Eagles Wake-Up Call: Revisiting the 2011 Draft

Most analysts agree that it takes three years to properly judge a draft class.

But in the case of the Eagles’ 2011 picks, we might only need two.

Bucky Brooks of NFL.com recently re-picked the first round, knowing what we know now. Instead of Danny Watkins at No. 23, he has the Eagles taking cornerback Jimmy Smith:

The Eagles could avoid the failed “Dream Team” experiment by a selecting a Nnamdi Asomugha-like corner in this do-over. Smith is the long, rangy press corner needed to take on the likes of Dez Bryant, Pierre Garcon and Victor Cruz in the NFC East.

Smith was originally taken four spots after Watkins. He has only five starts in two seasons, but played a significant amount of snaps for the Ravens’ Super Bowl squad last year,

Watkins, meanwhile, enters his third NFL season not knowing if he has a future with the team that drafted him.

He was inconsistent in 12 games as a rookie before being sidelined with what Andy Reid deemed a “chronic” ankle injury after six starts in 2012. When Watkins got healthy again, his spot had been taken by 31-year-old Jake Scott. Now he’ll try to get a fresh start with Chip Kelly and offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland, but nothing is guaranteed.

The miscues from the 2011 draft extend well beyond the 28-year-old guard. The Eagles continue to look for safety help after missing badly on Jaiquawn Jarrett in the second round. And they added a pair of corners in free agency, partly because Curtis Marsh, a third-round pick, has yet to show he’s worthy of getting a shot to start.

The players remaining from that class are Watkins, Marsh, Alex Henery, Dion Lewis, Casey Matthews, Julian Vandervelde and Jason Kelce.

Henery will continue to be the team’s kicker, and Kelce figures to have a bright future if he can recover from last year’s knee injury. But everyone else in the group will be fighting for a roster spot.

Earlier this offseason, Jeffrey Lurie took Howie Roseman off the hook for that draft, indirectly pointing the blame at Joe Banner and Andy Reid. But it’s evident that many of the holes the team went into the offseason with (right guard, safety, cornerback) can be traced in part back to misses during the 2011 draft.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Here are three leftovers: DeSean Jackson on tempo, Brandon Graham on sports science and Jason Peters on getting a playoff win.

T-Mac rounds up the latest draft buzz.

The Eagles have hosted Darius Slay, the fastest cornerback in the draft, for an official visit.

They have also worked out Oklahoma offensive tackle Lane Johnson.

EJ Manuel delivers his latest draft diary.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Mike Mayock tells Paul Domowitch of the Daily News that Cincinnati tight end Travis Kelce is a second-round pick:

“He’s going to end up going in the second round. There were some questions about him off the field and some durability issues. But I think he’s addressed a lot of that. Most people have bought into him. The tape is pretty darn good. This kid can go deep. He catches the football. He’s really athletic. And he’ll also compete in the blocking.”

In an Allentown Morning Call piece, Jimmy Kempski takes a look at Lane Johnson as an option for the Eagles:

Johnson played RT at Oklahoma in 2011, then moved to LT in 2012. If the Eagles were to draft him, Johnson would fit in well with how the Eagles might use him. The idea would be for Johnson to slide right in at RT from Day 1, while Todd Herremans would move to RG.

COMING UP

We’re 17 days away from the draft. Plenty to get to today and this week.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Eagles Re-Sign S Thomas; Jarrett Gets A Workout

A couple minor notes regarding the safety position:

The Eagles re-signed rookie safety Phillip Thomas to the practice squad and released defensive tackle Frank Trotter.  Thomas, an undrafted free agent out of Syracuse, spent the offseason with the team but did not make the final cut. The Eagles are thin at safety, and on Monday night were without the services of Nate Allen (hamstring). David Sims got the start against the Saints and had a spotty outing.

Meanwhile, former Eagle Jaiquawn Jarrett got his second tryout with the Lions, according to Adam Caplan. The second-round pick out of Temple was released by the Eagles on September 11. Jarrett has also reportedly worked out for the Jets since being cut.

