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First Visit: Helping Depth At Defensive Back

The first wave of free agency here and gone in the blink of an eye, the Eagles have started the process as the second tier of free agents look to find homes for the 2010 season. The initial visitor is an intriguing one -- defensive back Marlin Jackson has a first-round draft pick pedigree with an injury history that has crushed his most recent two seasons.

There are certainly no guarantees that the Eagles will sign Jackson, the former Indianapolis Colt who has played in just 11 games the past two seasons as he has suffered two torn anterior cruciate ligaments. That they are bringing him in to the NovaCare Complex with such an ominous medical past represents a curious initial step toward improving the team's secondary.

At the top of the questions list with Jackson is the health issue. Jackson, according to reports, has been progressing well since his most recent ACL tear -- he has torn the ACL in each knee the last two years -- and could very well be ready for training camp. The Eagles will give him a complete physical, a rigorous exam and then they will talk about the future and we should get a pretty accurate sense right away if the fit is there.

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The next question is how the Eagles envision Jackson factoring into the defense. Is he a cornerback or a safety? Jackson played both during his five seasons with the Colts, and clearly the Eagles could use a solution at free safety and would always welcome another cover player with good size -- Jackson is 6-feet, 196 pounds -- at the cornerback position.

Let's discuss further on this slow news day. What happens if Jackson comes in here, passes the physical exam with flying colors and the Eagles are really, really jazzed to sign him? Does he compete for a starting job at cornerback, for example? Are the Eagles actively looking to challenge starters Asante Samuel and Sheldon Brown? Or would they see Jackson as more a depth player to compete against Joselio Hanson, Ellis Hobbs, Dimitri Patterson and Geoffrey Pope for a roster spot?

Then there is the safety issue? Could Jackson make a push to win the starting free safety job? Would the Eagles move Quintin Mikell -- I'm thinking off the top of my head here, folks -- to free safety and use Jackson at strong safety? Where and how do Quintin Demps and Macho Harris work into the equation?

Exactly, and this is all that matters and I don't have the answer, what are defensive coordinator Sean McDermott and new defensive backs coach Dick Jauron planning to do in the secondary this season?

Ah, the defense. It figures to be a high priority for the Eagles in the weeks to come, and there are any number of ways the Eagles can address some of the shortcomings. It is fair to say, I think, that the Eagles can use help across the board on defense, and that if they can add players who are able to make a difference -- and it is a stretch to call Jackson, coming off two major knee injuries, that kind of player -- hey, go for it.

There haven't been many of them available to date. Maybe the only one -- and that is a maybe in many circles based on what I've read over the last few weeks -- was end Julius Peppers, the unrestricted free agent who left Carolina to sign with Chicago.

Anyway, Jackson is the first player to visit in free agency. The Eagles have done well to keep a couple of their own for the long haul -- fullback Leonard Weaver and wide receiver Jason Avant, and now it is time to see if some of these players who are unrestricted free agents can help. These are not the headline players. These may not be starting players.

But they are worth a look, and that is what the Eagles are doing with Jackson. Peter King, in in his Monday Morning Quarterback column the other day, wrote this under the headline "The three decisions that I think should happen soon" ...

"I'm doing a thorough physical on free agent cornerback Marlin Jackson, dumped by the Colts. And unless I think his knee won't allow him to start the season, I'm moving aggressively to sign him. He's now missed much of the past two years with injuries, but he's a smart 26-year-old corner the Colts thought so highly of that they picked him in the first round five years ago. Worth the risk. He'll visit the Eagles and Ravens this week, and I'd be surprised if he were unemployed Friday."

That is what the Eagles are doing. Taking a look on a talented player who is still young and who is obviously trying to come back against tough injury-dampened odds.

This is just a piece, gang. One of many to be made in an off-season that is to be judged at the end, not now.

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