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Fan-Demonium: Five Questions To Consider

Posted Jan 10, 2012

Fan-Demonium

The Eagles head into the 2012 offseason with some interesting questions to answer. 

What will the Eagles do with the defensive coaching staff?

Secondary/cornerbacks coach Johnnie Lynn will not return in 2012.  There is a lot of speculation about defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, but no move as of yet. 

Andy Reid has some tough decisions to make.  He has to balance the value of continuity against the desire to have the best possible coaching staff.  Last year, there simply were not great choices available.  Reid went with Castillo and gave him a chance to show what he could do.  Castillo and the defense finished very strongly, but were very up and down prior to that.  Reid must decide if the defense really turned things around or if hiring a more experienced coach to run the defense would be the prudent course of action. 

Remember that change for the sake of change is never a good idea.  Reid should have a simple litmus test in this situation.  Is the current coaching staff good enough to help the team win a Super Bowl?  If Reid thinks so, then only make a change if it feels like the right thing to do.  If Reid thinks the staff needs an upgrade, then he must be aggressive about finding the right coaches. 

What will the Eagles do with wide receiver DeSean Jackson?

He's set to be a free agent when the new league year begins.  The Eagles can let him go and hope to receive a compensatory pick in 2013.  They can try to re-sign him.  The final possibility is most complicated.  The Eagles could put the franchise tag on Jackson.  If that happens, the Eagles could still re-sign Jackson or they could try to trade his rights to another team. 

Jackson is a tough player to evaluate and make a decision on.  This isn't simply a question of whether he's a good receiver.  I think most people would agree on that.  This is a question of how much money is the team willing to pay him and how much money is he asking for.  Jackson isn't a dominant receiver like Calvin Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald.  Jackson is dynamic in his own way, but he's not a player that can simply take over a game. Putting a financial value on that is tricky. 

Jackson's situation is complicated by a few things.  First, there are several good receivers about to hit free agency.  When the market is flooded, that drives value down.  There is also a deep group of quality receivers in the upcoming draft.  There are several speedy receivers who will go in the first few rounds.

Lawlor

Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Discussion Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. He was a finalist for Philadelphia's Most Influential Blogger Award and is the Editor of IgglesBlitz.com

The other X-factor is "Victor Cruz."  I don't mean him specifically, but the fact that non-stars are putting up big numbers.  There were 20 wide receivers with more receiving yards than Jackson in 2011.  Only eight of them were first-round picks.  Six of the players were picked in the sixth round, seventh round or even undrafted.  This tells you that the paradigm has somewhat shifted.  Good receivers are easier to find than ever.  Jackson was a revelation when picked back in 2008, but rather than separating himself from the pack; he's come back to it.  If he has reasonable salary demands, I think he'll stay an Eagle.  If he pushes for elite money, there simply is no way the Eagles can (or should) pay him. 

What will the Eagles do at backup quarterback?

Vince Young will be a free agent.  The Eagles could try to re-sign him.  I'm not a big fan of that idea.  Young is a talented quarterback with a good record as a starter, but he never looked completely comfortable in the Eagles offense.  He led one great drive to win the Giants game, but aside from that it wasn't a season that he will put at the top of his resume.  I don't fault the Eagles for taking a chance to see if they could strike gold with him.  After all, look at how the backup quarterback situations in Indianapolis and Chicago killed those teams. 

The Eagles have to decide whether they go get a new veteran backup or if Mike Kafka is finally ready to step up into that role.  Complicating matters is the fact that you simply can't count on Michael Vick to stay healthy for a full season.  You must take the approach that he will miss two or three games with some injury.  That means the backup must be able to play. 

If there is a veteran signal caller that the team is very high on, go get him.  A.J. Feeley will be on the market.  He obviously knows the offense.  Another player who could be of interest is Jason Campbell.  He lost his starting job in Oakland when the team traded for Carson Palmer.  Campbell has played in the West Coast offense in college and the NFL.  He's a more skilled passer than Young. 

Part of me would love for the team to go with Kafka.  He's entering his third season.  The team drafted him for a reason.  At some point you have to put him on the field to see what he can do.  Kafka didn't have a normal offseason in 2011 and that affected his development.  He will have passing camps this year in May and June.  Those will be a big help as he can get a lot of coaching and also work on timing with his receivers. 

One of the benefits of going with Kafka, is that it would allow the Eagles to draft another young quarterback to develop.  If you go get Feeley or some other veteran, then Kafka is your third quarterback.  There are only two quarterbacks who the team is likely to covet, but both will be long gone by the time the Eagles choose with the 15th pick.  I have no idea if Reid and crew have anyone targeted in the middle rounds.  One player I think would be a very interesting fit is Russell Wilson of Wisconsin.  If you go for him, Kafka must be your backup or you commit to having four quarterbacks on the team and that would be a waste of a roster spot.

Will the Eagles keep all three Pro Bowl cornerbacks? 

The Eagles must also decide what to do with Asante Samuel.  He did a lot of great things in his time as an Eagle, but I think it is time to trade him.  This has nothing to do with talent.  Samuel remains one of the best cover guys in the NFL.  The Eagles have very good corners in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha.  They have a young corner on the rise in Curtis Marsh.  The team remains high on Brandon Hughes and has Joselio Hanson still around to play the slot. 

Some people think trading a gifted playmaker like Samuel is crazy.  I get that.  The problem is that the Eagles have shifted to bigger guys and want corners who can press.  Samuel can do that, but it isn't his specialty.  He prefers playing off and breaking on the ball.  Trying to force a proven veteran star to doing something he's not great at can be disastrous.  The wise move is to deal him.  If there is a player in the draft that the coaches really like, go get him and add some youth to the mix.  After watching the wildcard games, I think the first phone call about trading Samuel should go to the Lions.  Their secondary was flat out awful in their loss to the Saints. 

Do the Eagles have the foundation at linebacker? 

Obviously part of this will tie into what happens with the coaching staff.  A new defensive coordinator might prefer players with a different build or skill-set.  We will know about that kind of stuff soon enough. 

For now, the team can make some basic plans.  I think the emphasis should be on middle linebacker.  The Eagles must find someone who can do the little things.  Having Ray Lewis or Brian Urlacher would be great of course, but that's not realistic.  Getting someone like Antonio Pierce would be fine for what this defense needs.  The Eagles need a middle linebacker who can run the defense.  He needs to know the scheme well.  He needs to be able to read offensive formations.  The player must be instinctive and move well through trash.  He must be a tackling machine. 

My favorite draft target is Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly, but the Eagles could also go for a player in free agency.  There are some good options.  Can you imagine London Fletcher in midnight green?  That would be sorta cool. 

Outside linebacker is more complicated.  Brian Rolle had a good rookie season.  He needs some competition to push him, but the other spot is where the team could look to improve.  Again, the question is what kind of player to get.  The Eagles had big SAM linebackers in Carlos Emmons and Chris Gocong, but they play up on the line of scrimmage.  The current scheme has the player backed off and that requires a good athlete. 

The front office must a have a plan for how to handle this.  I know some people have serious doubts as to whether Reid would spend a first round pick on a linebacker.  There will be good choices available this year. This really is a different situation than in the past.

Reid, his coaches and the personnel department will put plans together to address these questions.  They know what needs to be done.  The hard part for us is the waiting.  The 2011 offseason was short and sweet.  We are now back to the old days.  Settle in.  Things are just getting started.

For more dead-on analysis from Tommy Lawlor, check out the Fan-Demonium archive.

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