 

Mailbag: Revisiting the 2011 Draft; Expectations For Foles

I’m pinch-blogging for T-Mac with the reader mailbag this week. These are e-mails I’ve received in the past few weeks (edited slightly for viewing purposes).

I just spent five minutes looking at the Eagles’ 2011 draft and came to the conclusion that perhaps it’s one of the reasons why this team is having problems. Thoughts?

-Don

SK: I think you’re on to something, Don. The Eagles took 11 players in that draft, and three (Jaiquawn Jarrett, Greg Lloyd and Brian Rolle) are no longer on the team. Of that group, Jarrett, a second-rounder, is obviously the biggest miss. Especially when you consider the Eagles are having trouble on special teams and currently have zero depth at safety.

Losing out on Lloyd and Rolle is really no big deal. In the seventh round, you’re taking fliers on guys. However, it does reflect somewhat poorly on the coaching staff that Rolle went from being a starter in 2011 to getting cut this season.

Really, in most drafts, the first-rounder can make or break the class. The Eagles took Danny Watkins with the 23rd pick in the first round. If you’re going to take a guard in the first round, your expectations are that the player has a Pro Bowl ceiling. Watkins hasn’t come close to that. Right now, the Eagles would settle for reliable starter. Instead, Watkins has been average at best and too up-and-down. He shows flashes at times, but overall, has been a disappointment.

The Eagles took Curtis Marsh in the third round. Before the season, the thought was to get him some playing time this year, with the possibility that he could start in 2013 should Nnamdi Asomugha or Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie be gone. While Marsh looked good at training camp, he’s played exactly nine defense snaps, and we have no clue whether he’s a starting-caliber player.

The fourth-round picks were Casey Matthews and Alex Henery. Matthews plays special teams and is a backup at multiple linebacker spots, which isn’t bad for a fourth-rounder. Henery has been fine, although you can certainly debate the merits of taking a kicker so early.

Dion Lewis (fifth round) was supposed to be LeSean McCoy’s backup this year, but has only been active for one game. It would come as no surprise if he were to be off the roster completely at some point in the next month or two.

Julian Vandervelde, a sixth-rounder, is back on the practice squad after getting cut before the season. Jason Kelce (sixth round) and Stanley Havili (seventh round) look like the best of the bunch. Kelce projects as a quality center for years to come (assuming he’s healthy), and Havili has been a pleasant surprise at fullback this year.

But overall, yes, I think it’s fair to say that lack of production from the 2011 class has led to issues in some key areas (pass protection, safety, running back depth and special teams).

Colt Anderson is not even close to an NFL-caliber safety.  If he’s our third guy, then we’re in trouble whenever one of the starters goes down (like the last game).  Need another alternative.  David Sims must be better.

-David

SK: It’s a fair point, David. This team just can’t seem to get the safety position right. Remember, they tried a few different things this offseason. They were interested in free agent Yeremiah Bell, but he signed with the Jets. They signed Oshiomogho Atogwe, but he couldn’t stay healthy at camp and was cut. And they wanted Jarrett to fill a backup role, but he just didn’t pan out.

I remember in the first couple weeks of the season thinking that safety depth was a major issue. Then I kind of forgot about it because Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen stayed healthy. Last week, when Allen got hurt, Anderson had to come in, and it wasn’t pretty (although he’s a great special-teams player).

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Eagles worked out a safety or two in the coming weeks, but the truth is, there doesn’t seem to be a lot out there. We’ll see if they groom Sims, but remember, he’s only been a special-teams player too and has never played a defensive snap in the NFL.

Do you think the Eagles could/should/will re-sign C Jamaal Jackson?

