Monday, April 30, 2007
The Phanatic Magazine
This may not bring Eagles fans to tears, but it is a bit of a surprise move nonetheless:
Word out of the NovaCare complex is that the Eagles have released linebacker Dhani Jones. And, interestingly enough, Chris Gocong is the current No. 1 strongside linebacker.
The Birds also agreed to terms with the following 11 undrafted free agents on Monday:
DT Jeremy Clark (6-3, 309, Alabama)
WR Zac Collie (5-11, 187, BYU)
WR Dereck Faulkner (6-3, 228, Hampton)
CB Nick Graham (5-10, 191, Tulsa)
G Jacob Hobbs (6-3, 303, Albany)
LB Akeem Jordan (6-1, 226, James Madison)
DE Marques Murrell (6-2, 246, Appalachian State)
T Jonathan Palmer (6-4, 336, Auburn)
S Marcus Paschal (6-0, 201, Iowa)
S Chris Smith (5-10, 215, Florida International)
G Chris White (6-3, 321, South Carolina)
By Greg Wiley
The Phanatic Magazine
Don't fear Philadelphians, that earth-rattling scare that reportedly registered a 6.0 on the Richter Scale Saturday wasn't an earthquake, it was the collective thump of every Eagle fans' jaw hitting the ground when the club drafted Houston quarterback Kevin Kolb with its first draft pick. The aftershock was Donovan McNabb throwing every can of Chucky's Soup he has in his kitchen at the picture of head coach Andy Reid that hangs on his fridge.
Maybe just as surprising as Brady Quinn falling to the 22nd pick in the draft, was the Eagles taking a QB few heard of before his name was announced on Saturday. We all know why it was so surprising -- the Eagles had a number of other needs to fill, they already have a franchise signal caller and two decent backups -- but the question why he was selected still goes partly unanswered.
Yes, the Eagles' brass said that he was the best available talent, but who cares. As someone pointed out to me this weekend, how much can that talent help when he won't even see any significant game action. Players like Utah safety Eric Weddle, USC wide out Dwayne Jarrett and Rutgers fullback/running back Brian Leonard were all still on the board. I'm not a draft expert or NFL talent evaluator, but I have to think that these players might help the team more than a backup/future QB, who most likely won't play anyway even if McNabb isn't ready for the start of the season as he rehabs his surgically repaired knee.
There has to be some underlying issue with McNabb. Whether it is his injured knee, his age or the fact that he has trouble in the "big game," an interesting storyline is going to unfold in the coming weeks.
Regardless, my money is on an organizational error. I bet that the Eagles gave the wrong card to the runner that gives the information to the commissioner, or who ever called out Kolb's name. Right now, we are witnessing the cover up...
By the way, you know you're in the Philadelphia TV market when you're trying to escape the monotony of the NFL Draft by watching the FOX Baseball Game of the Week only to have the annoying text scroll at the bottom of the screen alerting viewers to who the Eagles took with their first draft pick. Thanks for the update!
Don't look now Philadelphia, but your Phillies are surging. The Phils have won seven of nine games and have won their last three series. The team is 11-13 overall, a far cry from the horrid 3-10 start to the season.
The winning must really be getting to the fans, because now they don't have anything to complain about. Not only is the team winning, but the hated Pat Burrell continues to produce, Aaron Rowand is also coming up big at the plate and Jimmy Rollins is an early contender for the MVP honor. The starting pitching is even coming through as the move of Brett Myers to the bullpen has helped secure the late-inning hiccups.
Although, there is one person the Phils fans can have an issue with -- reigning league MVP Ryan Howard. The slugger is hitting just .219 this season with three homers, 12 RBI and 10 runs scored.
It's no secret that Howard needs to produce for the Phillies to make any noise in the NL this season. The problem is that nobody seems to know when Howard is going to start to produce. Every time he shows just a glimpse of breaking out of his slump, he falls right back into it. He's been swinging at bad pitches and pulling off the pitches on the outside of the plate and striking out at the most inopportune times.
There are a number of ways to handle someone in such a slump, but Howard seems to be very fragile and anything too rash might cause even bigger problems.
Remember, this is the guy who wanted a long-term contract prior to the start of the season and not getting that has most likely affected his play.
So, if Charlie Manuel decides to rest his slugger for a few days, or moves him down in the lineup, that might cause irreversible psychological problems. I do think, however, if he moves to the third spot, in front of Chase Utley in the four-hole, then he might start to see some better pitches. The problem is he'll have to lay off the bad ones, something he hasn't been able to do...
Speaking of Uncle Charlie, he has to be happy he is no longer the major league manager on the hot seat. Over the past week he has managed to pass that torch along to Yankees skipper Joe Torre. The Yanks have dropped eight of nine games, including five of six to the rival Red Sox, which can't sit well with owner George Steinbrenner.
If Torre is going to get canned, today might be the day. The Yanks have an off-day before starting a three-game set in Texas and that might be enough time for Torre to empty his office and hand the keys over to either Don Mattingly or Joe Girardi. Both are in the organization currently (Mattingly as a coach and Girardi as a YES Network commentator) and depending on how soon the front office wants to win will determine who gets the gig.
The win-now manager is Girardi. He won the Manager of the Year award last year with the Marlins and can come in right away and get things cooking. Mattingly, on the other hand, has never had managerial experience on the big-league level and is someone who will have work out the kinks before getting the team rocking and rolling.
Why should Phillies fans worry about Torre's job status and who the next manager in the Bronx is? Well, Girardi will be the hot name this offseason to fill a managerial position, and with Manuel in the last year of his contract, Phillies fans should be keeping a close eye on what Girardi is doing. He might be the right guy for the job...
Sticking with baseball, I'm starting to think there is another undetectable steroid on the market. Why? Well, not only is Barry Bonds on pace to break Hank Aaron's home run record before midseason, but Sammy Sosa is hitting again. Sosa is a guy who went in the tank two years ago in Baltimore, and after a season away from the game already has seven home runs. I'm not complaining too much though, I have Sosa on my fantasy team and I hope he keeps sticking that needle in his butt -- until I trade him that is...
Nice showing by the defending NBA champion Miami Heat in the playoffs this week. The squad was swept in four games by the Chicago Bulls, who exploited the aging Heat for the underachieving, over-rated frauds that they are. Yeah, yeah, I know I picked the Heat to win the series, but they are an old team, with an old coach and an injured super-star (Dwyane Wade, not Shaquille O'Neal). They are the first defending champs since the 1984 Sixers to lose in the first round and first to be swept in the first round since the 1957 Philadelphia Warriors. That's the last time I jump on the Heat's bandwagon.
The Bulls are going to be a tough out for Detroit Pistons in the next round. Chicago, which won three of four from the Pistons in the regular season, has a strong perimeter game and despite not having a go-to guy in the post, the team finds ways to score inside. Kirk Hinrich can drive the lane with some of the best in the league, Luol Deng gets to the paint for jumpers and if Ben Gordon is on, there is no other player I want on my team in the fourth quarter in the NBA right now. Gordon has clutch-performer written all over him...
