NFC East: Sheldon Brown

Philadelphia Eagles' weakness: Cornerback

May, 19, 2010
5/19/10
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NFC East Weaknesses: Cowboys (5/17) | Giants (5/18) | Eagles (5/19) | Redskins (5/20)

The Philadelphia Eagles have revamped their roster -- out with the old and in with the new. This could be a transition year for Philadelphia, but this is an exceptional organization and looks to have fortified its roster in many spots. While the Eagles might not be an elite contender, I don’t expect this team to turn into a losing organization in 2010.

Marlin Jackson
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireThe Eagles acquired Marlin Jackson in free agency.
The Eagles had a wealth of draft picks, but didn’t address their cornerback need until the fourth round, despite sending starter Sheldon Brown to the Browns prior to the draft. They did improve their stable of pass-rushers, and obviously that should help the cornerbacks in coverage.

Marlin Jackson, a cornerback in Indianapolis, was signed in free agency. If second-round pick Nate Allen can grab a hold of the starting free safety spot, Jackson could once again get reps at corner, but he is coming off a serious injury and wasn’t the quickest or fastest cover man to begin with. Safety is probably his best fit at this point. Asante Samuel is set as one starter and is a very good player. He makes plenty of big plays, but he is also a liability against the run and can be too risky at times.

The other candidates to play opposite Samuel and as the top option as the nickel corner are Ellis Hobbs, Joselio Hanson, Macho Harris and fourth-round pick Trevard Lindley. Hobbs is undersized, but feisty and fast. Hanson and Harris haven’t shown themselves to be starting material, and Lindley is not very physical. In addition to being a rookie, he is coming off a serious injury.

Things could be worse at corner, no question about it, but it does seem safe to say that the Eagles' opponents are going to dictate matchups by utilizing three- and four-wide receiver sets and making Philadelphia put average backend players on the field while shuffling front-seven talent to the sideline. With their talent at the wideout position, the Cowboys and Giants should particularly look to this strategy against their divisional rival.

Eagles go defense again with CB Lindley

April, 24, 2010
4/24/10
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The Philadelphia Eagles have left doubt as to where their biggest needs are. With the 105th pick overall this morning, the Eagles have selected Kentucky cornerback Trevard Lindley.

On Day 1, they went with a pass-rusher. On Day 2, the Eagles went after South Florida safety Nate Allen, who has excellent cover skills.

Lindley is 5-11, but has very long arms. He had 10 interceptions in his four years at Kentucky and he's known for his leaping ability. Unfortunately, he's not known for his tackling. He's not a particularly physical player, but he projects as a solid nickel corner who could possibly become a No. 2 corner at some point in his career.

With Allen and Lindley, the Eagles have added talent in the secondary. Without Sheldon Brown, the Eagles had to address this area. Now, you'll start to see more teams address needs. For whatever reason, scouts have told me that the fourth round has the most value in this draft.

The Eagles will be very busy today.
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.
PHILADELPHIA -- On Day 2 of the draft, the debate among the Eagles brain trust is what to do with the Donovan pick -- the No. 37 pick in the second round, which Philadelphia obtained from the Redskins for Donovan McNabb.

There is a lot of pressure on the Eagles to turn that pick into a productive player. And there will be a lot of pressure on that young player. No matter how much head coach Andy Reid will try to minimize it, the question in this often unforgiving town will always be: What did the Eagles get for trading their franchise quarterback? For better or worse, that player will have to live with that.

So, what will the Eagles do? After moving up 11 spots in the first round and making Brandon Graham of Michigan the first defensive end taken in the 2010 draft, the Eagles must address their depleted secondary. Trading Sheldon Brown to Cleveland has left a big hole at right cornerback. New general manager Howie Roseman has tried to peddle the idea that Ellis Hobbs, who is coming back from neck surgery, will be ready to step in. But that has been greeted with skepticism.

Then there is the free safety position -- also up for grabs. Free-agent signee Marlin Jackson, after back to back knee injuries, is said to be ready to participate in some team activities in the three day minicamp beginning next Friday, but that is another iffy proposition. The Eagles have moderate interest in Southern Cal safety Taylor Mays, who is still on the board.

But Reid is smitten with Dexter McCluster, a 170-pound scatback out of Mississippi. He's quick and has good hands -- perfect for what the Eagles ask of their running backs: catch the football and work in space. But taking McCluster at No. 37 might be a reach.