-Tjade

SK: I don’t see it, Tjade. Howard Mudd clearly wanted a more athletic center when he took over last summer. Given Dallas Reynolds’ struggles, it doesn’t seem like the worst idea in the world to me. Jackson won’t be able to do all the things Kelce did, but you’d think he would know his assignments and do a better job of keeping Michael Vick upright. I have no idea what kind of shape Jackson’s in, and while I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Eagles make a move at center, it doesn’t look like he’ll be the one getting the call.

What I would like to know is the possibility of a change – not to Nick Foles, but to Trent Edwards.  I understand that Foles is listed as the No. 2 QB, but my thinking is Edwards has NFL starter experience and he would be more of a “game manager” not an impact QB that carries the high risk/high reward type of play. What are your thoughts?

-Joe

SK: A few people have asked me about this. I see zero point to playing Edwards. Let’s start with the fact that he hasn’t played in an NFL game since 2010. And don’t confuse “game manager” for “takes care of the football.” Edwards has 26 career touchdowns and 30 career interceptions. He’s been picked off once every 30.9 attempts. That’s barely better than Vick this year (once every 28.9 attempts).

There aren’t many things that would shock me with this team, but playing Edwards would be one of them.

I have to say I get really annoyed when people dismiss the idea of Nick Foles as throwing in the towel. WHY? Because rookies will make too many mistakes? Is he going to turn the ball over FIVE or SIX times per game?? I think he reads and reacts more quickly than Vick and throws with better ACCURACY. Also, do people really mean to tell me that this kid is not in the same ballpark with Christian Ponder and Andy Dalton?? No one was impressed with those picks last year and they have done fairly well so far despite the skepticism. And I think he has more pedigree than both of them!! Why is it so easy to assume he would fail??

-Jeff

SK: Jeff is fired up!

The truth is, you’re right that Foles is an unknown. And that works both ways. To say he reads and reacts more quickly than Vick and is more accurate is not a fair statement because you’re basing it on his college and preseason performance. Regular-season NFL games provide a different level of competition.

But it’s also not fair to say that playing Foles would be a clear move for the future. There is at least the possibility that he turns the ball over less than Vick. As a point of comparison, here are Vick’s numbers compared to the league’s rookies who are playing this year:

 
Comp. %
YPA
Touchdowns
INTs
Michael Vick58.97.188
Andrew Luck53.46.777
Robert Griffin III70.28.352
Ryan Tannehill59.67.346
Brandon Weeden55.86.6710
Russell Wilson59.47.087

If anything, the table shows that production is often based on expectations. All of the rookie quarterbacks, except Griffin, have had their share of issues with interceptions. And keep in mind, these were all first-round picks, except for Wilson. The table doesn’t take running numbers or fumbles into account. But you can see how Vick stacks up to the rookies from a passing standpoint.

Having said that, Andy Reid may come to the conclusion at some point that he can’t deal with Vick’s turnovers and mistakes. And he might be intrigued with the thought of playing Foles. I know some will argue that such a move would be to save his job and convince Jeffrey Lurie that he’s the right guy to develop the franchise’s next quarterback.

I don’t see it that way. I think Reid likes being the Eagles’ head coach. But he also knows he’ll get a job elsewhere if he gets fired. He put his imprint on the team’s offseason moves and believes the Eagles are built to win now. That’s part of the reason why he fired Juan Castillo even though the defense had played relatively well.

In other words, if Reid goes to Foles, it will be because he thinks the rookie can give him a better chance than Vick to win this year. Not because he’s looking ahead o 2013 and beyond.

Teams are stacking the line or putting eight in the box and daring the Eagles to burn them. Do you see the same thing?

-Bill

After we spent so much time talking about how teams play their safeties deep, that seems crazy to say, Bill. But guess what? You’re at least partially right.

It’s not every week, and it’s not every play, but there are absolutely times when defenses gear up to stop the Eagles’ run. Take a look at this image from last week’s game:

Detroit has all three linebackers and a safety ready to attack the line of scrimmage.

I’ll write more about Vick and the deep ball in a later post. But I’ve definitely seen defenses say: We will either be able to get to Vick, or he’ll miss the throw in regards to the Eagles’ deep ball. And in many cases, they’ve been right.