I wish I would've picked the Warriors over the Mavs like my gut told me too...
Oh, yeah. In case you missed it, which you probably did, NBC was to air "Barbaro, A Nation's Horse" on Sunday. But because of the 2OT Rangers-Sabres playoff game, it got bumped. Tell me, though, if Barbaro was the Nation's horse, why would a hockey game with a rating below that of the Kentucky Derby bump it? Talk about adding insult to injury, not only is Barbaro still not buried, but a hockey game cost him a shot at completing his time in the spotlight which needs to come to an end by the way.
Your rantings are always welcome at email@example.com.
The Phanatic Magazine
I've been on the phone all night and as far as I can tell, there is no truth to the rumors that Andy Reid and Tom Heckert got into Britt and Garrett Reid's stash.
That said, how else can you possibly explain the "no holes" mentality of the soon to be Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles?
Last time I looked guys like Sean Considine, Dhani Jones (editor's note: Jones was still a member of the Eagles when this was written) and Darren Howard were still a top the Birds depth chart. As is the injury-ravaged Jevon Kearse, along with the aging Jeremiah Trotter and Brian Dawkins.
Yet with Super Bowl dreams still dancing in their fans heads, the Eagles felt no need to address any of that and traded down to grab Donovan McNabb's successor, an unequivocal sign that "Big Red" has finally lost confidence in his franchise signal-caller.
And, normally I would give Reid the benefit of the doubt. At some point you have to move on and McNabb has been sidelined by significant injuries in three of the past five seasons. He is also now on the wrong side of 30, a significant milestone in the NFL.
So, the end is near but just how close is it?
"I'm convinced this (the drafting of Kevin Kolb) signals the end of Donovan McNabb's tenure in Philadelphia," ComcastSportsnet's Ron Burke said on my radio show this weekend. "It won't be this season but they drafted Kolb to take over in 2008."
If that's true, it's time to take inventory. Reid has been a good coach for a very long time but let's be honest -- all his success boils down to one definitive moment. Everything else is just window dressing.
If this organization succumbed to Angelo Cataldi and the 30 losers he brought to Madison Square Garden's Felt Forum all those years ago, Reid would be in the Federal Witness Protection Program, likely coaching the offensive line in Tennessee far off any NFL head coaching radar.
Like him or not McNabb carried this franchise to heights it never achieved before. If the team actually picked the hippie-lettuce loving Ricky Williams over DMac, we would all have been watching the Detroit Lions over the past eight years.
That doesn't mean McNabb doesn't have his warts. He is a frighteningly sensitive, unlikable guy with a mouthy mother so many of the louts that follow this team have vilified him on many levels.
If you listen to the detractors McNabb might as well be...Kevin Kolb.
Fortunately he wasn't and you all will get to see that when Kolb takes his place under center.
Welcome to mediocrity and get used to it.
The Phanatic Magazine
First, I give a huge round of applause to my colleagues Tim McManus and John McMullen, who orchestrated as in-depth, real-time Eagles draft coverage as anywhere on the Internet. Granted, there were plenty of questions to type once the name "Kevin Kolb" was uttered at the podium following a trade out of the first round, but still I give kudos to my colleagues.
The draft is the second biggest day in the NFL behind Super Bowl Sunday, and after 5 hours the Eagles trading picks within their division had to leave the Green and White faithful in a state of disappointment, especially considering fifth overall draft pick Levi Brown once said at Penn State that Purdue defensive end and Dallas draft choice Anthony Spencer was the best rush end he faced.
The draft took a shocking turn with the slide of Brady Quinn, Miami's selection of Ted Ginn, Jr. that subsequently triggered the plummet and other interesting second round steals.
The following is The Phanatic Magazine winners and losers from the 2007 Draft after plodding through scout views, GM spin and our own untrained eye:
Oakland: The Raiders did what they had to do -- drafting JaMarcus Russell with the top overall selection. Scouts salivate over Russell's "tools" -- i.e. arm strength, physical makeup and mobility in the pocket. I'm not so sure Russell NFL's slope won't trend more toward Ryan Leaf and Akili Smith than Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, but it's a roll of the dice Oakland had to take considering its current quarterback structure. The pick that really fascinates me is Louisville running Michael Bush in the fourth round. One has to wonder how healthy the leg is considering he fell to pick 100, but pre-injury Bush had the physical makeup and instinctive cutback ability of a sure fire first-rounder. If, and it's a big if, Bush regains full strength, the Raiders may have found a future rushing champion in the fourth round.
The draft smells risk with the distinct possibility of vast reward. Grade: A-
Arizona: Football is a man's game. It's won in the trenches, someplace all to foreign and yet such a big piece of the Cardinals' recent futility. New head coach Ken Whisenhunt and offensive line coach Russ Grimm, both former Steelers assistants, took on the philosophy of their old team during the draft, suring up both lines in the first two rounds. I've seen Levi Brown on tape and in person, and more often than not I see a smart, technically sound player who has Pro Bowl written all over him. Also, when you have a franchise quarterback in toe, protecting him should be of the utmost importance. Here's saying Brown covers Matt Lienart's blind side for the next decade. Alan Branch was once seen as a Top 5 pick before a poor combine coupled with closer inspection of film found a player who really wasn't a playmaker. However, no one can argue Branch has the physical tools of a Casey Hampton, another Steeler connection. The Michigan product will likely play nose tackle in the Cardinals' 3-4 scheme.
They improved both lines while taking some risks later in the draft. Grade: B+
Pittsburgh: Bravo to Mike Tomlin for his first draft in the Steel City. If it wasn't for a late trade, Kansas City was prepared to swap picks with Pittsburgh in the first round, likely giving the Steelers another second day selection. The deal didn't come to fruition and the Steelers spent their first two selections on gifted "tweeners." Pittsburgh has a history of turning three-point stance rush ends or pure, undersized athletes into part of a relentless blitzing defense. Florida State linebacker Lawrence Timmons fits the description of athletic, yet with some flexibility. He was comfortable in a 3-4 alignment at Florida State, yet has the size and versatility to play on the outside in a 4-3 defense.
Regardless of what others say, Tomlin plans to stick with a 3-4 this season, but won't rule out playing some hybrid defenses to confuse opposing offenses. How Lamar Woodley dropped into Pittsburgh's lap I'll never know. Well, actually I do know. Woodley is looked at as undersized for the edge without the stand-up speed of a linebacker. The same could have been said for Gregg Lloyd and Joey Porter. Woodley had one mentality at Michigan -- get to the quarterback, and he excelled to the second most sacks in Wolverine history. That mentality will sit well with defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau's attack.
