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Some Key Players To Ponder Vs. Draft Strategy

So the Eagles must draft a wide receiver, or they must trade for one or they have to go out and add to this mix some how, some way. And running back? No question the Eagles see this as a must-have position in the draft, right? Well, that's what everybody *but *the people who matter are saying as the draft nears.

The people who matter, specifically head coach Andy Reid, are tossing bouquets at his players, those who he has been asked about, anyway. The head coach is fiercely protective of his guys, as he should be. Reid has a good roster on his hands, and his job is to improve as best he can for the 2009 season.

The way I see things, how the Eagles react in the draft is going to tell a lot about what Reid truly feels about certain segments of his roster. A quick look at a few of those players ...

**REGGIE BROWN, wide receiver


A huge missing piece of the offense last year after entering the preseason as a starter, Brown looks to bounce back. Reid has referred to Brown as a "starter" and a lot of fans want to know what that means. It means that the Eagles consider Brown to be a starting-caliber player, and when he plays to the height of his ability, he is absolutely a starter. And a good one. But there have been too many times in Brown's career when he has struggled to get in gear. Why? That inconsistency is what has held Brown back here.

The Eagles have Kevin Curtis and DeSean Jackson ahead of Brown, but they clearly value and want to give him a chance to earn playing time and make this a more dynamic group of wide receivers. But just as obviously, should the Eagles address wide receiver early on April 25-26, it would mean that maybe they have other plans at the position.

**LORENZO BOOKER, running back


Acquired in a draft weekend trade last year, Booker struggled through a largely non-productive season and now is, well, a major question mark. Does he fit in here? Can a year spent learning the scheme give him the edge he needs to help provide a pass catcher and some speed and quickness to the backfield? Can he pass block well enough to get on the field?

How the Eagles feel about Booker probably won't impact their decision to draft a back. After all, they lost Correll Buckhalter in free agency and need to replace -- no, improve -- on his production. But where, how and does Booker remain in the plans? It isn't the Eagles' way to give up on a player after a year, but there is no question that Booker needs to show a lot of plusses to get on the field.

**NICK COLE, offensive guard


That the Eagles tendered Cole a contract at such a high level means they think a lot of him. The question is, do they think of him as a starter? And then this: Do they think of him as a starter at guard or at center? Or is Cole a really valuable reserve?

If Cole is a starter, then maybe the Eagles don't draft an offensive linemen super-duper early on April 25. Maybe they do, just because it is a draft filled with offensive linemen and the Eagles can secure a really good one in the first round.

Cole has come a long, long way. He played well last year. Just how much did he convince the coaches that he is a staple of this line? I think April 25 is going to tell a lot about that.

**JACK IKEGWUONU, cornerback


The assumption here is that the fourth-round draft pick from a year ago would be ready to compete for playing time this summer and that he would comfortably slide into a backup role in the secondary. And that may be true. But it is clear from what both Reid and General Manager Tom Heckert have said that Ikegwuonu has to demonstrate that he is ready to be that guy. It means that he has to be a regular in the off-season program, that he has to learn the defense and that he has to show that he is mature enough to be a professional football player.

A very talented athlete, Ikegwuonu is physically ready to take the field. His knee injury is recovered. He has rehabbed hard. Now we're about to find out if he can be a player in a complicated defense and make the Eagles look good for using a fourth-round draft pick on him.

**CHRIS GOCONG, linebacker


Another young player who has improved a great deal, Gocong continues to make strides at SAM linebacker. He is not as fluid or knowledgeable of the angles and the nuances of the position as those who have played the spot for years, but Gocong was outstanding last year against the run and he was much-improved against the pass.

Is that enough for Jim Johnson's defense?

Again, with so many draft picks, the Eagles can go anywhere on April 25-26. They can address many positions. If SAM linebacker is not one of them, the team would seem to believe that Gocong is on track. If they use a high pick here, the competition will be interesting to watch.

**SAV ROCCA, punter


He had a good second NFL season, but there were times when Rocca clearly battled the elements. His mechanics were better, but not exactly where the game demands they need to be. New special teams coach Ted Daisher is an aggressive guy who wants his unit to be competitive all the way around.

Rocca has a huge upside and is improving. Would the Eagles use a draft pick on a punter? Stay tuned.

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