Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Next-level draft needs: Philadelphia Eagles
By Dan Graziano
The ESPN Stats & Information group has taken a "next-level" numbers look at the draft needs for the teams in the NFL, and we're taking a team-by-team look at what they've come up with in the NFC East. The last team on our list is the Philadelphia Eagles, for whom SIG has identified offensive line and defensive back as the most significant needs in this year's draft.
The issues with the Eagles' offensive line in 2012 were mainly injury-related, as four of the five starters missed significant amounts of time due to injury and one of those four (Danny Watkins) played poorly when healthy. So it comes as little surprise that "the Eagles' most-used offensive line combo played together on 40.9 percent of plays in 2012, 12th among 16 NFC teams in top-line consistency." And the result was poor performance in both the passing game and the run game. SIG tells us that the Eagles allowed the highest combined total of sacks and tackles for loss in the NFL and ranked 31st in the league in quarterback duress percentage and ballcarrier contact behind the line of scrimmage.
Now, a lot of the offensive line issues could be fixed if the starters all come back healthy. But the lessons of 2012 tell the Eagles that quality depth at those positions is important, and for that reason I would not be surprised to see them take one of the draft's top tackles at No. 4. Right tackle Todd Herremans could then move inside to play guard in place of Watkins, and the draft pick could be the eventual successor to Jason Peters at left tackle.
As for defensive back, SIG's numbers show considerable struggles for the Eagles' defense on passes at least 15 yards downfield. The Eagles allowed a league-high 14 touchdown passes on such throws and intercepted just three. And two of the three interceptions were by cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who's no longer on the team. The Eagles were tied for 25th in completion percentage allowed (46.9) on throws of 15 or more yards downfield, 31st in yards per attempt on such throws (14.6) and of course last in TD-INT ratio. (+11)
They also struggled in particular with outside receivers. Their 15 touchdown catches allowed to receivers lined up closest to the sideline were the second-most in the league, and eight of those 15 came in divisional games. The Eagles added many pieces to their secondary in free agency, including cornerback Cary Williams and safeties Kenny Phillips and Patrick Chung. But there'd be nothing wrong with continuing to add talent there, and Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner remains a possibility for that reason.