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Saturday, April 24, 2010
Eagles still have holes to fill on defense

By Sal Paolantonio

PHILADELPHIA -- The Eagles have nine picks remaining in the final four rounds -- more than any other team. Philadelphia came into the draft on Day 1 with a chance to control its fate, and it can finish in the same fashion. The question is, what happened in between? Why did the Eagles intentionally miss most of the second and third rounds?

Head coach Andy Reid came into Round 2 of the draft with two highly-coveted second-round picks in what is being called a very rich draft class, especially on defense, where the Eagles need help. But instead of coming away with two players capable of at least competing for a starting job, they chose only one -- safety Nate Allen of South Florida, who is considered a tweener. He is a corner or safety who may not be ready to start at either need position.

Then new general manager Howie Roseman, not liking what he saw on the second-round board, started moving down and down, accumulating more late-round picks. But the result did not go over well in this town. The Eagles watched the rest of the league make 49 selections -- in other words, about a draft round and a half -- before Philadelphia finally picked another player, defensive end Daniel Te'o-Nesheim of Washington, who is considered a solid special-teams player at best.

Coming into the draft, Roseman said the Eagles would be aggressive . They started the draft with 10 picks and seven in the top four rounds, which was more than any other team. Few interpreted that aggressiveness to mean moving back in the heart of this draft and passing on so many potential impact players. So far, the Eagles have taken just three of the first 98 players after starting the draft with five of the first 87 picks.

"What you do is you sit and evaluate the strengths of the draft by round," Reid said. "We felt the latter part of the second round and into the third round and fourth rounds were the strengths of this draft."

Here's the problem with that explanation: The Eagles didn't pick a single player in the latter part of the second round or the early third round. Philadelphia picked Allen with the so-called "Donovan pick" -- the 37th pick it got from the Redskins for Donovan McNabb. And then the Eagles went dark, making no picks until the 22nd pick of the third round.

What really happened was this: After packaging their two third-round picks and their No. 24 pick in the first round to jump to No. 13 to make Brandon Graham the first defensive end taken in this draft, the Eagles explored moving back into the first round to take one of the top-rated corners left on the first-round board. Reid admitted late Thursday night that that was a possibility. But they didn't want to depart with both their second-round picks, according to league sources.

As a result, there was a run on cornerbacks late in the first round, including Kyle Wilson of Boise State (Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott ran his pro day), who went to the Jets, and Devin McCourty of Rutgers (defensive assistant Dick Jauron worked him out), who went to New England. In all, five cornerbacks were picked in the first round. Five more were selected in the second and third round, while the Eagles did not pick one -- even though they don't have a starting right cornerback right now.

Longtime starter Sheldon Brown was dealt to Cleveland. Veteran Ellis Hobbs is coming back from neck surgery. Reid insisted that Allen, who played mostly safety at South Florida, would be an option at corner. Reid rarely starts rookies. Are the Eagles after a veteran corner? Rumors were rampant Friday night that the Eagles were snooping around with the Raiders to see if Pro Bowl corner Nnamdi Asomugha was available. "No, that's not where we're at," Reid said Friday night.

So, in the fourth round Saturday morning, the Eagles now have four picks. If they don't pick a cornerback -- Owusu-Ansah Akwasi of Division II IUP is apparently on their radar -- there will be a lot more head scratching in Philly.