Draw up a depth chart in your mind and the questions about the Philadelphia Eagles, circa 2010, begin on the defensive side of the ball. And if you polled 100 Eagles fans, at least 90 of them would say that Andy Reid and Howie Roseman need to dedicate the top portion of their draft to helping Sean McDermott's group, and that the defense absolutely needs instant impact.
Certainly, the Eagles could get a whole lot better on defense with a good draft, and the "experts" who we see every day talking about the draft rave about the prospects on that side of the ball.
The word here, though, is this: Don't ignore the offense. Don't take anything for granted. The Eagles have an opportunity, with 11 draft picks, to hit all of their needs, and then some. They can move and acquire more selections. They can deal some for veterans. They can play this draft any way they want.
And they can make an already-promising offense that much better by adding some depth, some front-line talent and a key piece here and there to make this group solid for years to come. What kind of needs do the Eagles have? A few, and the list doesn't start with the quarterback position. After setting a franchise record for most points scored in a season last year, the Eagles are looking for me in the 16 games ahead. Here is a look at a side of the Eagles might very well consider addressing from April 22-24, and not just in the later rounds after the defense has been bolstered ...
I love Cornelius Ingram, and I think Martin Rucker has a chance to develop into a really nice player if he looks as good in games as he did in practice during 2009. But Ingram has had knee injuries in each of the last two summers, and Rucker still has to show he understands the nuances of the position after coming from Missouri's spread offense.
Both are getting great coaching from Tom Melvin, who deserves a lot of credit for helping Brent Celek become one of the best young tight ends in the league. But neither of them is known as a masher blocking in the running game, so what if the Eagles have a chance to grab a tight end who can upgrade the ground attack with his blocking? Wouldn't it make sense to challenge the depth here?
Ingram, by the way, looks absolutely terrific. If he stays healthy, he certainly has a chance to be something special. Ingram is a specimen who can add a dimension to the Eagles offense with his ability to get down the field and displace in the formation. Rucker runs really, really well and he seems to have soft hands. The Eagles have a good situation here, with a ton of promise. Still, you can never be too sure.
Stacy Andrews is expected to be the player the Eagles thought he would be when the team signed him as unrestricted free agent last year. He is healthy. He is focused. He has a great sense of purpose. And he appears ready to take over the job at right guard.
Is there a second choice? Yeah, Max Jean-Gilles, who has shown to be a capable player there in the past. But would the Eagles pass on a highly-rated guard in the early rounds? That would go against the way Reid has done things in his drafts of the past.
At center, Nick Cole is in line to start with Jamaal Jackson still rehabbing his knee. The Eagles really like Cole. With a full off-season of work at the position, the Eagles think he will be a powerful, athletic player at center. What if the draft falls this way and that and the top-rated center remains on the board at 24? Do you pass and take a "need" player?
Really, the Eagles would probably want to challenge every position up front. It makes sense to do so. The line is put together much more solidly than some think, but there is always room to make it better.
Now, it would really be a shocker if the Eagles used a high draft pick here, but who knows? The Eagles have Pro Bowl-worthy players in DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, and Jason Avant is a tremendous player as well. After that? Hank Baskett is a great special teams player and a good role player at wide receiver. Youngsters like Jordan Norwood and Dobson Collins deserve long looks.
But the goal is to make the 53-man roster as good as it can be, so the Eagles owe it to themselves to add depth, if it is there when it's their turn to pick.
The wide receiver strength in this draft is said to come in the mid rounds, so a high, high draft pick might seem not very likely. Reid has pulled off some surprises before, but taking a wide receiver at 24 would certainly qualify as a whopper of a shocker.
The Eagles have two quarterbacks in Kevin Kolb and Michael Vick on the roster and both are still in the final year of their contracts. What happens next? Kolb is the quarterback of the present and the future and Vick is in the second year here. Is it Vick's final season as an Eagle? If so, the Eagles need to find a young gun to groom, and while all of the rumors suggest they have interest in Florida star Tim Tebow, nobody has confirmed those reports.
It is a good quarterback class, although not especially star-struck at the very top. There is said to be quality later in the draft, and perhaps that is where the Eagles address quarterback.
No team does a better job of building young quarterbacks, and the Eagles want to go into the post-draft practices with three of them, so if you put two and two together, it makes sense that the Eagles would bring one in during the draft.
Why not? LeSean McCoy has worlds of promise. Mike Bell looks like a great fit in the backfield, and he is here on a one-year contract. Eldra Buckley can play in this league. Martell Mallet had a very good season in Canada last year and is taking part regularly in the off-season conditioning program.
But why not add to the position? Everyone says there is good value in rounds three through five in this draft, and the Eagles are loaded with draft picks there. And while McCoy is handling his rise to the full-time starting position very well in the off-season, but how do you really know? There have been players who have taken steps back in their second NFL seasons. And, well, why take anything lightly with 11 draft picks?
So, yeah, maybe the Eagles go here in the draft, too. Maybe they don't. But in the grand scheme of things, as the Eagles go about satisfying their needs on defense, they shouldn't forget the other side of the ball. This has a chance to be a special draft in many ways, offense included.