Another option would be this: Move back from No. 37, perhaps picking up a third-round pick (the Eagles traded both of their third-round picks to Denver to move up for Graham) and take McCluster later in the second round and pick up a corner or safety with their other second-round pick (No. 55). Indiana offensive tackle Rodger Saffold also is someone the Eagles are considering in the second round.

"That's the debate their having right now," said one league source familiar with the Eagles' thinking.

As Roseman said last week, "I like having the fifth pick on Day 2." Well, now the pressure is on to turn that pick into a player or players as memorable as McNabb.

Monday Beastlines: Romo will miss Flo

April, 12, 2010
4/12/10
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Let's take a quick spin around the division to see what's going on this morning:

Cowboys

Eagles

Giants

Redskins

Draft Watch: NFC East

April, 7, 2010
4/07/10
1:00
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NFC Approach: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each Wednesday leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: Draft approach.

Dallas Cowboys

Now that Jerry Jones has released left tackle Flozell Adams and safety Ken Hamlin, there's more of a sense of urgency at those spots in the draft. The Cowboys will replace Adams with Doug Free, but they could still take an offensive tackle or guard at No. 27 overall. Safety Nate Allen and cornerback Devin McCourty are two players the Cowboys really like late in the first round.

There's a belief that safeties Alan Ball and Mike Hamlin could get the job done in a pinch, but the Cowboys will focus on that position in the draft. Last year's approach involved saving money -- if you can believe that. The Cowboys' first picks were Nos. 69 and 74. The only true impact player from the '09 draft was kickoff specialist David Buehler. In this year's draft, the Cowboys need to select players who can have a more immediate impact. If an offensive tackle starts to slip in the first round, don't be surprised if the Cowboys are there to catch him.

In the past, the Cowboys have emphasized need over value out of necessity. In this year's draft, I think staying at No. 27 and going with the best value is what the Cowboys are trying to accomplish. Releasing Hamlin and Adams certainly changed the dynamic heading into the draft, but it also provided some clarity.

New York Giants

General manager Jerry Reese almost never gets caught reaching in a draft. He doesn't normally go for project players in the first three rounds, although Ramses Barden is certainly the exception. This year's approach has to be a little different, though. The Giants were exposed on defense in several areas last season.

They can't afford to simply take the "best-player-on-the-board" philosophy. The Giants need help at linebacker and defensive tackle. And another pass-rusher would be nice. I'd be very surprised if the Giants took an offensive player at No. 15 overall. If Rolando McClain out of Alabama is there, look for Reese to take him. He's exactly the type of player Reese and Coughlin love -- remarkably intelligent and a natural leader. After losing Antonio Pierce, the Giants need more players like that.

Philadelphia Eagles

With the Sheldon Brown/Chris Gocong trade, the Eagles are now thin at cornerback and linebacker. And it's not as if they had an embarrassment of riches at those positions before the trade. In the past, the Eagles have been very open to moving down in the first round. And with the depth of talent in this year's draft, that's certainly a possibility. But at No. 24, something tells me the Eagles will stay right there and draft the best cornerback or safety available. They've taken a long look at Texas' Earl Thomas, but he won't be available at that point.

The Eagles need more firepower at linebacker, so that's also an option in the first round. They've spent the past couple of drafts bolstering their offense with speed at the skill positions. Now it's time to start retooling that defense. I'd be very surprised if the Eagles don't take a defensive player at No. 24.

Washington Redskins

Mike Shanahan continues to meet with quarterbacks despite the blockbuster trade for Donovan McNabb. I recall McNabb not enjoying a certain draft pick in '07, so it will be interesting to see whether Shanahan addresses the quarterback position in the draft.

Of course, the draft focus now turns to left tackle. The Redskins don't have a viable candidate there unless they sign the aging Flozell Adams. And general manager Bruce Allen said on a local radio show that he's talked to Adams' agent. But I still think left tackle Russell Okung of Oklahoma State is the way to go for the Redskins at No. 4 overall. The Redskins will have to wait until Saturday to pick again unless they somehow land a second-round pick in a trade.

So in reality, the Redskins will only find one immediate starter in this draft. And by the way, Shanahan needs to start drafting some larger inside linebackers. As I've said many times, London Fletcher is not going to hold up in this defense for very long. Part of that is age, but most of it is size.

Eagles rebuiliding with Gocong, Brown trade

April, 2, 2010
4/02/10
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The Philadelphia Eagles traded Chris Gocong and Sheldon Brown to the Cleveland Browns for Alex Hall and fourth- and fifth-round draft picks in the upcoming draft. Let’s analyze this transaction from the Eagles’ point of view.

