Philadelphia Eagles News

What Do Eagles REALLY Need?

I can run down a list longer than my arm for what the roster could use. I want the Eagles to be the best in the league at every position. The message to Andy Reid and Howie Roseman is this: Do whatever it takes to bring in a Pro Bowl player at every spot on the field. I don't care about the money. I don't even know if I care about the future.

But, see, that kind of thinking isn't realistic. Every team has weaknesses. The salary cap comes into play across the board in this league. And if you a team dumb enough to load up for a season and to disregard the ramifications for the future, well, you won't be in the league much longer.

So, anyway, the Eagles have had a fine offseason. They've retained the right players from the 2011 roster, extended players who had outplayed their contracts and brought in a couple of pieces to fill in some existing holes.

Now they move into the stretch run, the critical phase. Free agency has slowed to a trickle, although there remain some quality players on the streets and the Eagles have some opportunities to sign one or two more players prior to the draft.

Much of the focus, though, is on April 26-28. The Eagles have nine picks overall, including three of the first 51 selections. Between now and the end of the draft, the Eagles are going to add a lot.

What do they really need to put this roster over the top for 2012? Here is one perspective ...

CONSISTENT PLAYMAKERS AT SAFETY

I've talked about this already but it's worth mentioning: The Eagles were too inconsistent last season, for the past few seasons, in fact, and they need the safety play to be improved. Whether that comes from within, from players like Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman and Jaiquawn Jarrett, or whether the Eagles add to the mix, it doesn't matter to me.

When this team lines up for the regular season, the safeties must be consistent, outstanding players. The Eagles are well beyond the point where they can let too many young players mature as the season goes along.

Allen and Coleman are seasoned veterans who should play at a high level in the second year of Juan Castillo's defense. Jarrett is the great unknown after the ups and downs of his rookie season.

But will the Eagles add to the group, one that includes Colt Anderson and Tom Nelson? They haven't reached into free agency, although they are reportedly interested in Yeremiah Bell. And the draft class isn't said to be loaded with can't-miss prospects, although the top-rated safety, Mark Barron, could be enticing for the Eagles with the 15th pick in the draft.

ANSWERS AT LINEBACKER

DeMeco Ryans makes this group instantly better, but there are still questions at linebacker. The Eagles need to find out about players like Jamar Chaney and Casey Matthews and Brian Rolle and Greg Lloyd and Keenan Clayton. They have a couple of veterans who have been solid, not spectacular, in Moise Fokou and Akeem Jordan.

Is this group good enough now that Ryans is in the house?

Again, the Eagles need to be better in this phase of the defense and whether that comes from internal improvement or an addition to the roster remains to be seen. The Eagles are going to have ample chances to draft linebackers in a couple of weeks.

Will they?

Is it too early to make a decision on Rolle and Matthews and Lloyd, second-year men who are in their first full NFL offseasons? Will the Eagles use a high draft pick on a linebacker? Is Chaney sliding over to the strong side to stay there and grow and build upon a productive first couple of years here?

The Eagles simply have not had stability at linebacker for many seasons. They need it now and moving forward.

BETTER PLAY IN THE RED ZONE

Whether this is scheme from the coaching staff or better execution from the players or the addition of another weapon to put the ball in the end zone, the Eagles need to score more touchdowns.

The offensive pieces are strong, starting with a very good offensive line, great skill players and a dynamic quarterback. The scheme has helped produce top-10 offenses, at the very least, for most of the last decade.

What else can the Eagles add?

We have talked about the "want" to bring in a big-bodied wide receiver to create space and catch touchdown passes, to maybe help the Eagles introduce the fade route in the corner of the end zone to the offense and to make life easier for DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin in tight spaces.

To date, the Eagles have not made a move in the direction of, say, wide receivers Plaxico Burress or Braylon Edwards, neither of whom has created much of a stir in free agency. They have reportedly shown interest in Notre Dame's Michael Floyd, who may or may not be available at 15 in the first round.

What do the Eagles need to elevate their play in the red zone? Better X's and O's, better execution or better players? Or better in all three categories?

STRONGER PLAY IN THE FOURTH QUARTER

I understand that some of the things outlined here aren't necessarily aimed at roster improvement. This is one of those intangibles that requires a collective improvement. Leadership is a key here. The Eagles didn't find themselves last year until it was too late, and a lot of that had to do with a locker room that needed three-quarters of the season to mesh.

The leadership aspect of the team could be the most improved part of the Eagles with all of the continuity the Eagles have created. Ryans is a natural leader for the defense, someone the Eagles haven't had for years.

On the field, the Eagles need to run the football more effectively and sustain drives in the fourth quarter. They need to get off the field on defense. Michael Vick has to deliver key drives, game-winning drives.

The great teams win games in the fourth quarter. New York was the perfect example in 2011, coming back time and again behind quarterback Eli Manning. That is the model fourth-quarter team, one the Eagles must catch and pass in 2012.

CLARITY AT THE CORNERBACK POSIITIONS

As talented as the Eagles are at the corners, they didn't play up to expectations last year. New coach Todd Bowles has his work cut out for him, as the Eagles have Pro Bowl-caliber cornerbacks who want to play. Asante Samuel, the subject of trade rumors, remains an Eagle. Nnamdi Asomugha must play at a high level as a shut-down cornerback this year and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie wants to be a full-time starter.

Until the Eagles figure out the rotation, and what they want to do with the slot corner position that Joselio Hanson manned in 2011, cornerback is going to be a gigantic question mark.

It's great to have so much talent, but it's also a challenge for the coaching staff and for the egos of the players. When you consider that 2011 third-round draft pick Curtis Marsh is hoping to push for time this year as he spends nearly every day at the NovaCare Complex working out.

It's a lot to work with, but when is too much not a good thing?

ROSTER DEPTH AND TALENT UPGRADES

You can look up and down the roster and pinpoint areas where the Eagles can improve. They need a starting fullback (second-year man Stanley Havili is that guy right now), they need an answer at kickoff return and they need depth at a variety of positions, namely halfback, perhaps quarterback, maybe defensive tackle.

Reid and Roseman have done an excellent job addressing key spots throughout the offseason, but the job is never done. Making the roster better is one part of the equation, as is finding the right mix, coaching and the mesh of the entire picture.

Who will the Eagles take with the first pick when they draft? Your guess is as good as anybody's at this point. We are a long way from April 26, and yet in some ways it is right around the corner.

A strong kick to the offseason race is needed for a team that has performed at a good pace throughout the many months since the disappointment of 2011 faded away and the optimism for 2012 surfaced.

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