Eagles Wake-Up Call: Whither the 2011 Draft Class?
Five of the 11 draftees — Jaiquawn Jarrett, Dion Lewis, Brian Rolle, Greg Lloyd and Stanley Havili — are no longer with the team. Jarrett will be on the field Thursday as a member of the Jets, as the Temple product tries to breathe life back into his career.
Two of the six remaining members — fourth-round pick Alex Henery and sixth-rounder Jason Kelce — are safe. The rest, not as much. Casey Matthews and Julian Vandervelde are on the fringe. Third-round pick Curtis Marsh is in murky waters after breaking his hand.
And then there is Danny Watkins. The former No. 23 overall selection is trying to claim a reserve role. Maybe he’ll make the 53-man, maybe he won’t. It’s really not about whether Watkins survives the final cut. The story is that his status is in question to begin with.
On the day the Eagles drafted the then 26-year old, Andy Reid called Watkins “as good of a football player as there was in the draft.” Said that he received glowing reviews from just about everyone in the building, including Howie Roseman.
“Howie had this guy, right from the get-go, at the top. This was a guy that he really wanted and liked,” said Reid. [This, by the way, seems to run counter to Jeffrey Lurie‘s claim that “The mistakes that were made in the 2011 draft have little or nothing to do with Howie’s evaluations.”]
“And so, when I looked at him I said, ‘This guy is as fine of a football player on the offensive line that you have in this draft.’ And then Howard [Mudd] came back and he said the same thing…He’s one of those guys that you can’t help but like when you look at him. He knows how to play the game. It’s not going to take a Rhodes Scholar.”
Two seasons later, Watkins is on the bubble. He is the symbol of a draft gone largely wrong.
In an attempt to make Eagles fans weep, Bill Barnwell of Grantland just penned a piece that contends that the 2011 draft class is shaping up to be the best defensive group in modern NFL history. The Eagles have zero projected starters on defense from that crop. [They went Jarrett, Marsh, Matthews in Rounds 2-4.]
The good news is that the 2012 class has the early looks of a winner. Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks, Vinny Curry, Nick Foles, Brandon Boykin, Bryce Brown and Dennis Kelly could all have roles on this team. Some of them starring roles, even. It’s way too early to judge the ’13 group, but that, too, has potential. There are some building blocks.
You can argue that 10 players from the past two drafts (Lane Johnson, Zach Ertz, Bennie Logan, Earl Wolff, Cox, Kendricks, Curry, Foles, Boykin, Brown) have a legitimate chance of contributing in a meaningful way this season. Throw in Kelly for 11 if you want. Either way, it’s a healthy representation.
The ’11 class, meanwhile, is just trying to survive.
WHAT YOU MISSED
Sheil identifies 10 players that are on the roster bubble.
Chip Kelly may be hands off to some degree when it comes to defense, but it is still being built in his vision.
Last call to be an intern for Birds 24/7.
Matt Barkley doesn’t want his rookie season to “slip away.”
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
DeMeco Ryans is high on Kendricks. From Reuben Frank:
“He’s communicating more, he’s understanding the game better, he’s seeing things a lot better. I’m just proud of the way he’s grown from Year 1 to now. I can just see that maturity in him, and the knowledge in his game is just picking up.
“I’m really proud of the steps that he’s made. The kid has unbelievable talent, and I just want to see him reach his full potential. The sky’s the limit for him because he has ability that a lot of people don’t have. He’s just gifted. Just God-given talent, and I want to see him able to maximize it.”
Phil Sheridan predicts that the Eagles go 8-8.
Picking a .500 record seems like a cop-out, but there is precious little to go on as Chip Kelly takes over for Andy Reid in Philadelphia. Will Kelly’s go-go offensive approach work in the NFL? Can Michael Vick thrive again after two years marred by injuries and turnovers? Is the read option a growing trend or have defensive coordinators solved it? Can the Eagles’ defense regain respectability even as coordinator Bill Davis shifts from a 4-3 to a 3-4 with mismatched personnel?
That’s way too many big questions to consider the Eagles a likely playoff team. They are, after all, coming off a 4-12 season. But Kelly’s system, facilitated by LT Jason Peters and a healthy offensive line, should be able to put points on the board. One thing is for sure: The Eagles’ offensive players are very excited about their potential.
Game day. We’ll both be in New York. Kapadia will see some snaps at quarterback for the Jets in the fourth quarter.