Eagles Missed Opportunity At Cornerback
By Lance Epstein
The biggest question mark heading into the 2010 season for the Philadelphia Eagles is whether they have a cornerback on the roster capable of replacing the recently traded Sheldon Brown.
This question was thought to be answered by the Eagles during the course of the 2010 NFL Draft, but the Eagles failed to take a cornerback early, which ultimately could be their demise this upcoming season.
ESPN's NFC East Matt Mosley believes that the Eagles have big questions in the secondary because the Eagles wheeled and dealt themselves out of a quality cornerback.
"I think Graham and South Florida safety Nate Allen were both solid choices for the Eagles, but it concerns me they couldn't find a potential starter at cornerback," Mosley wrote. "Veteran Marlin Jackson, signed in free agency, has experience at cornerback, but he's probably more comfortable at safety after tearing the ACL in each knee the past two years. Asante Samuel's a perennial Pro Bowler, but he's one of the least willing tacklers in the league."
While the Eagles have Ellis Hobbs, who has starting experience, slotted as the team's starting right corner, Mosley does not trust that he is good enough or even healthy enough to be a consistent starting caliber corner in the NFL. Additionally, fourth-round pick Trevard Lindley had too many injuries in college to be counted on in 2010 or even in the NFL.
"The projected starter on the other side, Ellis Hobbs, is returning from a neck injury. I thought the Eagles needed more depth at cornerback in this draft, but they only came up with fourth-rounder Trevard Lindley out of Kentucky," Mosley wrote. "Had Lindley come out after the '08 season, he probably would have gone in the second round. But the cornerback suffered a high ankle sprain last year and had a challenging senior season."
However, Mosley points out that head coach Andy Reid thinks the injuries suffered last season by Lindley would have been entirely different if they happened in the course of a NFL season. Moreover, Reid came away very impressed that he played through those injuries and showed Lindley's character.
"He got banged-up this year,'' Reid said Saturday. "He had a high ankle sprain and that can kind of put a damper on a college season, and that's what happened. It happened early and he never really got over it, but he didn't want to stop playing, which showed me something."
Still Mosley does not know or see how the Eagles can enter the 2010 season and compete with the weapons that the NFC East favorites [potentially NFC favorite to get to the Super Bowl] have in their lineup. He even stated that the Eagles had trouble last year against the Cowboys and that's when they had Brown and Samuel as the cornerback tandem.
"Good to know [referring to Reid's comments on Lindley], but it doesn't really address the issue that Miles Austin and Jason Witten ran roughshod over this secondary at the end of the '09 season," wrote Mosley who covers the NFC East exclusively. "Even Roy Williams stumbled into daylight a couple times against this unit. Reid seems to think that players such as Macho Harris and Joselio Hanson can help patch together a decent group of cornerbacks. But that's a scary proposition when you know that the Giants and Cowboys both have big-time weapons on the outside. And the Redskins happened to acquire a quarterback who has been successful with inferior talent at wide receiver before."
He finishes off by stating that he did like the moves that the Eagles made in the draft, but one hole to poke in first-year general manager Howie Roseman's draft is the fact that they overlooked their cornerback issue.
Should the Eagles have addressed the cornerback position earlier in the draft? Probably. Although the Eagles probably were banking on either Patrick Robinson, Devin McCourty and even Kyle Wilson since he fell to No. 29 to be there at their pick at No. 37. Unfortunately, there was a run off of corners at the end of the first round and the Eagles missed out on the opportunity to get a impact player at the position.
Certainly the Eagles probably should have worked out a deal to move up with the Jets or Minnesota to get one of the three players, but the price might have been to steep. It would definitely have cost them the 37th overall pick and probably multiple other late round picks. Like the Eagles stated during the draft, the value in this particular draft was in rounds 4-7, so they probably did not want to lose those picks.
Additionally, the Eagles like they always do, looked too the future. The Eagles scouts almost certainly informed the war room that next year's draft class has potentially six first-round cornerbacks and up to 11 corners with first or second-round grades.
Rather than give away multiple picks in a very deep draft, the Eagles take a gamble and see what they could do with the guys on the current roster for the season. If that plan fails, target a corner in the first round. This plan makes sense because the Eagles defense needs this season to gel and Kolb will have growing pains in his first year as the starter. Most knowledgeable fans will concede this factor.
On top of that, the brutal amount of quality quarterbacks on the Eagles schedule, will determine who sinks or swims. The ones that swim will have a future with the club. While the ones that fail will have new homes in 2011.
Without a doubt the Eagles won't admit this type of thinking. Or they could actually believe by adding pass rush specialists Ricky Sapp, Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, Graham and Tapp into the fold that their improved pass rush makes the secondary better. Roseman and Reid could be right considering Dallas has an aging Marc Colombo at right tackle and Doug Free at left tackle. Free is not exactly a premiere tackle in the league and nor is he instilling fear in Trent Cole.
A excellent pass rush only half of the plan to slow down a talented Dallas offense. The other part of the plan is Kevin Kolb being more accurate than Donovan McNabb, which could sustain more drive and keep Tony Romo off the field.
Of course, like Reid said when talking glowingly about the prospects the Eagles picked up this weekend, "time will tell if we are right."