As the Eagles regrettably head into the offseason sooner than we'd hoped, it's time to look ahead to the 2011 NFL Draft to see just what the Eagles can do to ensure their playoff run isn't cut short next season. In the coming weeks we'll highlight some positions and then start zero in on some players as the April draft nears.
The Eagles offense is stocked at the skill positions. They're as stocked as any team in the league with exciting young playmakers at all spots. However, they're not so stocked as far as the big uglies up front go. In a lot of ways it's 180 degrees from what the Eagles model has been for so long. How many years was the powered by a really good offensive line, Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook and a bunch of guys? If we could only pair our current skills players with that offensive line at its heights (Thomas/Herremans/Jackson/Andrews/Runyan) this offense could be putting up historic numbers.
By the time the end of the year rolled around, teams had basically figured out how to disrupt the Eagles offense. Basically it was blitz everyone because the Eagles couldn't pick it up, don't allow the speedy WRs time to get downfield, and dare Michael Vick to do something ridiculous to escape the 2 or 3 rushers that came free. It basically led to Vick getting pummeled on a weekly basis and the Eagles offense becoming very streaky and reliant on the big play. The Packers had not blitzed more than 6 guys all season until they faced the Eagles. Until the Eagles prove that they can stop the blitz, teams will continue to bring the house well into next season.
Plus, the inability of the big guys to effectively protect Vick more or less negated Brent Celek from the offense. Celek's catch numbers were way off from last season and a lot of that was due to the fact that he was kept in to block so often in an attempt to protect the QB. You can start to see why it become a pretty tough situation for a QB. The defense brings the house, the TE stays in to block, the RB either stays in to block as well or at least chips a defender which is going to delay his ability to get out on a pass pattern... Then when the line doesn't even pick up the blitz Vick is left with two to three guys running patterns and a house blitz in his face. Not a lot of options.
Michael Vick was sacked the 4th most times in the NFL and he only played in 12 games. If you add in the amount of times Kolb was sacked this season, the team would have allowed the second most sacks in football and the most in the NFC.
Let's start by looking at what we've got. The left side is pretty well set. Jason Peters will start his second straight pro bowl and actually earned it this year. Last season, he probably got in on reputation mostly... but this season he was borderline dominant when he came back from minor midseason knee surgery. He still did struggle with penalties early in the year though. He cleaned up his act as the season wore on, so hopefully he'll carry that over into the start of next year.
Todd Herremans committed far too many penalties this season. I'm satisfied with him overall, but they have to stop. Still, with all the other problems on the line Herremans has been a constant.
Here's where the problems start. The center position was pretty bad this season. Mike McGlynn was in his first year starting and actually seemed to get worse as the season went on. The Eagles do expect to get back the solid Jamaal Jackson next year, but he's coming off two major season ending injuries in two seasons. Last year it was the knee and this year it was torn triceps. Can he be relied upon? Can we expect McGlynn to improve? That's a lot of question marks.
If the center position was "pretty bad" then the right guard position was almost a disaster. At any given point the Eagles played Stacey Andrews, Max Jean-Gilles, Nick Cole & Reggie Wells at the spot. Of those guys, only Jean-Gilles showed anything and even that wasn't with any shred of consistency. Max had some good games, but overall the position was still a mess. If there was one place on this entire offense the Eagles could use a top flight talent to plug it would be the interior of the offensive line and specifically the RG spot.
Winston Justice was a bit of a revelation last season after had been all but written off as a bust. This season was not as good. He had a near nightmare of a game in the playoffs where at one point he committed three penalties in just two plays. He ended up benched in favor of King Dunlap. Now Justice could play better next year, but what really is his ceiling? At his best, he's probably "just good enough." So while right tackle isn't the biggest need on the line, I wouldn't be surprised or disappointed to see the Eagles draft a tackle high.