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April Fool's: No Fooling Around For Eagles

Eagles Better Not Be Fooling Around At These Positions
By Lance Epstein

As the free agent market dwindles down and the draft creeps up there are still many positions that the Eagles need to look at. Most of the holes on the team seem to be on defense, but there are some positions on offense that need improvements.

All in all, the Eagles did a nice job this offseason of clearing some bad contracts that were on the books in wide receivers Reggie Brown and Kevin Curtis, defensive lineman Darren Howard. Unfortunately it also meant that the aging and injury prone Brian Westbrook would be gone as well.

Besides removing some of the bad contracts, the Eagles made some nice acquisitions. None of the moves were headliners but they were solid additions. The trade for DE Darryl Tapp gives the Eagles a much better rotation on the defensive line. Furthermore, the former second-round pick has the potential to be a very good player if he regains his rookie season form ( registered 7.5 sacks).

Another solid addition was Colts' defensive back Marlin Jackson. If Jackson can recover from his ACL injury, he can be the playmaking safety that was sorely missed when Brian Dawkins left for the Denver Broncos.

Lastly, the release of Westbrook was not a surprise. The Eagles had to get a veteran running back into the system to challenge second-year running back LeSean McCoy. Mike Bell is a adequate compliment to McCoy and can start incase Shady goes down with injury or cannot carry the load.

Still, new GM Howie Roseman, head coach Andy Reid and president Joe Banner need to do more to make this team a Super Bowl contender next year. Here are the top five positions of need heading into the April 22 NFL Draft:

5. Interior Offensive Line-- At the end of the season, the Eagles offensive line took a massive blow as starting center Jamaal Jackson tore his ACL. Jackson will probably not be ready for the start of the season and might not even be the same when he gets back. The Eagles have two options here. They could use Nick Cole at center and find a young talented guard in the draft or free agency (John Clayon is reporting the Eagles are interested in Seahawks guard Rob Sims). The other option is to draft a center and allow Cole to compete with Stacy Andrews for the right guard spot. Right now, Cole is a solid player but he is a dominating player and the only way the Eagles will surpass Dallas is to get a dominating line. If Andrews is fully recovers from his ACL tear next year, he could be that player that makes the o-line dominant. I believe the Eagles will look hard into selecting Idaho's offensive lineman Mike Iupati. If they do not acquire him look for a center to be taken in the third or second-round.

4. SAM Linebacker-- The entire linebacker position could use an upgrade, but getting back Stewart Bradley from his ACL tear is huge. He was an up-and-coming star at the MLB position. Moreover, he can play all three downs for the Eagles and has the ability to eliminate other teams tight ends. At the weak-side linebacker position there is Akeem Jordan. Jordan might not be a Pro-Bowl type player but he has the ability to be a good starter. You saw in the beginning of the season, before his leg injury that he was making plays and was always around the ball. His injury bothered him all season, but him coming back healthy will solidify the position. With that said, Philadelphia's strong-side linebacker position is a mess. Moise Fokou made too many dumb penalties and was ineffective against the run. Chris Gocong has been in the center of trade talks and was
horrible in pass-coverage. Furthermore, he is better suited for a 3-4 defense than a 4-3. Look for the Eagles to take a SAM backer early in the draft. A sleeper in the draft is Thaddeus Gibson from Ohio State. He is stout against the run and has the athleticism in coverage. He could be had with the Eagles third-round pick that they gained from the Seahawks.

3. Safety-- Most fans want a safety incase Jackson does not pan out. However, the player I wonder about at safety is Quinton Mikell. Mikell is on the wrong-side of 30 and his contract runs up at the end of 2010. The Eagles are known to draft for the future, so taking a strong safety is not out of the realm of possibilities. That is why Taylor Mays does make sense. At free safety, he would certainly fail but at strong he could be a Pro Bowl talent. Although the Eagles do need a backup plan if Jackson fails like Sean Jones did last year. Despite that, look for the Eagles to take a safety somewhere between rounds 2-4 unless Earl Thomas drops or they trade up for Eric Berry. Otherwise a free safety in the first round is not likely.

2. Defensive End-- This could be the number one most pressing issue for the Eagles, but I put it at two. Trent Cole desperately needs help from the left defensive end position. Tapp could be a good compliment but his last two seasons have been busts, as he only recorded 7.5 sacks. Additionally Juqua Parker and Victor Abiamiri do not scare other teams, which is the reason Cole gets double-team consistently. This draft is very deep at this position, so the Eagles might wait until the third round to make a move. Although if the two best tackles in Jason Pierre-Paul or Derrick Morgan slip, do not be surprised if the Eagles jump up from their 24 spot to obtain them. One player the Eagles should avoid is Everson Griffin. On the other hand, Corey Wooten could be a diamond in the rough in the second/third round.

1. Cornerback-- Most fans will question this as the number one need on the Eagles but there are numerous reasons to demonstrate why it is. First, the Eagles have placed Asante Samuel and Brown on the trade market. Obviously, Reid and company were disappointed in Samuel and Brown's play. Samuel avoided making tackles at all cost, which hurt getting off the field. On the other side of the field, Brown has been beaten repeatedly in the playoffs and down the stretch the past two seasons. Second, both of the starting corners are going to be over 30 soon. Brown is 31 and Samuel is 29 heading into the season. A young and talented replacement is needed sometime in the near future. Third, the depth at the position was tested last year when Brown partially tore his hamstring, Ellis Hobbs was placed on IR and Joselio Hanson was suspended for four games. A quality nickel and dime corner would help incase the injury bug pops up again. Lastly, this draft is absolutely loaded with good corners. At 24 the Eagles could grab Devin McCourty or Kyle Wilson. Both have the potential to be great corners. If they wait until the second round, they still could have starter quality corners in Patrick Robinson, Perrish Cox and Kareem Jackson. I fully expect the Eagles to take a corner in the first or second round. I would be totally shocked if they did not select one.

Wild Card: Quarterback-- Here is the biggest shock of them all. Yes the Eagles have three outstanding quarterbacks on the roster right now. However, it looks like McNabb will be leaving Philly soon and this leaves the team with only Kevin Kolb and Michael Vick. This seems fine since they have two quarterbacks, but Vick is a free agent at the end of the year and ditto with Kolb. Vick will not be back in 2011, so the Eagles will be left with only one QB on the roster (assuming they resign Kolb). Reid just does not like to take gambles like that. Do not be shocked if the Eagles select Fordham QB John Skelton in the fourth or fifth round. They have worked him out twice already. He is a project but has the raw talent and skills to be a good backup. Eventually, he could become a Matt Schaub type player.

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