The third round pick fits in with Bruce Arians' multiple TE scheme, and a source told me that Pittsburgh envisions using Heath Miller more like Dallas Clark in 2007. Still, there were other pressing needs (RB, offensive line, secondary) on the table when Matt Spaeth was taken in Round 3 and punter (Ray Guy award winner) Daniel Sepulveda was selected in the fourth round. The first two picks were among the best in the draft, the rest left something to be desired. Grade: B+
Cleveland: The Browns rolled the dice and won -- at least on Draft Day. I have always been in the Brady Quinn is overrated camp, but at 22 the value is unquestionably high. Now, the price tag -- this year's third and 2008's first rounder -- may be steep when looked back upon, but Cleveland had to inject its franchise with life. They got a possible franchise quarterback and the draft's best offensive lineman in the first 22 selections, a major coup for GM Phil Savage and company. The Browns also took a gamble on a corner with first-round talent in Eric Wright. The kid has off-field issues, but major upside on the field.
Joe Thomas is a stud with really quick feet for a man his size. Quinn is raw in my opinion and needs to get mentally tougher, but he will likely learn plenty on the job. Grade: A
Atlanta: So, it didn't jump up to take homeboy Calvin Johnson, but the Falcons while not flashy improved both lines and added some toughness to their secondary in the first three rounds. Jamaal Anderson is a coach's dream -- big, strong, instinctive and agile. He was the best defensive player in the draft. Period. Justin Blalock was once thought to be a sure fire first rounder until questions circulated about his muscle mass and toughness. The kid protected quarterbacks at one of college football's best programs --and my cardinal rule is big-program college success is a good indicator of continued success at the next level. Not always, but it's not as risky as a player with eye-popping numbers at a lower-level institution. The complexity of the game is entirely different as is the physical battle in the pros, but BCS conference football is the best preparation if there is any. Chris Houston is only 5-11, but excels near the line of scrimmage and the transition to a new life can only be easier with college teammate Anderson joining him in the Dirty, Dirty South.
The Falcons made good use of their two second-round choices and avoided the temptation of giving away those picks to land Johnson. Grade: A.
Philadelphia: The Eagles traded out of the first round to take a quarterback who will be third or fourth on their depth chart. A team with solid starters but little depth in the secondary picked a quarterback with its first selection then a defensive end -- Victor Abiamiri -- from one of college football's most overrated defenses. Abiamiri is a good, smart football player but scouts compare him to the Giants' Justin Tuck. Again, intriguing mid-major corner Usama Young from Kent State and physically gifted corner Marcus McCauley were still on the board. The argument isn't as much Abiamiri's selection as it is a two-fold question without a logical answer. Abiamiri couldn't have been the "best available", could he? And why select a defensive end when you've spent free agent dollars and recent first round draft choices on upgrading the line?
The Kevin Kolb selection was more peculiar, because I think both John Beck and Drew Stanton are better pro prospects. Even so, I couldn't possibly justify picking any of the three ahead of tight end Greg Olsen or the corners listed above. It is possible -- and we can give Andy Reid et al the benefit of the doubt if we must -- that the Eagles were squarely targeting a safety before a rash of Reggie Nelson, Brandon Meriweather and Michael Griffin were selected from picks 19-24. But still, quarterback? Eric Weddle (SS, Utah) or Blalock (OT, Texas) would have been better choices. Grade: C-
New England: I must respectfully yet fervently disagree with my colleague Steve Lienert. One scout penned just before draft day that Brandon Meriweather was the most overrated player in the draft. He has the "U" name going for him, but also carries the Hurricanes baggage as troubled and always in trouble. So, since when have the character-sensitive Patriots turned into Foxboro Correctional Facility? Meriweather is a thug, plain and simple. He has decent range -- not as good as Michael Griffin -- and above average speed -- but not as fast as Florida's Reggie Nelson. He was the third best safety in the draft, and coupled with his off-field issues, may have been a risk in the early second round. Then there is Randy Moss. In my professional opinion, Moss has lost a step, and he wasn't very fast to begin with. He doesn't run geometrically fluid routes, only tries 60 percent of the time and is a square peg in the round hole of New England's short passing, clockwork offense. Moss doesn't excel underneath, and unless Tom Brady plans on heaving jump balls once a quarter -- the move does more harm in the locker room than good on the field. The Patriots won with coaching and team chemistry, coupled with a talent pool in the league's top 10 but nowhere near the top. Talent-wise the selection of Meriweather and the trade of a fourth-round pick for Moss are huge pluses. However, New England's core values were wiped clean -- instead selling its soul for a Super Bowl.
We say here that the soul is gone, but the Super Bowl doesn't follow. Grade: C+
Seattle: Deion Branch killed Seattle's draft before it started, showing on the field this past season that he wasn't worth the first-round pick surrendered to New England. The Seahawks needed help in the secondary and did address the issue by selecting Maryland corner Josh Wilson in the second round instead of taking McCauley -- the cover guy with more tools and a better upside. Wilson plays like a linebacker without the body, resulting in various nagging injuries while in College Park.
Branch needs to show more, or Seattle lost an opportunity to improve its secondary in Round 1. Grade: C.
Miami: I'm not a Quinn apologist, and Beck may turn out to be the better pro, but reports are surfacing that Ted Ginn, Jr. may not be fully healed by the start of training camp. That leaves some to wonder whether the Dolphins medical and personnel staff did its just homework, or plain overlooked the injury while enamored with Ginn's pure speed. I've seen Ted Ginn in person twice, and came away highly unimpressed both times. Teddy Ballgame was visibly frustrated with Penn State's shadow approach in two meetings, jamming him at the line to throw off timing and boxing him in with a linebacker underneath and a safety over the top. Ginn shies away from the middle of the field and doesn't run real crisp routes. He is fast, yes, but football isn't track.
The pass on Brady Quinn may not haunt them more than the selection of Ted Ginn. Grade: C.
Tennessee: I heard scouts in the days leading up to draft day question Griffin's ability to play in space. He can stop the run and play center field, sure, but was he truly worth a first-round draft choice? The Titans thought so, drafting the Texas safety No. 19 overall. He lacks the size to shed blockers in the box and sometimes over pursues, leaving a play susceptible to the cutback home run. Arizona running back Chris Henry shows all the physical tools (6-0, 228 pounds), a physical specimen with shifty hips and a strong upper body. However, he was seldom used in college, which brings questions about his drive and work ethic. Can he stay focused? Does he really want to excel at the next level? Unsure answers leave a lot to be desired for a team that lost Travis Henry to Denver.
Jared Trexler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunday, April 29, 2007
The Phanatic Magazine
(As much as I had hoped my previous column would have served as a catharsis of sorts, I realized I wasn’t done yet. Bear with me…)
So this is playing out just as I had thought – and dreaded. Reid and pals proclaiming, soon to be ad nauseam, that this was not a message to Mr. Chunky Soup. It’s just simply “how the board played out.”
Which got me to thinking: Are these professional experts or amateur fantasy players?
Did they even need to be present as the draft was happening in real-time? Or, a more telling question: Were they?
As an amateur (and mediocre at best) fantasy player myself, the Eagles draft reminded me of when my fantasy football draft was scheduled at a time when I had other things to do; perhaps go to work, attend a family function or just to oblige my girlfriend to stop spending every spare moment doing something sports related for the sake of our relationship.