This deal further confirms a suspicion that I have had for some time. The Eagles are rebuilding. They are not rebuilding like the hapless Buccaneers or Rams are rebuilding, but this is very much a team in transition and by their lofty standards, they are rebuilding. Trading starting-caliber players for draft picks is a move that a team looking to dump salary and get younger makes, which is pretty consistent with how the Eagles have handled the entire offseason. Once Donovan McNabb is shipped out of Philadelphia and the keys to the Eagles’ extremely young offense are handed to Kevin Kolb, that transition will be further justified.

But Eagles fans, rebuilding is not a curse word. Sure, the Cowboys steamrolled the Eagles twice to finish the season, but this is still a very strong organization. In fact, this should be a very exciting time to be an Eagles fan because the organization can further build a terrific young nucleus that should keep them competitive for years to come. Remember, this is an excellent draft class.

Many probably consider Hall a throw-in. But he is a good special-teams player and has upside as an edge pass-rusher. Hall could be a valuable player for the Eagles as soon as next season.

Gocong did some good things with the Eagles, but fell out of favor last season and was actually benched at one point. A defensive end in college, Gocong fits in the Browns’ 3-4 defense better than in the Eagles’ defense. Gocong is much less of a liability in coverage than you would expect considering his background. He plays hard and is aggressive, but he also isn’t as dynamic as the Eagles would prefer from the outside linebacker position. I do contend that if Stewart Bradley had not been injured, the entire linebacking corps --including Gocong -- would have produced at a much higher level in 2009. Philadelphia now could use two starting outside linebackers to flank Bradley.

Brown is a solid starting cornerback and had very respectable season. He isn’t special, but he can play both the run and pass effectively. He also has a history of making plays and getting his hands on the football. Cleveland should be very happy to have him. The Eagles’ pass coverage was a huge problem in 2009, so changes are understandable. But this creates a major need at cornerback.

Needless to say, this month’s draft is huge for the future of this organization -- and more high picks should be on the way with a trade of McNabb. But overall, this deal with Cleveland implies that a rebuilding project is under way in Philadelphia.

Eagles trade Brown, Gocong to Cleveland

April, 2, 2010
4/02/10
12:38
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ESPN's Adam Schefter reports the Philadelphia Eagles traded cornerback Sheldon Brown and linebacker Chris Gocong to the Cleveland Browns for a fourth-round pick, a fifth-round pick and linebacker Alex Hall.

Report: Samuel, Brown not at workouts

March, 30, 2010
3/30/10
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We knew Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb wasn't planning to attend Monday's start of the club's "voluntary" offseason workout program, but ESPN's Sal Paolantonio added a couple names to the list. Cornerbacks Asante Samuel and Sheldon Brown were also no-shows for the workouts, as well as punter Sav Rocca.

You never want to make a huge deal of guys missing non-mandatory workouts, but rest assured that coach Andy Reid has taken notice. It's one thing if Samuel and Brown only miss a workout or two, but it could be an issue if they don't show up for any of the workouts. Most teams provide make-up sessions for players.

There was some speculation that wide receiver DeSean Jackson might not show up at the workouts, but I overheard his agent Drew Rosenhaus promise during the recent owners meetings the wide receiver would be there Monday.

Draft Watch: NFC East

March, 26, 2010
3/26/10
1:00
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NFC Under-The-Radar: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each week leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: Under the radar needs.

Dallas Cowboys

We've spent a lot of time talking about the needs at safety and placekicker. And as I explained Tuesday evening, owner Jerry Jones feels like the competition between Connor Hughes and David Buehler will produce a suitable placekicker. I think that's a poor plan, but Jones did not seek my counsel during our lengthy discussion. So what are the Cowboys' biggest needs that no one's talking about?

Well, let's start with outside linebacker. Wade Phillips, a champion of outside linebackers, told me that this draft is full of talent at that spot. The Cowboys need someone to emerge behind DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer. Phillips mentioned that former Texas Tech star Brandon Williams was showing signs of being up to the task before suffering an injury last preseason. Both Phillips and Ware are excited about Williams' future. The Cowboys also have second-year player Victor Butler, who had his moments in '09. But I still think the Cowboys will look for help in next month's draft. They'll probably go with an offensive lineman at No. 27 overall, but it wouldn't surprise me if that next pick was an outside linebacker.

