It's a talented roster that could use an infusion of depth in certain areas. That's the summation of Clark Judge's position-by-position snapshot of the Eagles in a recent column.
Like many others, Judge identifies defensive end and free safety as the Eagles' biggest areas of need. Though the acquisition of Marlin Jackson to play free safety does not alleviate the need to further address the position, it does allow flexibility in the draft and removes the temptation to reach for a player at the position.
In his column, Judge takes a look at the status of each position on the Eagles roster. Quarterback, wide receiver and tight end are in good shape, according to Judge. The offensive line, though, could use a rebound from several players.
"The concerns Reid had with his offensive line were supposed to be allayed by the acquisitions of Jason Peters and Stacy Andrews, but the Eagles never were all that comfortable with what they had up front," Judge writes. "For one, Peters didn't play all that well. He was good at times, not so good at others. In short, he was not a Pro Bowl player. Andrews wasn't much of a factor. Neither was his brother Shawn, and there is concern that Shawn -- who missed all of last season -- may have no future with the team. Center Jamaal Jackson is steady, with his value underscored by an injury late in the season. Without Jackson, the Eagles moved Nick Cole from right guard to center and had Max Jean-Gilles at guard -- and they lost both games. Winston Justice was a surprise at right tackle and Todd Herremans solid at left guard."
Running back depth also needs to be addressed, though Judge says that LeSean McCoy is a good replacement for Brian Westbrook and plays a similar style, and that Leonard Weaver is an effective inside runner.
Despite the need to get more pressure from the left end position, Judge says the Eagles are in good shape along the defensive line, with "underrated star" Trent Cole and the defensive tackle tandem of Mike Patterson and Brodrick Bunkley are solid "pluggers in the middle of the line and tough to move."
The situation at linebacker can't possibly be more chaotic than it was last season, when Stewart Bradley and Omar Gaither suffered season ending injuries and seven different players started at different times during the regular season. But Judge says that the linebacker rotation can be solved if Bradley is fully healthy, because his status in the middle would allow everyone else to play the positions in which they belong.
Safety is definitely a position that could use an upgrade, according to Judge. He says the team missed the departed Brian Dawkins and his leadership, but that the rest of the secondary is well-suited to implement a new player seamlessly.
"The Eagles plugged in Sean Jones and Macho Harris at (safety), and neither lived up to Dawkins' lofty standards," Judge writes. "There was nothing wrong with the other safety, Quintin Mikell, who led the club in tackles. Cornerback Asante Samuel continues to be a ball hawk, with a club-best nine interceptions, but he takes chances and can get burned. Cornerback Sheldon Brown was steadier, though less noticeable, and played at a Pro Bowl level until collapsing down the stretch against Dallas. Joselio Hanson is solid as the team's nickel back."
So the team moves forward into the off-season knowing that some pieces will be added, but a lot of improvement will also need to come from within. If players like Moise Fokou, Victor Abiamiri, and Nick Cole can take their play to the next level, as tight end Brent Celek did this season, the Eagles will be in very good shape. Of course, the standards in Philadelphia are quite high, as Judge points out.
"Basically, Eagles fans have become spoiled," he writes. "Reid and McNabb raised the bar so high that winning no longer is good enough for some of them. Super Bowls are all that matters, and if you can't make it there -- and the Eagles did in 2004 -- then maybe you should move on.
"Not winning in the postseason makes for a long offseason in Philadelphia, with a tsunami of criticism engulfing Reid and his quarterback, Donovan McNabb. What those people fail to tell you, though, is that the Reid-McNabb combination produced five conference championship games in eight years and eight playoff appearances in 11."
Read Judge's full column here.
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 12:09 p.m., March 11