At these times, I would simply log into the league web site in advance and spend far too much time pre-ranking my players, hoping that if the auto draft selected a hot shot to fill the need at one position, it would then move on to fill the void at others.
Of course, that never happens with auto draft.
What typically does occur is that I’ll try to bank on solidifying my ground game (and where the bulk of the points usually stem from) and rank a small bunch at top to ensure I get at least two guys whom I can count on all season.
I’m quite sure there’s a more effective strategy to run the draft in absentia, but like I said, I’m an amateur.
The end result is typically that I’ll get my stud running back. Then another great one. Then another decent one (a backup for insurance isn’t so bad, right?), but would have remained on the more for several more rounds. Then another serviceable one, but chosen right around the same time as that up-and-coming wide receiver who slipped that far for no apparent reason. And then, for good measure, one more who wasn’t even slated to be drafted at all.
In the meantime, I get someone like Kurt Warner as my starting quarterback (2006 version, not 2001), a Donte Stallworth, injury-waiting-to-happen type as my No. 1 receiver, a starting tight end more known for his blocking, and the
The more I think of how this Eagles draft turned out, the more I wonder if Andy and pals had to attend a family function, or perhaps were guilted into spending more time with the better half (“You’re watching film on football players again? Isn’t there a rerun of Sex and the City on?”), and simply ran an auto draft.
Look back on this week and tell me if you don’t notice a similar pattern as my fantasy ineptitude.
Jeff’s columns run here every Sunday – and sometimes twice when he’s especially pissed off about something. Feel free to email him and share in his misery: email@example.com.
The Phanatic Magazine
After almost seven hours of waiting, wondering, and monitoring an day-long beer buzz, after suffering through the interminable filibustering of the media between picks, after nearly a full day of watching our lives pass before us (especially if our name ends in “Quinn”), after watching our boys in green delay the inevitable (by trading down with the Cowboys, which, in hindsight, should have been the first foreboding sign of things to come), the moment had arrived:
Some guy named Cobb (or is it Kolb? Or I think it’s one and sounds like the other).
And then, less than an hour later, a defensive end with a name I won’t even bother to try to pronounce. The D-Line members already on the roster – still holding regular icebreakers to learn each other’s name – will now add another to the masses.
Instantly, the Eagles placed itself in a position to contend for the ever-elusive championship.
And while other contending teams pride themselves on adjusting to how the board pans out, filling glaring holes and immediate needs, putting their chips to the center to get over the top, our Iggles continue to stay the course.
“Dubya” would be proud.
Stockpiling for depth is fine – when you’re several weeks removed from raising the Lombardi Trophy and kept the nucleus of the team together. Dem Birds, however, do not fit that profile.
In the coming days, the most overused two words you’ll hear from management will be “best” and “available.” As in, “We chose Kolb because he was the ‘best available’ player when our turn came around.”
The “best available” will now – barring any unforeseen circumstances – be holding a clipboard for at least the next several years.
And, truthfully, that’s even if he makes the team! Remember, the Eagles spent the offseason giving Jeff Garcia money to newly anointed No. 2 man A.J. Feeley and traded to get presumed third-stringer (and former NFL starter) Kelly Holcomb.
(Oh, and by the way, there’s a very good chance the “best available” would have remained on the board by the time they picked again at 57)
(Furthermore, earlier today, the Patriots traded its fourth round pick – well into the 100’s - to the Raiders for Randy Moss. So I guess our “best available” – destined to hold a clipboard or lead the practice squad - is better than a probable Hall of Famer)
According to ESPN.com, Donovan McNabb expressed “befuddlement” at the choice.
Can you blame him? Regardless of the team’s soon-to-be stale alibi that this is, by no means, a testament to the lack of faith it holds in its franchise QB and alleged team leader, how can it not be? Could we perhaps be missing something in all of this? Slow progress on his rehab? A major trade on the horizon?
In a way, I hope so. At least then my afternoon which lasted eternity - and my buzzkill, which occurred in an instant - will be somewhat justified.
Jeff Glauser’s “best available” columns can be read here every Sunday. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On whether he feels he can be the big running back many feel the Eagles need:
“I feel like I’m a big back and I think that’s why they drafted me. Hopefully, I can bring something to the table that this team is looking for.”
On how much playing time he expects to receive with the Eagles:
“To be honest, I don’t really have a clue about that. I haven’t heard anything yet about anything like that [about how much playing time I’ll receive]. I’ll have to wait and see.”
On where he thought he would be taken in the draft:
“I was thinking anywhere from [rounds] two to three. I went late three. I was just happy to go to Philly. I think it was getting a little long late in the rounds, and I ended up going to Philly. So, we’ll make it work.”
On whether the Eagles were one of the teams that expressed interest in him prior to the draft:
“They were one of the teams I visited, so, yeah, I’d say so.”
On what role teams he visited with prior to the draft wanted him to play:
“Basically the ‘big back’ role- the role I played my whole college career. That’s what I can do.”
On why he has become known as what people label “a big back”:
“It just kind of happened. I didn’t necessarily say ‘[I’m a] big back.’ I just did some hard running. You don’t necessarily have to be big to do that. I just go after the yards that other guys kind of don’t want to get.”
On whether it was important for him to be drafted by a successful franchise:
“I think that’s definitely a positive thing about it, to go to a good football team that’s going to get better.”
On whether there was too much emphasis placed on his 40-yd. dash time at the combine:
“Yeah, I think that’s the truth. I kind of knew that that would be the case. So, it didn’t bother me as much as I expected it [to].”
The Phanatic Magazine
This pick is disconcerting.
If there is anything to say about the relationship between Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb over the years, it's that it has been drenched in loyalty.
Reid was forced to defend McNabb from the moment he drafted him, and has continued to do so throughout their eight-year tenure together. That includes internally as well, not just to the hard-nosed fans and their representatives in the media.
Any time there has been dissension, a struggle for power, or even a threat of a threat to McNabb, Reid has swooped in to grab his star quarterback's back. The best example lies in very recent history, when the Eagles didn't even tender an offer to Jeff Garcia despite his efforts late last season.
The message from Reid, as always: Let there be no doubt, McNabb is the guy.
That mantra has been beat in with an iron fist, often in the name of quality talent and tender egos.
Why now, then, would there be such an egregious departure from that philosophy?
Houston's Kevin Kolb was on absolutely no one's radar when it came to the Eagles. After all, Kolb was a top-five signal caller in the draft by most accounts, and the Birds obviously had more pressing needs. Plus they had just recently traded for Kelly Holcomb while locking up A.J. Feeley with a long-term deal.
No room for another QB, really -- but now they're going to have to find some.
And the question I ask, along with thousands in the Delaware Valley today, is -- Why?
The most likely answer (close your eyes if you're not ready to accept this) is that the Eagles have little faith that McNabb will be the steward for both the immediate and distant future. More specifically, this certainly brings his health into question, and makes you wonder if there's information regarding his rehab that hasn't been divulged publicly.
