Philadelphia Eagles News

Building Depth Just As Important

The Eagles were fortunate last season when it came to injuries.

Six players landed on the injured reserve list. One of them was starting strong safety Kurt Coleman, but it was only for the final game of the season. Veteran linebacker Moise Fokou, who started seven games in 2011, was also on injured reserve, but he was a stalwart on special teams by the time his season ended. Special teams MVP Colt Anderson was one of the six players, but the team's playoff chances were dim when he suffered a knee injury in Seattle.

When it came to non-season-ending injuries, the Eagles did lose quarterback Michael Vick for a pivotal three-game stretch in the middle of the season. But the only other starters to miss more than one game were wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (three games), defensive end Trent Cole (two games), left tackle Jason Peters (two games) and cornerback Asante Samuel (two games). That's it.

There are two reasons to explain the Eagles' success in this area. One is one of the league's most renowned training staffs led by head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder. The Eagles' training staff was honored following the 2010 season as the best in the NFL. The other reason, quite simply, is luck. There are seasons that are going to be severely impacted by injury. It used to be a legitimate excuse.

But not anymore.

Two years ago, the Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl despite 16 players on the injured reserve list. Last season's champs, the New York Giants, lost 14 players due to injury.

The Eagles obviously want to improve the starting talent this offseason in free agency and the draft. But it's imperative that the team also look at the depth chart and find a way to challenge the primary backups.

Here's a quick position-by-position view of the backup situations:

  • Mike Kafka is in line to be the No. 2 quarterback behind Michael Vick. The Eagles signed veteran Trent Edwards to compete. Are they good enough or do the Eagles look to add another arm in free agency or the draft?
  • Dion Lewis had an impressive end-of-the-season finale against the Redskins. But do the Eagles need another back to complement LeSean McCoy and take some of the pressure off of him?
  • Placing the franchise tag on DeSean Jackson helps the wide receiver corps, but will one of the young receivers like Riley Cooper, Chad Hall or recently signed Mardy Gilyard take a step to help the depth?
  • In addition to starting guard Evan Mathis' impending free agency, another veteran who is about to hit the open market is King Dunlap, who backed up both tackle spots in 2011. Where does Winston Justice fit in moving forward? And is Julian Vandervelde a viable option to backup the interior line positions?
  • Along the defensive line, the Eagles restructured Cullen Jenkins' deal and expect Mike Patterson to be good-to-go after offseason brain surgery. However, two of the primary backups - Derek Landri and Trevor Laws - are about to become free agents along with Antonio Dixon, who will only be a restricted free agent.
  • At defensive end, all eyes will be on Brandon Graham to help in the rotation behind Trent Cole and Jason Babin. Can the Eagles rely on Graham?
  • There is a lot of youth at linebacker, but the Eagles need to first figure out who the best three to start are especially now that they have a better idea of how Juan Castillo's defense will work.
  • The Eagles having three Pro Bowl cornerbacks was important when Samuel got injured late in the season.
  • Safety is a spot that like linebacker is young, but probably more settled with Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman in place. The key here is whether last year's second-round pick Jaiquawn Jarrett takes the next step.

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