Philadelphia Eagles News

Eagles Add Toughnesss Up Middle

Time will tell on the strategy of such a no-frills approach for the Eagles through the first three rounds of the 2011 draft. They stayed put in round one and selected offensive lineman Danny Watkins, a left tackle in college who is going to have a very good chance to earn a starting job at guard as a rookie.

Then in the second round on Friday night, they again stayed in the same spot and took Temple safety Jaiquawn Jarrett, who enters a deep secondary that is, very suddenly, young and full of energy and, yes, a question mark or two.

The Eagles finally made a trade in the third round, moving back five spots and picking up an extra sixth-round pick. When they finally selected, Andy Reid and Howie Roseman stayed on the defensive side of the ball and took cornerback Curtis Marsh, a tall, rangy cornerback with a lot of ability.

Two days, three picks and some questions that I'll attempt to answer here.

Does Watkins Start Right Away?

Offensive line coach Howard Mudd visited in studio and spoke in lush tones about Watkins and his skill set. The kid is tough, durable, athletic, smart and very, very physical. He is a guard, not a tackle, said Mudd, and there is no doubt that Watkins is the leading candidate to line up at right guard whenever the team convenes to practice.

Watkins was a delight in his visit to the NovaCare Complex. He is bright, earnest and mature. He has an innate work ethic and has sampled enough of the real world to understand that there is no substitute for hard work.

With his sturdy build and his strength and his tenacity, Watkins has a shot to step right in and play. Mudd loves him. Adores him. Wanted him. And also won't promise him -- or any of his linemen -- anything as far as a roster spot or playing time.

Go and earn it is Mudd's message.

Where Does Quintin Mikell Fit Here At Safety?

It's a very fair question. The veteran is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, so that is an issue unto itself. Do the Eagles go out and sign Mikell to a modest-to-large contract after using a second-round pick on Jarrett?

The Eagles opted for Jarrett in the second around -- draft analysts had Jarrett going in the third or fourth round -- because they liked his experience as a starter at Temple, they liked his physical brand of football, his intelligence, and his instincts. He runs well enough to cover. Jarrett helped turn the Temple program around after having been a late add to the team's scholarship list.

Jarrett has worked his way to his point and he isn't about to stop now. The young man has immense pride and carries himself as a role model. And he is expected to fit in somewhere for Mike Zordich's safety group.

If Mikell comes back, he is the veteran presence with a lot of young wolves howling at the door for playing time. Nate Allen, the Eagles think, is going to come all the way from his patellar tendon injury and will be fine. Kurt Coleman would probably be penciled in as a starter at strong safety without Mikell in the picture, and Colt Anderson is a special-teams star and a key reserve in the puzzle.

Veteran Marlin Jackson is likely to give it another go after missing so much time with devastating injuries, but how can you count on him? Should he make it all the way back, the Eagles would be blessed with a great veteran leader and a terrific player. But they can't count on Jackson at all.

The key question is Mikell and his situation. Does he return?

Is Marsh The Answer At Cornerback?

Thinking that Marsh would come in and start is probably a bit of a stretch, but there is no denying his upside. Big, linear and really fast with long arms, Marsh has a lot of attributes the coaches like. He also has a lot of work to do, so put him in the developmental category with many of these young corners here, including Trevard Lindley.

But the competition just heated up for players like Dimitri Patterson (who is scheduled to be a free agent) and Joselio Hanson, the team's nickel corner for years.

The Eagles could also look to free agency or other methods of player acquisition -- trades, waiver, etc. -- to add a veteran presence here. They know that right cornerback is a need spot. And that Marsh is a prospect.

It is an interesting spot to watch moving forward.

Why Not Add A Linebacker Or Two?

The Eagles are going to get to a lot of positions on Saturday. They have eight draft picks and enough ammunition to maybe work the trade game extensively. I'm expecting the Eagles to keep hitting the defense, over and over again.

Linebacker is too unsettled for my liking, what with Stewart Bradley maybe or maybe not becoming a free agent, with Jamar Chaney an emerging prospect, with Keenan Clayton an unproven commodity. There are some pieces, but how will they all fit together?

How Does The Work Stoppage Affect Plans?

Well, for one the Eagles can't add sign rookie free agents on Saturday. The work stoppage is on, at least temporarily, so the draft will end suddenly after the seventh round on Saturday.

There are no trades with veteran players permitted, which obviously detracts from any interest teams may have in quarterback Kevin Kolb. There are still plenty of teams that need quarterbacks -- Arizona, Seattle, Miami, Washington, to name four -- and they all should have an interest in Kolb. The Eagles, though, aren't rushing to trade their bright, young quarterback.

Saturday is about finishing the draft strong and working the draft. There aren't going to be a lot of sexy names added, but this is a very, very important day. The Eagles can really add talent and depth to the roster, and challenge a lot of positions.

Clearly, though, the message here so far is that the Eagles want to be tougher, more physical and stronger up the middle. They think they've helped by adding Watkins and Jarrett. Marsh is a fine prospect to challenge on the corner.

Next up? Defense, defense, defense, with a sprinkling of depth for the offense mixed in.

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