"When your time comes, you have to be ready to jump in there and that could be any time," Kolb said in a conference call yesterday. "With injuries and football, you have to be ready at the flip of a switch."
Reid explained the pick afterwards as simply a matter of choosing the best player on the board.
With that decision, though, the Eagles neglected some very glaring holes to address a position that isn't expected to be vacant for a half-decade at the earliest. And, as this piece proves, the selection invites scrutiny of a man that Reid has spent his entire head-coaching career passionately protecting.
It doesn't make sense, unless there is another part of the story that has yet to come to light.
Tim can be reached at email@example.com
The Phanatic Magazine
After sleeping on it, I finally figured out why the Eagles drafted Kevin Kolb.
They obviously had inside information that Randy Moss was about to become a Patriot, so they figured the 2007 season was washout anyway.
If it's possible to win a Lombardi Trophy in April, the New England Patriots have accomplished it.
Sports Illustrated has already starting running commercials for fans to get their 2007 and 2008 New England Patriots Super Bowl Champions commemorative DVD's with any paid subscription.
Coach Bill Belichick liked coaching the AFC Pro-Bowl team so much last season, he decided to make them all Pats.
Wide receiver Kevin Curtis, the Birds' answer to the departure of Donte Stallworth (who went to the Pats), would have to battle just to make New England's roster.
Oh, wait a second.... this just in... The Phanatic has learned the Patriots just acquired Reggie Bush from the Saints in exchange for an old Corey Dillon jersey.
I blame all this on Peyton Manning. If he didn't rally the Colts past the Pats in last year's AFC championship game, the Patriots would have won another Super Bowl and not gone all Yankees on the NFL.
Maybe the Eagles should consider putting Donovan McNabb on the IR for the season and let Kolb earn his wings. After today, the end result seems like a foregone conclusion.
***Courtesy of the Philadelphia Eagles***
On how he sees himself fitting in with the Eagles defense:
“I spoke with the defensive coordinator [Jim Johnson] and he thinks the SAM linebacker spot, but I played all three spots in college. I will play wherever they need me to play.”
On how he has come back from his ACL injury:
“I got cleared by the medical staff in about 4 ½ months, so it was a really fast recovery. I think I played very well before my senior year. In my senior year, a game or two in, having a big guy land on it, getting in an uncomfortable position, before mentally I was able to handle it. I feel great now and it feels good.”
On whether he had any interviews with the Eagles:
“I met with some of the scouts at the Senior Bowl and then I spoke to [Jim Johnson] on the phone, but not a ton.”
On what he knows about the Eagles:
“I am a fan of [head coach] Andy Reid because I am from
On whether he was expecting to go in the 3rd round:
“I heard all different things. I heard higher and lower. I thought I was going to be picked in the first day and I am happy to be an Eagle.”
On whether he thought the Eagles were interested in him:
“Yeah, they talked to my agent and I heard they were interested. So, I was excited and hopeful.”
***Courtesy of the Philadelphia Eagles***
On what today was like for him:
“I was back home in
On what his expectations were heading into today:
“I have been hearing many things from the late first to the second [round]. The general consensus was that I would go somewhere in the second round, possibility slipping into the third. I headed into this weekend with an open mind. Hopefully I would go wherever and play. I wanted to get the draft behind me and go to my new team and help them win championships.”
On whether he was surprised the Eagles chose him:
“To be honest, I wasn’t. I just wanted to keep an open mind about everything. Going into the day, I knew the draft was filled with a bunch of different possibilities. Whatever happens, happens. I could end up anywhere. I really didn’t know that the Eagles were going to select me, but I knew that anything could happen and that is what happened today.”
On whether he interviewed with the Eagles:
“Slightly, I did interviews throughout the whole combine and Senior Bowl, but I never took a visit to Philly or anything like that.”
On whether he has a sense of where he will fit in with the team and whether he is ready for competition at the position:
“Yeah, I just wanted to go to a situation where they had a lot of veteran players that I can learn from. That is where the Eagles are at right now. They have a lot of veteran guys like [DE Jevon] Kearse and [DE] Trent Cole who have experience playing that position. I want to go in and help the team win football games and compete early.”
On whether he feels like he will be ready to play early:
“I believe so. I am going to go into the season with high expectations in myself. I am going to go in ready to compete and learn from the older guys. Hopefully, I will see the field on Sundays.”
On whether he would rather have gone to a team with less competition at the DE position:
“I think this situation is great for me to be able to go in and learn from guys that have played the position so well for so long. I will take in that information and mix that in with my own game, so I can go out and perform to my best.”
On what changed for him between his sophomore and junior years at Notre Dame:
“We had a coaching change from our sophomore to our junior year. It was not just myself, but the whole team bought into [head] coach [Charlie] Weiss’ attitude and mentality of being confident in yourself and your playing abilities. We all just took to that, played hard and played well. I certainly grew in the weight room, worked on my speed and other things like that. It helped me out on the field and the results showed.”
On what he thinks is the strongest part of his game:
“I think I have a good combination of size, speed and power that lets me be versatile enough to be an every down defensive end. I can play the run, pass and you don’t have to take me off the field in any situation.”
On what coach Weis told him about the draft process:
“He told me to keep an open mind about the whole thing and that’s what I did. He told me that I was a good football player and that I would end up in the right situation. He told me to go somewhere and play and that is what I am planning on doing.”
***Courtesy of the Philadelphia Eagles***
On whether he spoke to the Eagles before the draft:
“For the most part, I knew that the interviews went really well. I knew that there was some good chemistry between us too, but you never get a real good feel that you are going to be drafted this early. So, I just tried to take a conservative route with it and I just had no idea it was going to be this early.”
On whether his meeting was with head coach Andy Reid:
“Yes, it was with Andy, [offensive coordinator] Marty Mornhingweg and [quarterbacks] coach [Pat] Shurmur. All the meetings went really well. I had a great feeling coming out of there. I even called my parents and told them it felt great and hopefully it would work out. But you never know how the draft is going to turn out and you can’t get sold on something because you are going to get let down. I was lucky enough to have it happen today.”
On whether he believes his style of play will fit with the Eagles offensive system:
“I think to a T, absolutely. If I could pick out one team from the very beginning, I would have chosen this one because they move a lot of guys around. They get mismatches, they line up in different formations, they go a bit of shotgun and we did a lot of that stuff at the
On whether he sees himself as the quarterback of the future for this team:
“Yeah, absolutely. That is the reason they took me, that’s the reason they had faith in my skills in what I do and I am anxious to get behind these older guys and get to learn from them over the next however long. I want to learn the ropes and get them to teach me and soak up everything I can. Be a sponge for however long it takes to get my turn and then get in there and win ball games when I get the chance.”