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

Reluctant Reid Pressed On Jarrett

Andy Reid did not have any particular interest in discussing the failed marriage between the Eagles and Jaiquawn Jarrett Wednesday.

“With J.J., I really don’t have anything to say. I have respect for the kid. I know he’s going to hook on with a team that probably plays a little more his style in the secondary,” said Reid. “I know he’ll do a great job. The kid’s all class.”

Reid reiterated that he believes Jarrett will land with a team where he can play a style “where he’s up there and knocking the heck out of people. I have a lot of respect for him. That’s really where I’d like to end that right there and let’s move on with the Ravens.”

But Reid was pressed. Fans would like to know, a reporter said, what went wrong in the evaluation.

“Well I think the Ravens are a good football team,” Reid responded.

So the reporter tried again.

“I know you want me to keep repeating it but I don’t want to do that,” said Reid. “This gives him a chance to hook on with somebody and be a contributor in this league and make a living. I think that’s probably what the fans care most about.”

With the former second-round pick cut to make room for wide receiver Mardy Gilyard, David Sims and Colt Anderson become the primary options behind Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman. Reid said that Anderson, who is coming off an ACL injury, is ready to play. Anderson has mainly been a special teams contributor over his three years in Philadelphia, while Sims, recently acquired from the Browns, is an unknown new to the system.

“[Anderson] has a possibility to get in the game and possibly contribute. That’s what he wants and that’s what we want,” said Reid. “And Sims, we liked what we saw on tape and we liked what we saw out here last week in practice. It was just a matter of picking up the techniques that we use and some of the verbiage that we use. He’ll continue to do that this week. We obviously felt some comfort there to make the move that we made.”

Jarrett’s former teammates in the secondary echoed Reid’s sentiment that he will find a home.

“Sometimes things just don’t work out,” said Allen. “Certain things change scheme-wise or something. You never know.”

With Reid saying Jarrett will find a system that will be a better fit for his skill set, Allen was asked what a safety needs in this defense to thrive.

“You’ve got to be able to do it all,” said Allen. “We come down in coverage a lot and  we do have to cover tight ends a lot man-to-man. We obviously play a lot of man-to-man. But be physical, too. We blitz a lot, so you’ve got to be able to do it all.”

Not to be lost in all this is the fact that Jarrett was drafted a year ago to play in this defense, so it’s not as if he’s a casualty of a defensive overhaul. He was selected with the 54th overall pick in 2011 to “do it all” for the Eagles. A week into the 2012 season, he is off the team.

 Follow Tim on Twitter or email him at tmcmanus@phillymag.com.

Eagles Wake-Up Call: A Look At the 2011 Draft Class

General consensus seems to be that you should wait at least three years before evaluating a draft class.

But considering the Eagles released their 2011 second-round pick, Jaiquawn Jarrett, yesterday, now seems like a good time to at least assess how each of the team’s 11 picks is doing.

Danny Watkins (1st round, 23rd overall): It took him awhile to get on the field as a rookie. The Eagles started journeyman Kyle DeVan over Watkins for four games last season. When he did get on the field, Watkins produced mixed results and probably had more struggles in pass protection than any of the four other linemen. The offseason was supposed to really help him, but Watkins had issues in the opener. It was only one game, but the expectation is for him to at least develop into a reliable, above-average starter in 2012.

Jaiquawn Jarrett (2nd round, 54th overall): As I mentioned yesterday, most draft analysts thought Jarrett was a good prospect coming out of Temple. Last year, at one point, the Eagles thought Jarrad Page was a better option at safety. Jarrett didn’t get onto the field until the starters ahead of him went down with injuries. This offseason, the coaches never publicly voiced that Jarrett was showing great improvement. At no point was he in contention for a starting job, and Jarrett had a terrible first preseason game, filling in for Nate Allen. Think about this: The team has decided that David Sims – someone whom the Browns were ready to release, and someone who has never played an NFL snap – is a better option right now than Jarrett, who has been working with Eagles coaches for the past 14 months. In other words, if they saw any signs that Jarrett was getting it, they would have kept him. Instead, he is gone.

