Now that we are inside the four-week countdown until the first round of the NFL draft, it's time to collect some thoughts and assess the Eagles and think about what might happen between now and April 30. What has been and what will be …
- What are the needs as we look at this roster? Chip Kelly will tell you that there are needs in every corner and that he wants to improve each position. Fair enough. You have to love that mentality. It's the right one to have for a head coach. The Eagles have eight draft picks and Kelly has said that the roster is an open book for business, so you can expect a fair amount of movement, perhaps, as the team jockeys to improve its position. Anyway, from this perspective, the Eagles have some definite needs -- it wouldn't hurt to add a wide receiver, an offensive lineman or two, an answer -- externally or internally -- at safety, more depth at cornerback and even another pass rusher. Maybe, then, Kelly is right: The Eagles are looking to improve every spot on the roster.
- There are eight new faces on the current roster – linebacker Kiko Alonso, wide receiver Miles Austin, quarterback Sam Bradford, linebacker Brad Jones, running back Ryan Mathews, cornerback Byron Maxwell, running back DeMarco Murray, cornerback Walter Thurmond – who were not part of the picture at all in 2014. Consider also that the Eagles also had a bunch of very familiar names exit as part of the team's roster re-configuring prior to and including free agency. It's a significant overhaul for a roster that won 10 games, and it's going to look even more different when more moves are made. You can book it that more moves are going to be made because, well, you can never predict that Chip Kelly is thinking and where he wants to improve the roster.
- The Eagles have 63 players on the current roster, not including exclusive-rights free agent wide receiver Jeff Maehl and restricted free agents running back Chris Polk and defensive lineman Cedric Thornton. They will be at 90 players heading into Training Camp.
- Key dates for the Eagles: The first day of the team's offseason conditioning program is Monday, April 20. The Organized Team Activities workouts are on May 26-28, June 1-2, June 4 and June 8-11. The team has a mandatory minicamp from June 16-18.
- Are the Eagles finished in free agency? I don't think so. This is the time of the year when teams sign players who fit roles, who compete for roster spots and who are likely to sign one-year contracts in a situation that may give them a chance to really prove what they can do in favorable situations. Austin is a great example. He was on his way to a 60-plus-catch season in 2014 in Cleveland before suffering a lacerated kidney and missing the final four games of the year. Austin knows that he's in an offense that is favorable, that he's going to get a lot of reps in the training sessions and that he will be given every chance to be healthy and stay that way in the sports science program the Eagles offer. Austin knows the Eagles want depth and that they offer a chance to earn playing time. He's in a good spot. Others may find reach the same conclusion between now and the draft. There is still some quality on the streets.
- It is no secret that the safety spot next to Malcolm Jenkins has some questions. Who steps up and earns the starting job? It looks wide open at this point. Players like Earl Wolff, Chris Prosinski, Chris Maragos, Ed Reynolds and Jerome Couplin will get a lot of reps in training sessions, and second-year player Jaylen Watkins will see some time there, too. The Eagles have talked about him having the skill set to play both safety and cornerback since they used a fourth-round pick on Watkins last spring. The draft? There aren't any "can't-miss" prospects, but the Eagles could very well find some help. The need is there with Nate Allen off to Oakland in free agency.
- On Wolff: He's working hard to get his knee healthy and he expects to be ready for Training Camp. Wolff looks great. He understands the opportunity in front of him. Entering his third season, Wolff needs to make his big move right now. It's probably fair to say that, if healthy, he's the leader on paper (I know, they don't play the games on paper) to be the starter alongside Jenkins at safety.
- It doesn't seem as if anyone has a real feel for what Kelly might do in the first round of April 30's draft, but at least the speculation has cooled on the not-going-to-happen (from this perspective) "Eagles will move up to draft Marcus Mariota" narrative.
- No official numbers, but there are a lot -- a lot, a lot -- of players who are working out already at the NovaCare Complex ahead of the offseason conditioning program. Good to see. The buzz is contagious. Fun days and weeks ahead and, can September hurry up and get here so we can see what this team is all about?