On how long he thinks he will be a backup:
“I have no idea. I haven’t spoken to the coaches about their plans and what they are looking to do. For me, it’s just getting in there and competing every single day. I think that is what every athlete has to do. When your time comes, you have to be ready to jump in there and that could be any time. With injuries and football, you have to be ready at the flip of a switch. That is what I will try to do and keep my mind right from day one and hopefully it will work out great.”
On whether he can be patient, knowing the Eagles have a franchise quarterback in Donovan McNabb:
“Yeah, I think you have to be. I think you have to take that mindset into it; otherwise you are going to get frustrated. So, I am a pretty patient guy. I understand the situations that I am in and I know I will do fine with this one.”
On how surprised he was to be picked by the Eagles at this spot:
“It was a shock. Obviously, as an athlete you feel you are as capable as anyone else on the board, but in the draft it has to be the right team, the right selection at the right time and God was on my side today. He made it work and for our family it was a surprise. There is no doubt about it. But now that it has happened, I can see why they did it. I can see the fit. I have started to settle into the feeling and I am elated to have this opportunity.”
On how it felt to see other quarterbacks rated above him:
“It’s a little bit frustrating, because, like I said, you try to compare yourself and you feel like you are the better quarterback of the bunch. I thought I could play as well as any other quarterback on the board, but I am from a smaller school and I am used to being overlooked. I am used to not getting all the hype. I think that helped me out through this process. I kept my mouth shut, did my work, stayed right and it paid off.”
On whether working under center will be an easy transition for him:
“I am not very worried about that. I have been working on it throughout this entire process and it’s a thing that once you do it, it’s just repetition. I am a hard worker. If I don’t feel comfortable, I get out there before and after practice and in between to make sure I do feel comfortable the next day. That is the approach I take to things, so I am not worried about the transition from shotgun to underneath at all.”
On whether he is apprehensive about interacting with QB Donovan McNabb:
“No, I have heard only good things about Donovan and even though it is a business and we are competing, I hope we can take the right steps to building a relationship. As long as he’s producing, that is there franchise guy, so I think it will be a real good situation. We don’t know how it’s going to turn out, but I do have the right attitude going into it, being patient and waiting my turn.”
On where he spoke to the Eagles coaches:
“I was brought in and they came to work me out. I got in late; I think it was a Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning. I had an interview with everybody and had very good interviews. I got to know the coaches real well.”
On whether he has any special memories of watching Eagles football while growing up:
“Well, I was a Cowboys fan growing up, so obviously, there was some controversy there. With out offense the past four years, I picked out theirs as one of ones I could be matched up with. We did a lot of the same things and we are very similar in various aspects. I like the way they moved [RB Brian] Westbrook around. They use their TE LJ Smith quite a bit and Donovan gets a chance to roll out and do a lot of things. I like throwing on the run. I like to move around a bit and hopefully, when it gets to me, I will fit in perfect.”
On where he watched the draft:
“We have a farm in south
Saturday, April 28, 2007
The Eagles traded their top draft choice in the NFL Draft today (26th overall), sending the pick to the Dallas Cowboys in exchange for picks in the second, third and fifth rounds.
Philadelphia got the 36th, 87th and 158th selections in return.
Dallas used the pick to draft Purdue defensive end Anthony Spencer.
Friday, April 27, 2007
Despite revisionist football observers saying Russell was always on the NFL's radar, the 6-foot-6, 265-pound playmaker didn't vault to the top of most draft boards until his dominating performance in the Sugar Bowl, against high profile Notre Dame.
The athletic Russell threw for 332 yards and a pair of touchdowns in LSU's easy 41-14 win over the Irish. That performance helped him leapfrog Notre Dame's own quarterback, Brady Quinn, and a plethora of other talented players who had more consistent and accomplished college careers.
The Raiders are expected to take Russell despite the presence of Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson. The 6-foot-5, 239-pound Johnson is regarded by most as one "can't miss" prospect in this year's draft, but the importance of the quarterback position seems to be trumping Johnson's scary skills in the Bay Area.
Russell, Quinn and Johnson join Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson, Wisconsin offensive tackle Joe Thomas, Clemson defensive end Gaines Adams and Russell's teammate with the Tigers, safety LaRon Landry, at the top of most draft boards.
The Detroit Lions and much-maligned general manager Matt Millen are in the second slot and are considered to be a wild card in the process. The franchise seems enamored with Adams, but may trade out of the slot for more value.
The Cleveland Browns are weighing Quinn and Peterson with the No. 3 pick while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers look like they will lock in to Johnson with the fourth choice. The Arizona Cardinals round out the top five and may snag Thomas to help protect its first round pick from a year ago, Matt Leinart.
The Washington Redskins, Minnesota Vikings, Atlanta Falcons, Miami Dolphins and Houston Texans finish out the top 10.
The 2007 NFL Draft kicks off at noon (et) from New York City's famed Radio City Music Hall.
SAN FRANCISCO – United States Attorney Scott N. Schools announced that Kirk J. Radomski (a former New York Mets clubhouse employee) pleaded guilty today to Distribution of a Controlled Substance (Anabolic Steroids) and Money Laundering. This guilty plea is the result of an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
In pleading guilty, Mr. Radomski admitted to distributing anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs, including Human Growth Hormone and Clenbuterol, as well as amphetamines, to dozens of current and former Major League Baseball players, and associates, on teams throughout Major League Baseball. He deposited the payments for those anabolic steroids into his personal bank account and then used the proceeds to finance his residence, which was the base of operation, warehouse, and communication center for his anabolic steroid-dealing business. During Radomski’s past employment in Major League Baseball he developed contacts with Major League Baseball players throughout the country to whom he subsequently distributed anabolic steroids and athletic performance-enhancing drugs. Radomski had personal contact with some of his baseball drug clients, but consulted and conducted drug transactions with others over the telephone and through the mail.
"The distribution of anabolic steroids to professional athletes cheats both the paying public and the clean athletes and is a serious crime," said United States Attorney Scott N. Schools. "This investigation shows that distribution of performance-enhancing drugs continues to be an issue for sport in America. This office is dedicated to pursuing those who benefit from such crimes."
Very few people know how the Eagles will approach the 26th pick of Saturday's draft. Could it be because Philadelphia still doesn't know?
Think about it. Outside of safety, the Birds don't have a real need this weekend. After all, as most women forget while shopping, there is a big difference between a need and a want.
The Eagles could use depth in the secondary, would like to add to their linebacking core, and would benefit with the addition of a big back. However,all are luxury requests, not pressing concerns.
Is there any position (again, outside of safety) that you don't feel comfortable about heading into next season, as far as the starters go? In actuality, the addition of Takeo Spikes really changed the complexion of the Eagles impending draft, as many thought the Eagles had to take a linebacker with their selection.
Even signing Kevin Curtis gave the Birds some flexibility this weekend, giving the Eagles a starter at a spot where they took the biggest hit this offseason.
Does that mean the Eagles should just trade away all of their upcoming picks?Of course not, but it is going to allow Philadelphia to draft the best player available without the annoying "need factor." Perhaps that is why it is hard to guess what direction the Birds will go in.