Curtis Marsh (3rd round, 90th overall): He’s largely an unknown, but the potential appears to be there with Marsh. When healthy, he’ll be the team’s primary backup at left and right cornerback. Marsh had a strong preseason, and if either Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie or Nnamdi Asomugha isn’t back with the team in 2013, he’ll get a chance to start. If both guys are back, Marsh will continue to get a chance to be the first backup.

Casey Matthews (4th round, 116th overall): Given that the Eagles didn’t feel like Watkins or Jarrett were ready to start last season, I’m not sure why they decided Matthews would be just fine as the team’s middle linebacker. We all know how that experiment turned out. On the flip side, Matthews kept working, and by the end of the season, he was flashing his potential in sub packages. He’s battled injuries this summer and was only used on special teams in Week 1, but Matthews could see a more prominent role at some point in 2012.

Alex Henery (4th round, 120th overall): Not sure exactly what to make of Henery at this point. Let’s just see how this season shakes out.

Dion Lewis (5th round, 149th overall): Didn’t get much of a chance to play as a rookie. And now when he gets healthy, he’ll have to hold off Bryce Brown as LeSean McCoy’s backup. Chris Polk is on the roster too. Lewis had a good summer and looked like he could be a playmaker in the screen game. If the coaches are serious about getting McCoy some rest this season, Lewis will get a shot to prove himself.

Julian Vandervelde (5th round, 161st overall): He had a poor preseason, was let go and landed on the Bucs’ practice squad. The Eagles are thin at guard/center, and it says something that they went with perennial practice-squad guy Dallas Reynolds over Vandervelde. Reynolds’ comfort level at center clearly gave him the edge to be Jason Kelce’s backup.

Jason Kelce (6th round, 191st overall): Right now, you’d have to say he’s the best of this class. Kelce started from Week 1 last year and showed steady improvement as a rookie. He’s been given more responsibility in terms of pre-snap calls this season and was excellent as a run blocker against the Browns. He still needs to improve, but has flashed potential. The expectation is for Kelce to be the team’s center for years to come.

Brian Rolle (6th round, 193rd overall): He played WILL as a rookie, and while Rolle made mistakes and missed tackles, he also looked like a playmaker. But a couple weeks ago, he lost the starting job to Akeem Jordan and was a special-teams player in Week 1. Chances are the Eagles will shuffle up the linebacker situation at some point in the coming weeks and months, so look for Rolle to get another chance for playing time.

Greg Lloyd (7th round, 237th overall): He was dealt to the Colts during training camp.

Stanley Havili (7th round, 240th overall): He’s probably the sleeper of the group. Havili spent 2011 on the practice squad, but had a strong summer and won the fullback job. The question with Havili has been whether he can hold up as a lead blocker, but he looked pretty good in that aspect Sunday. His ceiling is definitely higher now than it was a month ago.

WHAT YOU MISSED

As I mentioned above, the Eagles let Jarrett go and signed wide receiver Mardy Gilyard. T-Mac’s got details.

Back when Jarrett was drafted, most analysts thought he was a good prospect.

I knocked out a series of game reviews. The first focused on how the Eagles used Nnamdi Asomugha and the defensive backs. The second detailed strong outings from DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks. And the third was about the defensive line, which was led by Jason Babin. For all the Eagles game reviews from Week 1, click here.

And finally, in case you missed the debut of Birds 24/7 Radio on 97.5 The Fanatic, it’s available for download on iTunes.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

The Ravens took care of the Bengals Monday night. Some interesting notes on their performance from Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun:

The Ravens went no-huddle on 21 of 58 snaps, an indicator it’s no passing fancy. They were in the shotgun 15 times. Tight end Dennis Pitta, who had a career-high 73 receiving yards, was on the field for 44 plays while Ed Dickson played 39 snaps. Often in double-tight-end formations and three-wide-receiver looks. Left guard Ramon Harewood and rookie right tackle Kelechi Osemele never left the field and held up solidly in starting debuts.

