** MOBILE, Ala –The objective, said Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman at Senior Bowl practices on Wednesday, is to add impact with the first-round draft pick the team has in April, either No. 14 or No. 15 (to be decided by a coin flip at the Scouting Combine).
What does that mean, exactly? It means that Roseman isn't necessarily going to be in the mood to wheel and deal back in the first round.
"When we look back and look at our drafts, specifically looking at where we were in the 20's, we've had some good success 20 and higher. I think there is a line where you don't get a difference-maker. This is your opportunity, in the first round of the draft, to find a difference-making player," Roseman said. "That's our first priority, is bringing a difference-maker to the Philadelphia Eagles. By trading back and getting extra picks, but not having someone who can affect the game, you're watching these (conference) championship games and there are difference-makers making big plays. We've got to make sure that we come out of that, if there is an opportunity to get that, and get an extra pick, that would be great."
The Eagles certainly gained some impact from last year's draft, starting at the very top of the first round. Two trades enabled the Eagles to move to No. 2 of the first round, and they selected North Dakota State's Carson Wentz with that pick. The Eagles really dug deep on Wentz throughout the offseason a year ago, starting right here in Mobile.
"The first thing was the physical ability and just seeing the ball come out of his hand," Roseman said. "The size and the athleticism and then the leadership. He had juice with his teammates inside and outside the huddle. We talked with people on the field and got their insight on him.
"We met with him in the hotel and he had a photographic memory and was able to talk about his offense in a way that was unique. He had a presence about him. The interesting part of it was we left the interview and he reminded of us Brent Celek (Eagles tight end), kind of the Midwestern roots and the tough-guy persona. It was kind of interesting as we all got out here and said, 'You know who this guy reminds me of?' That's a huge compliment."
In 2014, the Eagles traded back in the first round (No. 22 overall) and with the 26th pick selected defensive end Marcus Smith, who has yet to make an impact in his three seasons. Smith is improving, but he has yet to become a starting player.
It was, Roseman says years later, a lesson learned.
"The 2014 draft, where we did have a line drawn (as to how many potential impact players were in the draft) kind of there, one of the lessons I learned from that year was, you're not trying to win the draft," Roseman said. "You're just trying to get good players who fit the Philadelphia Eagles."
Roseman pointed to a couple of positions as areas of strength in the draft, specifically wide receiver, running back, tight end, and defensive back.
Some of the other notable conversation from Roseman and Joe Douglas, the team's vice president of personnel, from Ladd-Peeples Stadium …
- The team hired Mike Groh as the wide receivers coach earlier in the week, a decision, like all that involve the coaching staff, made by head coach Doug Pederson. "He decides who the coaches are. He's in charge of the staff," Roseman said. Pederson was not available to speak to the media at the Senior Bowl practices.
- Team Chairman/CEO Jeffrey Lurie spent the day watching the North team and the South team practice. "It's our responsibility here to make the decisions," Roseman said. "He just loves being around football. He loves being around the people in his organization. It's a good time. He gets energy from it. It's kind of a dead time of the year when there's not a lot going on for all of us, where you don't see action, where you don't get a practice. It's a beautiful day."
- The team has Pederson and coordinators Frank Reich, Jim Schwartz, and Dave Fipp joining the personnel department, with the assistant coaches remaining at the NovaCare Complex. Douglas, however, said the coaches, all of them, will have input into the player-acquisition process. "It's vital, because at the end of the day, you may have a particular type of player you've had success scouting in the past, but if it doesn't fit the coach's system, it does no good for the Philadelphia Eagles," Douglas said. "So, Doug, Jim, Frank, all of our coaches' input is vital in this process."
- Roseman was asked about center Jason Kelce, who is in Orlando for the Pro Bowl: "He's going to the Pro Bowl. His peers had him as a second alternate (in the voting) and that shows you the kind of respect he's had in this league. He just turned 29 years old, so we're not talking about a guy who is 35 or 36 or older than that. You see his ability to play in space, his explosiveness, ultimate team guy. I don't think that when you put on the tape you see any decline in Jason Kelce."
- Taylor Hart has moved to offensive tackle after playing defensive tackle for three seasons, a move reported here last week. Roseman said the Eagles saw Hart working on the scout team in practice and came away impressed as defensive players remarked how tough Hart was to beat. So, the Eagles have another developmental player along the offensive line and they are excited about Hart, a high school standout at offensive tackle. "It's hard to find big men like that with length who can move," Roseman said. "We talked to him and he was really excted about it and that got us excited about it. It's got a chance (to work). You know he's going to work hard, he's really smart, he's athletic. We're excited about it."
- Douglas, on the value of the running back position: "If you get a great running back, it changes games. I think you saw that with Dallas this year. I think you can get, not only running backs, you can get great players in every level of the draft."
- Douglas said that the cornerback position is "probably, next to quarterback, the toughest position in all of sports to play." Why? Short-term memory is a must, for starters. "It's an elite-level athlete who are the best athletes in the world. It's (having) a high level of confidence. You have to be able to shrug off the negative plays," Douglas said, "and then be able to bounce back and pretend it didn't happen."