Take a healthy chance if Ted Ginn Jr. is available, or grab Brandon Meriweather if he is still around. Don't like the secondary help available by the time pick 26 rolls around? Take a depth-adder like Jarvis Moss, Paul Posluszny or Lawrence Timmons, if any of them are left.
No matter what happens, the Eagles are most likely going defensive. Based on the above philosophy, Philly can use their picks to begin grooming long-term replacements for some of their elder statesmen: Brian Dawkins, Jeremiah Trotter and Jon Runyan. However, the selection of both Winston Justice last year eliminates the need for an offensive lineman.
Still, while other teams are scrambling to decide which player available fills their biggest need, the Eagles can just sit back and let the help come to them.
But for what it is worth, I still expect them to make the safe(ty) pick.
Michael Rushton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Phanatic Magazine
Pre-Draft for NFL executives is one giant mind game.
Sometimes, the acts are overt -- like when a team leaks that several first-round prospects, including Calvin Johnson, admitted to smoking marijuana.
Usually, though, the tactics are much more subtle. Higher-ups will purposefully spill information to reporters to create a story that is usually more smokescreen than substance. Take the Oakland Raiders, for example, who are leaning toward JaMarcus Russell one day, Calvin Johnson the next, then gush over Brady Quinn on the eve of the draft.
The purpose? To alter the value of a player to where the teams want it to be.
The Eagles play this game as well as anyone.
Amidst all the misinformation, journalists are forced to sift through a few tons of sand to find one pebble of truth; it's more or less an art form, really.
We'll have to wait until late Saturday to see how we fared, but here's The Phanatic Magazine's take on who the Eagles will walk away with once talk turns to action:
EAGLES FIRST-ROUND CHOICE -- PREDICTIONS
Jeff Glauser: Brandon Meriweather, safety, University of Miami.
As an alumnus of the 'U,' I'm somewhat torn about this prospective choice. On one hand, Meriweather is a Dawkins clone in many ways: A hard hitter who can play in the box and has great open field instincts. However, like many of his Hurricane brethren, there are serious character questions that come with him. Plus, recent Miami picks haven't fared too well in Philly (See:McDougle, Jerome; or Green, Jamaal). Regardless, it has become quite apparent that safety is the biggest position of need heading into this draft, but don't be surprised if the Eagles decide just to trade down to add more first-day bodies.
Steve Lienert: Brian Leonard, running back, Rutgers.
The first pick the Eagles will take is Leonard, although it will be in the second round. The Birds, after seeing both Michael Griffin, the safety from Texas, and Reggie Nelson, the safety from Florida, are already gone at No. 26, they'll trade down to the 35-36 range and nab Leonard. According to all reports, most notably from Trenton Times Eagles' beat reporter Mark Eckel on his 610 WIP radio show on Wednesday night, Andy Reid absolutely loves Leonard. If Griffin and Nelson are gone, the Eagles will/should trade down and hopefully land Leonard, who should still be on the board. If Griffin and/or Nelson are available, the choice becomes infintely more difficult, because Reid can't be blind to Brian Dawkins' age. If they don't get someone to replace Dawk this year, it may be too late to groom a replacement. But let's be honest -- no NFL roster can have enough Rutgers football players (see Smith, L.J.).
Michael Rushton: Michael Griffin, safety, Texas
Griffin fits the Eagles defensive mold. Aggressive and quick, he led Texas in tackles this past season with 126, and also blocked eight punts in his Longhorns career. At 6-foot, 205-pounds, it would be great to see Griffin learning under the 6-foot, 210-pound Brian Dawkins. Griffin is big enough to handle the big wide outs of the NFL, and as evidenced with his blocked punts, can penetrate, meaning he could be a solution to stopping the run.
John McMullen: Meriweather
Brian Dawkins will be 34 this season, Michael Lewis will soon be indicted for stealing money in San Francisco and The Phanatic Magazine has learned that Sean Considine is not the answer. So, with their first pick in the NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles will take a safety. The team seems enamored with Miami's Brandon Meriweather but, based on pure talent, Meriweather should be long gone by the time Andy Reid and Tom Heckert flex their muscles. Character concerns involving the famous fight with Florida International will work in the Birds favor, however, and Meriweather will slip. He's a bit undersized but Meriweather can play either safety position which is important. He would break in as the strong safety opposite Dawkins while being the heir apparent to the veteran Pro-Bowler at the free safety spot.
Tom Heckert made a small media tour this week, inventing new ways to say next-to-nothing at each stop. Interesting, though, was how Heckert rose up and defended Meriweather at every turn. He couldn't help but say how impressed the staff was with him, and how his checkered past was not a big concern once the organization got to know him. This may be early PR for a team about to take a risky but high-reward talent.
Easy to see why the Eagles think he would be a good choice: Meriweather is considered the best cover safety in the draft by many experts, and is also renowned as one of the hardest hitters despite his 5-11, 195-pound frame. And here's a tantalizing stat: Of his 31 career starts at Miami, Meriweather started 21 games at strong safety, six at free safety, two at right cornerback, one at left corner and one at nickel back. That's some serious versatility that the Birds could desperately use.
If his character issues are in fact behind him, the Eagles will be getting a gift at No. 26. Don't expect them to refuse it.
Anthony Scirrotto and Christopher Baker face the most serious charges, including burglary, felony trespassing, harassment and simple assault. Justin King and three other players face charges of criminal trespassing, harassment and disorderly conduct.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
By Tim McManus
The Phanatic Magazine
Donovan McNabb injuries and Terrell Owens intrusions included, the biggest factor in the Eagles' recent fall from supremacy has been a decline in play on the defensive side of the ball. And the main reason for the recession has been poor performance in the last four NFL Drafts .
The Eagles' 2002 strategy may have caused a lot of head scratching at first, but it produced a strong defensive backfield with the additions of Lito Sheppard, Michael Lewis and Sheldon Brown.
Since then, the organization has completely whiffed with their high draft picks from a defensive perspective, taking the likes of Jerome McDougal (15th overall), Matt Ware (third-round) and Jamaal Green (fourth round). Names like Broderick Bunkley, Matt McCoy and Chris Gocong are also littered across the landscape -- players who are too early in their careers to pass full judgement on, but that certainly did not leave good first impressions.
And so the Eagles sit just hours away from another chance to infuse some much-needed ability into the area that is normally the source of strength -- their defense.
Here's how they might do it:
Safety: Undoubtedly the most pressing need for this team right now. Sean Considine is a flat-out liability, Lewis is gone and there is no back-up plan in place for Brian Dawkins, who can't be counted on forever despite is heroic performance in the second half of last season. Several sources from within the NovaCare complex have intimated that the Birds are not high at all on Florida's Reggie Nelson, and two experts whose opinion I highly value have suggested that Texas' Michael Griffin is not a first-round player, no matter what the mock drafts may tell you. By all accounts, though, the Eagles are enamored with Miami's Brandon Meriweather. They were pleased with one-on-one discussions, which apparently quelled any fears that his sometimes questionable behavior produced. Expect the Birds to take Meriweather if he's available, and possibly even move up to get him.