The no-huddle note is of particular interest, considering how the Eagles like to rotate defensive linemen in and out of the game.

Good job by DeSean Jackson spending 9/11 at Fort Dix and donating $50,000 to the Wounded Warrior Project. CSNPhilly.com has video detailing Jackson’s off day.

Tommy Lawlor’s detailed game review over on IgglesBlitz.com is always worth a read. On Michael Vick:

My biggest issue with him is that he made poor decisions and/or played slow. Guys would come open, Vick would see them, and then he’d throw the ball. By that time, defenders would either have the player covered or would be on the way. If this was 2009, I’d understand. Vick started 25 games over the last 2 years. He is a veteran QB. You must anticipate plays and throw the ball when the player is about to be open or is just coming open. You cannot wait until he is wide open and then throw. That’s too late.

And finally, Tim wrote yesterday about Vick being mic’d up Sunday. The footage he mentioned is now on YouTube so I embedded it below.

COMING UP

The Eagles are back at Novacare to get ready for Sunday’s home opener against the Ravens. Andy Reid meets with the media, and we’ll also hear from players. By the way, the Eagles are 3-point favorites in this matchup. The game will be broadcast on CBS at 1 p.m. Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf have the call.

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

What Experts Said About Jarrett When He Was Drafted

The Eagles decided earlier today that it was time to cut ties with Jaiquawn Jarrett.

Back in 2011, they took the safety out of Temple with the 22nd pick in the second round. Looking back at the selection, my recollection was that many thought the Eagles might have drafted him a little early, but most believed he was a good prospect.

The beauty of the Internet is that we can go back and look things up. Below is a look at what people said about Jarrett when the Eagles took him.

ESPN.com’s Todd McShay thought Jarrett was the Eagles’ best selection in the 2011 draft:

I believe Jarrett will be a good starter in the NFL, and with Quintin Mikell a free agent, Jarrett will ideally step in right away. He’s not big, but he’s tough, and Jarrett is one of the more underrated defensive backs in the 2011 class.

Mike Mayock of NFL Network loved Jarrett’s temperament:

The Eagles need a nasty guy up front, and Watkins is a nasty guy. I have to say the same thing about Philly’s second-round pick, safety Jaiquawn Jarrett out of Temple — I love his temperament. He’s a very good tackler and will compliment 2010 second-round pick Nate Allen back there. So you’ll have Allen at free safety, Jarrett at strong safety — both of them exciting young safeties picked in the second round of the last two drafts.

Per Rotoworld, Greg Cosell of NFL Films really liked Jarrett:

“I really, really like this kid,” says Cosell. “I think if you could get him in the third round, he’d be a terrific pick. I think he’s only going to get better and better and better. He’s very athletic. He’s one of the best safeties I’ve watched on film. … He played very physically.”

ESPN.com’s Mel Kiper had Jarrett tied for his third overall safety prospect and pegged him as a second-round pick.

Evan Silva of NBCSports.com liked Jarrett as a prospect:

When you have 11 draft picks, you typically come out looking pretty good. The Eagles did a thorough job from top to bottom, using their top 2-3 selections on day-one starters. Danny Watkins was the nastiest offensive lineman available, and Jaiquawn Jarrett is a ballhawk with tremendous physicality.

Kerry Byrne of SI.com liked the Jarrett pick:

What I liked: The tag-team combo of Jaiquawn Jarrett (second round) and Curtis Marsh (third round) in the secondary. Philly struggled badly at time in the defensive backfield, as evidenced by the 31 touchdown passes allowed. Only Houston and Dallas, two of the league’s most incompetent defenses, surrendered more TD passes (33 each). So the Eagles needed help in the secondary and got it in Jarrett, a run-stopping safety, and Marsh, an athletic cover corner.