Everyone knows that replacing Ken Hamlin at safety is also a point of emphasis with the Cowboys. That's why I think Dallas will keep a close eye on which player starts to slip in the first round. If teams get fascinated with all this left tackle depth, a couple of safeties might start to slide in the first round. But I think the Cowboys also will look to draft another cornerback. As the Eagles found out last season, you can never have enough corners. The Cowboys were pretty fortunate with injuries in '09, but they can't count on Terence Newman, Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick to make it through the season without getting banged up. So yes, I think cornerback is certainly an under-the-radar need.

New York Giants

We all assume the Giants will take a defensive player with the No. 15 pick. And Tom Coughlin basically confirmed that during the recent owners meetings. But don't be surprised if the Giants look to take another running back this season. I don't know whether Andre Brown (Achilles' tendon) will make a full return, so it's important to keep developing young backs. Both Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw were banged up in '09. The Giants need to create more depth at that position.

I also think tight end is an under-the-radar need. Kevin Boss has developed into a consistent threat, but the Giants need to identify and draft another tight end. I think Travis Beckum has some talent as he heads into his second season, but he's more of an H-back than a true tight end. Don't be surprised if the Giants go for a tight end in the third or fourth round. And keep the offensive and defensive linemen coming. General manager Jerry Reese knows that his offensive line is starting to show some age, so look for him to add depth via the draft. So far, last season's free agency moves with defensive tackles Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard look pretty sketchy, so they'll have to address that position as well.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles have some rather glaring needs at linebacker and safety. If you think Marlin Jackson's the automatic answer at free safety, you're a pretty optimistic Eagles fan. I don't trust a man who's had an ACL tear on each knee the past two seasons. So you have to take a long look at rookies such as Nate Allen and Taylor Mays and decide what you want to do at No. 24.

The Eagles also have an under-the-radar need at tight end. Brent Celek has emerged as one of the best in the league, but the Eagles could use a blocking tight end to help the running game. Mike Bell gives them more power in the backfield. Now, they have to open a hole or two in short-yardage situations. The Eagles have an excellent fullback, but let's not act like Leonard Weaver's some type of battering ram at that position.

In other news, it's time to draft some more cornerbacks. Sheldon Brown's starting to break down and Asante Samuel didn't play well down the stretch. His interception totals are nice, but the guy makes way too many mistakes. Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott was very frustrated with him at times. The Eagles have to create more depth at cornerback -- and the draft's a good place to start.

Washington Redskins

We know where Washington stands at quarterback and left tackle. I think Jason Campbell could do a nice job for Mike Shanahan, but so far, the coach isn't really embracing the incumbent starter. But those are the obvious needs. Honestly, there are no under-the-radar needs because the Redskins need help at pretty much every position. Maybe with the presence of Albert Haynesworth and Maake Kemoeatu, folks have been lulled into thinking the Redskins are OK at defensive tackle. But I don't think that's the case. If you can find a nose tackle early in the draft, you have to think about selecting him. Haynesworth's going to line up at defensive end the majority of the time. He wants no part of playing nose tackle, although he'll be there some of the time.

The Redskins would also be wise to look for inside linebackers for their new 3-4 scheme. If you think London Fletcher's going to succeed in a 3-4, you haven't studied the league. Little guys like Fletcher simply don't function well in this type of defense. Ask the Cowboys' former mighty mites Dat Nguyen and Dexter Coakley. It just doesn't work for 5-10 guys to be taking on 340-pound guards who are light on their feet. So yes, inside linebacker might qualify as an under-the-radar need.

The Redskins still have questions at punter and placekicker as well. They have needs all over the roster, so this could rank as the most important draft in the last 20 years. Nothing's really under-the-radar when it comes to this team's draft needs.

Draft Watch: NFC East

March, 17, 2010
3/17/10
12:00
PM ET
NFC Needs Revisited: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each Wednesday leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: Biggest needs revisited.

Dallas Cowboys

Since the Cowboys haven't made a single move in free agency, nothing has changed. They certainly didn't feel a sense of urgency to outbid the Giants for safety Antrel Rolle or the Eagles for free safety Marlin Jackson. But it wouldn't surprise me if the Cowboys addressed their need at safety with a veteran such as the Rams' O.J. Atogwe. At the No. 27 spot in the draft, you might have a shot at either South Florida's Nate Allen or USC's Taylor Mays. But I don't think the Cowboys will go either direction.

