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Football Outsiders: Team Must Address LB

Entering the off-season, there was a consensus opinion that the Eagles needed to address the defense in this year's draft. Safety and defensive end were thought to be top priorities. The team addressed both in free agency, trading for Darryl Tapp and signing free agent Marlin Jackson. Certainly, the team may opt to address those positions further in the draft.

But a number of NFL pundits, analysts and draftniks believe the Eagles have glaring needs at both guard and linebacker. The latter was the focus in a piece from Football Outsiders on which examined the major holes on the roster of each NFL team by division. Here is the analysis of the Eagles courtesy of Sean McCormick, an author of Football Outsiders:

"There is no question that Will Witherspoon was something of a luxury at $5 million per season, but that did not make his release any less surprising. Philadelphia's depth at linebacker was tested heavily last season, and while the group was surprisingly resilient for much of the season -- the Eagles stuffed 23 percent of all opponent runs and were sixth-best in the league in surrendering second-level yardage -- it seems risky to assume that middle linebacker Stewart Bradley will return to form one year after tearing his ACL, that Akeem Jordan and Moise Fokou will develop, and that Omar Gaither will suffice for depth at all three positions.

"There were no attractive options in free agency -- Witherspoon became the top outside linebacker available with his release -- so upgrades will have to come through the draft.

"Much like their rivals to the north, the Eagles simply don't use first-round picks on linebackers. You have to go back to the selection of Jerry Robinson in 1979 to find the last time Philadelphia broke the trend. So it's a good bet that players like Missouri's Sean Witherspoon and Alabama's Rolando McClain are not serious considerations early in the draft. TCU's Daryl Washington would be a very natural fit in the second round."

In looking at Philadelphia's NFC East rivals, Football Outsiders believes the Giants' biggest hole is at middle linebacker, while Dallas needs a free safety. Washington's is left tackle.

-- Posted by Bob Kent, 2:00 p.m., April 3

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