Scouts, Inc. on Jarrett:

Pros: Shows very good overall recognition skills. Reads keys and is disciplined. Is tough and fills hard for an undersized S. Does a good job of breaking down, wrapping up and finishing as a tackler. Does a good job of avoiding blocks when cheated up near the line of scrimmage.

Cons: Gets in position to make a play on the ball but doesn’t always finish. Will mis-time some jumps and hands are questionable. Lacks elite playmaking ability in this area.

As you can see, a lot of analysts really liked Jarrett, and so did Howie Roseman, Andy Reid and the Eagles. But things didn’t work out for him in Philadelphia. And now Jarrett begins the next phase of his career, one that will focus on finding a job somewhere in the league.

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

Eagles Release Jarrett, Sign Gilyard

The Jaiquawn Jarrett experiment in Philadelphia has come to a close.

The former second-round pick out of Temple was released Tuesday to make room for wide receiver Mardy Gilyard.

The Eagles also signed tight end Derek Carrier to the practice squad and released fellow tight end Chase Ford.

The 22-year-old Jarrett posted 17 tackles in 12 games over a disappointing season-plus with the Eagles.

Andy Reid evoked the name of Brian Dawkins when he selected the 6-foot, 196-pounder in April of 2011 because of similarities in stature and big-hit ability. Jarrett was never able to deliver those type of bone-crunching hits that he built a reputation on; he was just unable to get in position for the most part.

The Brooklyn native never was able to steal a starting spot and appeared on the bubble as the Eagles cut down to 53 players. He survived and was expected to contribute on special teams. Coach Bobby April was touting Jarrett just this past Thursday.

“Jaiquawn Jarrett is on everything – punt, punt return, kickoff, and kickoff return. He’s playing everything and is getting better all the time. I’m really hoping, soon, that his efforts and his professionalism are going to pay off for him. I think he’s doing a really good job and I’m glad he’s on our team.”

The Eagles, though, decided to part with Jarrett in order to bolster their thinned-out receiving corps. Jeremy Maclin is a question mark because of  a hip injury and Riley Cooper (collarbone) is still unavailable. That left a void to fill.

Gilyard was with the team throughout training camp and opened a few eyes up at Lehigh. He had nine grabs for 151 yards with a pair of touchdowns this preseason. A fourth-round pick in 2010 out of Cincinnati, the 5-11  Gilyard had six grabs for 63 yards as a rookie before being released and signing with the Jets briefly last season.

With Jarrett cut, Colt Anderson and newly-acquired David Sims are the options behind Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen. This could be a sign that Anderson (ACL) is close to a return. He was a full participant at practice last week but was inactive for the game.

Follow Tim on Twitter and email him at tmcmanus@phillymag.com.

 

Eagles Snapshot: Safety Preview

Throughout the course of the week, we’ll be providing position-by-position previews of the entire Eagles roster. Click here to get to all of them. Today, we cover the safeties.

The roster: Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman, Jaiquawn Jarrett, David Sims, Colt Anderson.

The Eagles shuffled up their safety situation on cut-down day. They let go of Oshiomogho Atogwe, who couldn’t stay healthy, and acquired Sims from the Browns. The Eagles also placed Anderson on the 53-man roster, instead of the PUP list, which would have forced him to miss the first six weeks of the season.

Player in the spotlight: Jaiquawn Jarrett

Even though the season is just three days away, it’s unclear exactly what Jarrett’s role is going to be in 2012.

As a rookie, he started two games and played significant snaps in two more. Safety was a problem area for the Eagles all season, but at no point did the team look to Jarrett as an answer. He couldn’t get onto the field until the team’s starters were sidelined with injuries in the second half of the season.

At the end of 2011, the expectation was that Jarrett would push Coleman for a starting spot after having a full offseason under his belt, but that hasn’t happened. Instead, he had to fight for a roster spot after a disastrous preseason game against the Steelers in early August. Jarrett took bad angles to the ball and missed multiple tackles in that game; at practice, Tom Nelson started to rotate in with him on the second team.

