Eagles Going LB In The First Round?
By Lance Epstein
A couple of days ago, SI's Peter King reported that the Eagles were interested in trade up in the 2010 NFL Draft to acquire either premiere University of Tennessee safety Eric Berry or University of Texas safety Earl Thomas.
Then on Friday, Scout.com's Adam Caplan tweeted that if the Eagles were interested in moving up it would most likely be for a defensive back, but there was one mystery defensive player they could be going after.
On Saturday, CBSsportsline.com's Rob Rang confirmed King's report that the Eagles are indeed looking to move up in the draft, but not for the players that King stated. He speculated that the Eagles were not locked in on Berry or even Thomas, but on University of Alabama stud middle linebacker Rolando McClain.
"It has been reported (originally by Sports Illustrated's Peter King) that the Eagles were aggressively looking to move up," Rang wrote on his NFL blog. "I have been able to confirm this, but counter to King's story, which has Philadelphia looking to move up for either Eric Berry or Earl Thomas at safety, I'm told a different player is the Eagles' real target. Middle linebacker Rolando McClain, given the team's need for a thumper inside and the significant drop-off at the position after McClain, would seem a likely candidate."
This is an interesting comment by Rang considering Andy Reid philosophy on linebackers. Reid has always believed that the linebacker position is not a valued position like cornerback, defensive line and offensive line.
By going after McClain, Reid would end his person drought of 11 seasons without taking a linebacker in the first-round. Furthermore, it would be the first linebacker drafted in the first round of the draft in 31 years, when they selected UCLA linebacker Jerry Robinson in 1979 NFL Draft.
Ultimately, this report, while it seems strange, does tell three significant ideas about the way the Eagles are thinking heading into the draft. First is that maybe heralded and current starting middle linebacker Stewart Bradley might not be ready next season. With that being a possibility, the Eagles do not want to enter the season like last year with a giant question mark in the middle.
Of course, every report and indication from the club this offseason seems to suggest Bradley is way ahead of schedule. Although, it would surprise no one if the club were hiding that his road to recovery has hit a set back.
Or maybe they do not have faith in Bradley fully recovering from his second torn ACL. Either way, it makes fans question whether Bradley can return to his 2008 form.
The next theory this report demonstrates is that the Eagles are serious about making major upgrades to the defense at any position and just getting more playmakers. McClain is the best linebacker in this class and a star-in-the-making.
Playing the middle linebacker position for the Eagles, McClain could flourish into an All Pro type player due to defensive coordinator Sean McDermott's system. Additionally, adding him into the fold permits the McDermott to slide Bradley over to his natural SAM linebacker position, which he excelled at Nebraska. On the other hand, McClain might be the solution to the Eagles problem at SAM linebacker, but Bradley makes more sense to be an outside backer.
Lastly, this tells everyone that there is a change of philosophy going on with the Eagles. A couple weeks ago, reports surfaced that there might be tension between Reid and his counterparts, GM Howie Roseman and team President Joe Banner. It is beginning to look like Roseman is trying to instill his values on the team and take the power away from Reid.
If Reid had the unlimited and final say like he claims, then there is no way a linebacker is even in the discussion in the first round. The Eagles would look to improve the secondary. The defensive backfield is in desperate need for a facelift considering they have traded corner Sheldon Brown away and let Brian Dawkins go over the last two off-seasons.
Despite all this report, many fans and even experts would still be absolutely shocked if the Eagles took a linebacker in the first-round, let alone trade up with a team like the Dolphins, who own the No. 12 pick.
This report may be accurate or it could be totally off base like last year when numerous reports connected Philadelphia and Georgia running back Knowshon Moreno.
One thing is for sure, the week leading up to the draft will have a ton of rumors surrounding the Eagles and players that they covet the most.