Cornerback: This is a position that looks like a strength at first glance, but is razor-thin upon further inspection. Once you get past Brown and Sheppard, William James is next and line -- a thought that should scare any Eagles fan. A nickel back and emergency starter is desperately needed, so expect the Eagles to address the position early. Depending on how things fall, they may snag Texas' Aaron Ross in the first round, and possibly Arkansas' Chris Houston. Cal's Daymeion Hughes and Maryland's Josh Wilson are two other names to look for in the second round.
Linebacker: Not a big need for the Eagles in the grand scheme of things. Could they use a reliable building-block, given Jeremiah Trotter and Takeo Spikes' age and injury concerns? Absolutely. But with those two and Omar Gathier providing a serviceable starting corps and Matt McCoy and Chris Gocong as backups, the Birds likely won't pick up an LB until the fourth round or so -- assuming there isn't a steal out there.
Defensive line: Like the LB position, the defensive line could certainly use a boost but isn't a primary need. The Eagles have spent their last two first-round picks on the interior line (Bunkley, Mike Patterson) and shelled out good money for starting defensive ends Darren Howard and Jevon Kearse. That, coupled with decent reserves in Juqua Thomas, McDougal and Trent Cole, will prevent them from going for a D-lineman until the third round or later. Utah's Paul Soliai, Ohio State's Quinn Pitcock and Texas' Brian Robison are possibilities there.
***Coming Friday: The Phanatic Magazine Staff selections***
The Phanatic Magazine dives into full-scale Eagles NFL Draft coverage, starting with an extensive look at the Birds' needs on the offensive side of the ball.
By John McMullen
The Phanatic Magazine
With the 26th pick of the 2007 NFL draft, the Philadelphia Eagles might take a safety. Or the Birds might take a cornerback. They might even select a defensive end or a linebacker.
OK, stop chuckling, maybe not a linebacker but you get the point. Few things in life are certain. Death, taxes and the fact that the Eagles are going defensive at the top of this year's draft are.
That makes things a little less interesting on the offensive side of the ball but knowing Andy Reid, he will get antsy at some point and pull the trigger for some offensive help.
So let's take a look at where the Eagles stand heading into the weekend.
Quarterback: When you look at the injury history and the fact that Donovan McNabb is now on the wrong side of 30, some believe that the Eagles should select a young quarterback to groom. But, the decisions for 2007 have already been made. The Eagles extended A.J. Feeley and, in doing so, waived goodbye to one of the league's best backups in Jeff Garcia.
Despite the bravado it took to make that move, the team was far from sold on Feeley, who has already flamed out in both Miami and San Diego, and acquired another veteran with some starting experience -- Kelly Holcomb -- in the Takeo Spikes deal.
"We think Donovan is coming back healthy, he looks great, and we have A. J.," said general manager Tom Heckert in a recent roundtable with reporters. "Even last year, he played great until he got hurt. He's still a heck of a player."
No argument but it's also fair to say, you can't count on Donovan suiting up 16 times a season and it's really hard to believe Reid or Heckert could be comfortable going with Feeley or Holcomb for an extended period of time so it would be prudent to start looking for McNabb's successor now, while you actually have the luxury of time to groom a young quarterback. A first day signal-caller is out of the question so forget about guys like JaMarcus Russell, Brady Quinn, Trent Edwards, Kevin Kolb, Drew Stanton and John Beck. A project with some upside on the second day may be hard to pass up so look out for names like Jordan Palmer of UTEP (Carson Palmer's brother) or Jared Zabransky of Boise State.
Running back: Despite persistent questions regarding durability, Brian Westbrook finally proved he could carry the load and be the focal point of the Eagles offense last season. Meanwhile, Correll Buckhalter re-signed after actually staying healthy and doing a solid, if unspectacular job as the No. 2 back.
Still, it's not exactly like Westbrook is Earl Campbell is his prime or Buckhalter has turned the corner as a consistent threat so a back has to be in the Eagles thinking. The fact that Thomas Tapeh isn't exactly a top-tier fullback makes a guy like Brian Leonard of Rutgers, who can play either running back position, that more appealing.
But, you can't justify Leonard at No. 26 especially with the holes on defense and there is simply no way he will be around for the Birds in the second round. Unless the Eagles trade up in Round 2, forget about Leonard. Taking a chance on a guy like Michael Bush, who has first round talent but injury concerns will push him to the second day, might be worth the gamble.
Wide receiver: You really couldn't question the Eagles reluctance to get in a bidding war for a guy who was nicknamed "Street Clothes" by the New Orleans media. And, if you are being honest, Donte Stallworth did little to change his reputation in Philly last season but after seeing the deal he got from New England you have to wonder why Philly didn't bring him back.
If you break it down, the team's braintrust simply chose Kevin Curtis over Stallworth and while Curtis did a nice job as the No. 3 receiver in St. Louis and doesn't bring the baggage that Stallworth does, he also doesn't offer the same upside. Understand that Curtis played in the shadow of two Hall of Famers while with the Rams. He has never seen a double team in his life and the Eagles brought him in to be a No. 1 receiver? Anyone remember Az Hakim? It's just not going to happen, Curtis doesn't have the size or strength to beat press coverage from the league's top corners. That leaves Reggie Brown as the top option and the jury is still out on whether he has the skills to be a No 1.
The Eagles have gone out of their way to talk up Hank Baskett and Jason Avant as options for the third and fourth spots but there is no deep speed to stretch the field there. Wide receiver is clearly the deepest position in this year's draft so the Birds might be able to snag a player with speed but I can't see them making a move here until the third round at best. At that stage you should keep an eye on names like Jason Hill of Washington State or Fresno State's Paul Williams.
Tight end: L.J. Smith is what he is: An average blocker who is a solid receiving threat that will always drop more than you would like. Since Smith is a free agent after next season and Matt Schobel failed to impress, some have speculated the Eagles may be looking for a replacement and Delaware's Ben Patrick is a name to look out for. The Eagles brought Patrick in for a pre-draft workout and would likely invest a fourth-round choice on the former Blue Hen. Since most have Patrick rated as the third best tight end in the draft, I can't see him lasting until Sunday. If he's off the board, 6-foot-7 Matt Spaeth of Minnesota would be a nice option.
Offensive line: The offensive line played great for the Eagles down the stretch last season but it's a bit overrated in this town with the exception of Shawn Andrews, who is probably the second best guard in all of football. Jon Runyan and William Thomas are both aging on the outside and Jamaal Jackson and Todd Herremans are a tad overvalued in the interior. That said, the Eagles addressed this situation last season and will likely stay away from the offensive line unless a player they love is on the board late. Winston Justice and Max Jean-Gilles didn't get on the field last year and there is never a guarantee they will be able to step in if needed but both players are still considered top-tier prospects with a nice upside.
***Coming soon: Tim McManus' look at the Eagles' defensive needs.***