To his credit, Jarrett bounced back later in the preseason, but he needs to show a lot more to raise his ceiling from backup/special teams player to quality starter. He was also helped by the fact that Nelson suffered a high ankle sprain and Atogwe couldn’t get his hamstring right.

In Week 1, Jarrett will be counted on as the Eagles’ first backup behind Coleman and Allen. Chances are, at some point this season, he’ll get on the field and be given a chance to prove that the Eagles didn’t waste a pick on him in the second round of the 2011 draft.

You should also know that…

* Allen is the most talented of the group and finished 2011 strong. A second-round pick in 2010, he needs to show he can be healthy and productive in 2012.

* Missed tackles are only part of the equation, but Allen had trouble in that area last season. According to Football Outsiders, he missed 10 overall, or 17.9 percent of his tackling attempts.

* Sims has a great story. After high school, he worked a series of odd jobs, including one in waste management. He went to junior college, switched from running back to safety, transferred to Iowa State and has bounced around from the Giants to the Bucs to the Browns to the Eagles. He’s hoping to not only contribute on special teams, but push for playing time on defense also.

* Anderson was second on the team with 12 special-teams tackles last season, and keep in mind that he only played in 12 games after suffering a torn ACL against the Seahawks. He was also the first man down in coverage 18 times. No other Eagle did that more than nine times. Anderson will be inactive in Week 1, but it looks like he’ll be back making plays for Bobby April sooner rather than later.

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

Changes Likely Coming At Safety For Eagles

Any illusions about potential depth at safety was erased when O.J. Atogwe was forced out of Thursday’s preseason finale against the Jets and onto the trainers table.

The same hamstring injury that kept him out of the previous two games tugged at him again. It was the final sign, if the Eagles needed one, that moves are necessary to bolster the position heading into the regular season.

“I’ve got to look at that,” Andy Reid conceded. “That’s one of those spots I’ve got to look at, just make sure we’re set there, and we’ll do that. We’ll go through all the positions but that’s one where there is some stiff competition, and we have to make sure we’re right there.”

In Andy Reid speak, that’s about as close as you’ll get to an admission that there’s an issue.

Rosters need to be trimmed to 53 by 9 p.m. Friday. With teams trying to put together the puzzle, trades are certainly possible. And once all the cuts are made, there will be a greater crop of talent on the market than currently exists. As a reference point, Adam Caplan has the top 5 available free agent safeties as Nick Collins, Melvin Bullitt, Chris Crocker, Charlie Peprah and James Butler. There are not a ton of appealing options at the moment.  Howie Roseman and Reid will have to get creative.

Atogwe has had his share of success over seven seasons with the Rams and Redskins. He has also had his share of injuries of late, which is a large part of the reason he was available this offseason to begin with. Atogwe was asked about his future following the Jets game.

“The criteria that they’ll use to evaluate players is different than what I may speculate,” said Atogwe. “I know I’m able to play this game at the highest level possible. I’ve proven that time and time again and I still believe, by God’s grace, I can still do that. Whether they believe that or trust that or have faith in that, that’s to their discretion and I fully support their decision.”

The 31-year-old only played in parts of two games for the Eagles this preseason, and was able to manage four tackles and one pass defensed. Reid acknowledged that the limited reps makes it more difficult to evaluate what he has in Atogwe.

“In the picture -perfect world you want to play every game, show them exactly what you have. But that’s not what I was led into, those weren’t the cards that I was dealt,” said Atogwe. “I’m not going to cry about what didn’t happen. I’ll be thankful for what did happen and the opportunities I did have and how I handled them.”

With Jaiquawn Jarrett still a major question mark, there is a great deal of unceratinty behind Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen, who has been dealing with a hamstring tweak of his own of late. With Atogwe unable to show his worth because of injury, the Eagles are sure to act.

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