The approach has been much defined, ambitious and one that has raised plenty of questions. On the heels of an 11-5 playoff season, the Eagles continued the overhaul of their roster, stripping away age and experience and promoting youth and energy and now, on the cusp of the 2010 draft, we see what the final phase brings. What can the Eagles do in the day leading up to the draft and then during draft weekend itself to put the roster where it needs to be for this season and many more to come.
Make no mistake, the things going on behind the scenes must be fast and furious. The phone calls are going back and forth. Understand, and I keep trying to hammer home this point, that the Eagles have the valuable commodity of extra draft picks and teams want those draft picks. What are they willing to give up to acquire one of the picks? Those are the kinds of conversations the Eagles are having now.
This is the time of the year when teams deal veterans, and there could be that kind of action around the league in the next few days. Jason Peters, remember, was acquired only a handful of days prior to last year's draft.
Anyway, the importance of this week cannot be understated. The Eagles have take the roster over the course of the last couple of years in a completely new direction and this week, this draft, basically completes the makeover. With a new personnel team led by Howie Roseman, the Eagles -- not just Roseman, but the Eagles -- have a chance to elevate the roster and provide it with more young, front-line talent than this franchise has enjoyed in many, many years.
To do so, the Eagles must score touchdowns with their decisions this week. And as I see it, the team has to emerge from the draft knowing they have satisfied the following needs ...
1. Needed: Playmakers On Defense
No question, Stewart Bradley is going to make a difference coming back. Everyone is excited about his rehab and his prognosis for this season. He is healthy. He is ready to play football. He looks great. I still abide by the year-after rule that says players just aren't all the way back one season after a major injury. If that is the case and Bradley isn't quite all the way there, the Eagles need to make sure they have ample provisions.
In other words, they can't expect that Bradley is going to turn the defense up by a notch by himself. They need more on D.
And if they draft week, or if they use draft picks to acquire a veteran along the way, they can get the defense right back to where it needs to be. They could use another standout pass rusher up front. Defensive tackle is in capable hands already, but an upgrade would help the defense, too. The linebackers are anything but stable, even with Bradley's return, and when is this football team going to make sure they have some long-term answers here rather than switching out the pieces as frequently as they have done in the last decade?
Look, I happen to be a fan of Akeem Jordan and Moise Fokou. I think that Omar Gaither is a good football player who has excellent versatility. I think Joe Mays turned a corner last year and that he is a solid backup who is excellent on special teams. Alex Hall? No clue.
Are any of those players Pro Bowl performers? Not yet. Maybe in the future. Maybe never. The Eagles need impact there.
And, of course, we have discussed the secondary throughout the off-season. If the Eagles don't address cornerback and/or safety, it would be stunning.
Need number one from this week: Impact on defense. The Eagles need playmakers. It is going to be really interesting to see how creative the organization is to get some help on defense.
2. Solidify The Offensive Line
The Eagles can line up five linemen now and have a good group, better than many playoff-bound teams. Nick Cole looks great as he attacks the off-season conditioning program. Winston Justice is all grown up and improving. Stacy Andrews, I've said this before, brings with him very high hopes. Jason Peters and Todd Herremans are working extremely hard in Barry Rubin's program and are going to form a fine left side of the line.
But ... is that enough? I'm looking for a dominating line, not just a good one. If the Eagles have a chance to upgrade anywhere up front, please do so. Until all five players are Pro Bowl-caliber performers, the job is not complete.
I don't know much about the draft prospects, and the way it sounds there aren't a lot of can't-miss prospects along the offensive line in this draft. But if the Eagles have a chance to get one, please do it. Andy Reid has taken a lot of offensive linemen in his drafts here, but few have been first- (Shawn Andrews) or second-round (Justice) selections. Is this the year to get one to put this line over the top?
**3. Hit The Late Rounds Hard
The draft isn't all about just the first and second rounds. There are seven rounds and 11 draft picks to use. There are a bunch of trades to make. There are players from under every rock to acquire. There are steals to be had in the late rounds (Brent Celek a fifth-round pick?) and there are opportunities to maximize this draft and open that "window" of Super Bowl opportunity for years to come with a great, great week.
I have my personal wish list of what positions I would like the Eagles to target. The defense can use some quality across the board, at every position. Offensively, I wouldn't mind seeing the Eagles draft a lineman or two, maybe a young wide receiver, possibly another running back just to make sure. And, yeah, the third quarterback spot has to be addressed in some way, either via the draft, the post-draft period, or adding a veteran.
I want it all. I want to take a look at this roster one week from now and understand how it all came together. I want there to be minimal question marks. I don't want any obvious holes. I want to see a team with a great mix of young and experience, and the Eagles have the chance to create that kind of roster chemistry by handling this week the right way.
It's going on now, behind all of those closed doors at the NovaCare Complex. A roster overhaul that really started back in 2008 comes full circle this week as the Eagles put the finishing touches -- and very important ones at that -- on a team that has a chance to be upgraded significantly with a series of outstanding moves to be made.