For my SB Nation Philly column, I wrote about the possibility of the Eagles drafting a hybrid DB. I think the word “hybrid” scares some people. The commenters over at BGN were ripping me for the idea and the Eagles for a variety of reasons. I thought the article was pretty good, but I must have done a poor job of communicating my idea.
The Eagles have a natural FS in Nate Allen. Kurt Coleman is more of a SS type, but isn’t someone you necessarily want in the box. Jaiquawn Jarrett is still the mystery man. The calls for the Eagles to add a Safety aren’t something I agree with. We’ve got young talent there. What I talked about in the column is the notion of adding Antonio Allen.
He played LB at South Carolina, but will play SS in the NFL. He is a tough, physical player. He is a very good run defender. He is made to play in the box. What makes him different is that he’s only 6’1, 206 and can still cover. Most box Safeties are 6’2, 225 types that don’t run well. Allen isn’t some freak athlete. I guess you could look at it like he’s an above average SS who just happens to be a very good run defender. He plays like a LB. And that is something the Eagles don’t have. Jarrett was a big hitter in college, but isn’t rugged like Allen. Taylor Mays was a big hitter at USC, but he was a wuss when you put him in traffic. When Thomas Davis played SS at Georgia, he was one of the biggest badasses I’ve ever seen. I thought he might kill an OL and then pull the still-beating heart out of a RB all in one play. That dude was a LB and that’s where he’s played in the NFL.
Antonio Allen is a S who plays like a LB. With the Wide-9, it could be very helpful to have a SS who can come up and be an excellent run defender. He can fight through blockers. He can get through traffic. Allen isn’t someone that must play in space to be effective. That’s Keenan Clayton. Let him run and he looks like a star. Put him in traffic and he’s average (or worse). That might change for Clayton, but it hasn’t so far. Allen is smaller than him, but a much more physical player.
I would think the Eagles taking a guy like Allen would be something that would thrill most Eagles fans. That would be a direct signal that the team is focused on improving the run defense.
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Now to address some random topics that people asked about.
Developmental QB. This is a poor QB class. I was high on Russell Wilson for a while, but now I’m not so sold. I’d love to add a QB, but I don’t think there are good choices. Mike Kafka is better than all but a couple of these guys. You only take a QB if he’s going to be better than Kafka. The one player who has fascinated me all year is Kellen Moore. He will be there in the 6th or 7th round. The problem is that if you take him and he plays well at all at camp/preseason, you’ve got to find a way to put him on your roster. He wouldn’t make it to the Practice Squad. If he stinks, you don’t want him. Still, the guy went 50-3 as a starter and is smart as a whip. Wouldn’t bug me if the Eagles took a risk on him late just to see what he could do. Moore probably isn’t good enough, but…
RG3. Why not move up to get Robert Griffin III? He’s going to be the #2 pick. The Rams will sell that to the highest bidder. It will be a pricey sale. I just don’t think it makes sense for the Eagles to dump a ton of resources into getting him. RG3 would sit for sure in 2012 and possibly 2013. Vick would be looking over his shoulder and that could create some weird locker room tension. If I thought that we could move up to pick 10 and get him, I’m interested. I’ve got a feeling the price is going to be steep to get up to #2 and not practical for us.
Brandon Graham. I was very high on Graham when he came out of Michigan. The guy led the nation in TFLs as a Senior and then went and dominated the Senior Bowl. He wasn’t just good…he dominated. Heck yeah I liked him. And he’s got the skill set to thrive in the Wide-9. If he knee gets better, Graham could turn out to be a huge player for us. The problem is that coming back from an ACL tear and microfracture surgery is very, very hard to do. No guarantees we’ll ever see the real Brandon Graham again. One side issue for him last year was conditioning. He got up in the 280s per Adam Caplan (Eagles Live). With a gimpy knee, he wasn’t able to go all out in conditioning and get down in the 265-270 range, where he needs to be. Jim Washburn likes his DEs to be sleek. He may tell BG to get down to 260. Brandon is ultra-competitive and that’s one reason I do have some hope that he will get back. I think he’ll do everything in his power to return to form. 2011 was a brutal year for him. He starts 2012 with a clean slate and a sense of hope. Him getting to workout at NovaCare and work with Barry Rubin will be a huge help. Fingers crossed that BG makes it back.
Chandler Jones. Some people wondered about the wisdom of the Eagles taking a DE early. Jones isn’t just a DE. He’s 6’5, 265. He’s highly athletic. We don’t have that guy on the roster. Jones is strong enough to physically overpower OTs. I would love to have one DE with a big frame. I’m not trying to turn us into Gang Green with 6’6, 290 guys on both sides, but it would be nice to have one big DE. It would not shock me if Jones ended up going in the late 1st round. Really impressive player. Huge potential. I’m not trying to force DL here. I like the current guys, but this draft has some excellent DL available. I’d go for a couple while you can get ‘em. We could wait for the 3rd round at DE. We won’t get a guy like Jones, but there will still be some talent.
Load up on LBs early. This sounds like a good idea, but just taking guys to take them isn’t wise. You need to take the right players. Brian Rolle looks like the WLB of the present and future. I think you can trust him. MLB is still a spot I think gets addressed in free agency. You need to add a SAM early (first 3 rounds). After that, you can spend another pick, but I don’t think it must be an early one. The only thing the Eagles must do is add a quality starter at MLB and a talented player at SAM. We do have some bodies at LB already. Casey Matthews might turn out to be a good player with a full offseason to workout, learn, practice, and adjust. I’m curious about Greg Lloyd and if he can really play in the NFL. Akeem Jordan and Moise Fokou are both under contract. Both have had some success as starters. And Jamar Chaney remains a guy the team has some hope for. Even Keenan Clayton could be in the mix, at least as a role player. The cupboard isn’t bare. The key is finding the right MLB for the LB corps to be built around. You need that one guy to run the show, make tackles, and be the man in the middle.
Upgrading WR. The Eagles have good talent at WR, but since Jason Avant isn’t getting any faster and Riley Cooper is still a mystery, the team should add a player to the mix. Assume they keep DeSean or replace him with a big name FA. Beyond that the team still needs another player with starter type talent. Avant is a terrific slot receiver, but he’s lost if he has to start. The new player should challenge Jason for his spot. I love Avant, but he’s not so special that he gets a free pass.
Tackling. LB Zach Brown is an erratic tackler and that will hurt his value. I’ve mentioned that the team could still like him if they think they can teach him to tackle. You can’t create his kind of athletic ability. That’s special. Most people go into a thing about how our coaches can’t teach anyone to tackle due to last year’s problems. Tackling is something you normally work on in Training Camp. That didn’t happen as much last year because the coaches were installing the scheme. So the notion that the coaches can’t teach fundamentals is flawed. They had a new scheme, new players, and less time to work with. You saw poor tackling around the league. The Eagles weren’t the only team to suffer. If the defense once again misses a bunch of tackles, then there is a major problem with the coaches and players. There is enough time this offseason to get everything done.
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Dan Klausner took a look at an under the radar WR over at ScoutsNotebook.