But I think when you look at Geno, he’ll play from the pocket, but he can also beat you with his legs.”

Jaws quickly added though that Kelly will have to adapt his Oregon offense in the pros, so it’s difficult to project potential fit without knowing exactly what he’s looking for.

“The offense that we saw at Oregon will not be run in the NFL,” he said. “I will tell you that right now, categorically, it will not work.”

Jaws likes Smith’s arm and athleticism, but said interested teams need to make sure Smith possesses the right leadership qualities.

Asked if he thinks the Eagles will snag Smith with the fourth pick, Jaws said, “I would probably say it’s 50-50.”

WHAT YOU MISSED

The Eagles signed cornerback Cary Williams and safety Kenny Phillips.

Williams says he wants to show he’s not a crazy, wild man.

The Birds also added outside linebacker Connor Barwin.

T-Mac talks Geno Smith in his weekly mailbag.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Now with the Broncos, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie talked about his time with the Eagles. From Pro Football Talk:

“When you have a lot of talented guys like that a lot of things are expected of you,” he said. “Don’t get caught up in the hype of names of people on the roster.”

“It seemed like we had everything,” he said. “The coaches, the players — sometimes in football it just doesn’t go your way.”

Dan Graziano of ESPN.com offers his take on the Barwin signing:

While it’s entirely possible that Trent Cole and Brandon Graham, who were defensive ends last season when the Eagles lined up in a 4-3, can handle the likely change in roles, it’s also possible that they cannot. Bringing in someone such as Barwin augments the pass rush with someone the Eagles know can handle it, deepens the pass-rushing talent on the roster and improves the Eagles’ versatility on several fronts.

COMING UP

We’ll talk to Williams and Phillips this afternoon. And who knows? Maybe another signing or two will come down today.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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