In conversations with folks at Valley Ranch, the offensive line is what gets mentioned the most. If the Cowboys can identify a talented offensive tackle or guard late in the first round, that's the direction they'll go. There's also the possibility they'll try to trade down because this appears to be a relatively deep draft. Obviously, place-kicker continues to be a glaring need. But after that, it's still offensive line, safety, inside linebacker and then probably wide receiver. With the rise of Miles Austin and the intrigue of Kevin Ogletree, I could see the Cowboys waiting until later in the draft to grab a wide receiver. After all, both Austin and Ogletree were undrafted players.

New York Giants

The Giants addressed a major need with the signing of Rolle, although I'm not sure he's worth $15 million guaranteed. Now they can focus on shoring up their linebacker situation. Second-year player Clint Sintim is expected to start at strongside linebacker, but there's a gaping hole at middle linebacker with the release of Antonio Pierce. It doesn't look like Jonathan Goff is quite ready to fill the position from within, so the Giants will be hoping that Alabama's Rolando McClain slips to them at No. 15. Outside of the defensive tackles from Oklahoma and Nebraska, I think McClain may have been the best defensive player in the country. He's incredibly smart and has tremendous size and athleticism. This just seems like a Jerry Reese pick to me.

The Giants also need to figure out their situation at defensive tackle. You have to think Chris Canty will have an easier time after battling injuries in '09 and perhaps Rocky Bernard will finally show up. But you can't simply depend on those things. The Giants probably will take a defensive tackle in the draft and then they'll look at some offensive linemen. It's probably the end of the road for Kareem McKenzie at right tackle. The Giants need to continue drafting and developing young offensive linemen and I think that will be a priority for Reese. At running back, you have to wonder how Andre Brown will look returning from a ruptured Achilles tendon. It's hard to find a lot of running backs who've made successful comebacks from that particular injury.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles have a potential solution at safety with Marlin Jackson, but it's still a position of need. You can't depend on Jackson being able to recover from his second ACL surgery in as many years. But I don't expect the Eagles to take a safety at No. 24 because Allen and Mays aren't blowing anyone away. I wouldn't be surprised at all to see the Eagles select a cornerback in the first round. It's a huge position of need with Sheldon Brown starting to break down a little bit and Joselio Hanson taking a step back after his suspension. This secondary had no chance against Tony Romo and the Cowboys late in the season, and that has to be fixed.

The Eagles also need more help in the pass rush. I know they traded for Darryl Tapp on Tuesday, but he put up pedestrian numbers for the Seahawks. If a pass-rushing defensive end starts slipping next month, the Eagles will be ready to pounce. The Eagles also need to think about a long-term solution at center with Jamaal Jackson coming back from a torn ACL. I know that Baylor center J.D. Walton is projected to go in the second round and he's the type of athletic player Andy Reid likes. I also know that the Eagles think a lot of versatile guard/center Nick Cole, who filled in nicely at right guard last season.

And don't be surprised if the Eagles go after a running back in the later rounds. Mike Bell is a young player, but the Eagles could still use more juice at the position.

Washington Redskins

After a slow start to free agency, the Redskins are now sifting through a list of former stars -- and signing some of them. Larry Johnson was one of the best running backs in the league -- four years ago. He's an odd "complement" to Clinton Portis because both players sort of bang around between the tackles. There's simply not much change of pace. That's why I feel like running back is still a position of need in the draft.

A lot of Redskins believe that quarterback is the biggest position of need, but I tend to think left tackle should be the bigger priority. Washington didn't really give Jason Campbell any chance last season, but he still put up decent numbers. With Chris Samuels retiring, it's time to find a long-term solution at left tackle. I think you take Russell Okung at No. 4 and never look back. But Mike Shanahan will be tempted by Jimmy Clausen. He knows he played in a pro-style offense and he won't get caught up in all this talk about Clausen coming off as cocky during the combine. Don't you want your quarterbacks to have a little swagger?

The signing of nose tackle Maake Kemoeatu might be one of the most underrated signings of the offseason. If he can return to his form of '08 (pre Achilles tendon injury), then new defensive coordinator Jim Haslett can be more creative with Albert Haynesworth. You also have needs at linebacker, safety and cornerback. London Fletcher is an excellent player, but he wasn't made for the 3-4. He'll be eventually be phased out of the defense -- and it might happen sooner than some of you think. General manager Bruce Allen and Shanahan will be looking for bigger players at inside linebacker. I think Rocky McIntosh will be fine, but Fletcher will have a tough time taking on some of the enormous centers and guards in the NFC East.

Draft Watch: NFC East

February, 17, 2010
2/17/10
12:00
PM ET
NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Wednesday leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: biggest team needs.

Dallas Cowboys

I had a chance to visit with owner Jerry Jones on ESPN 103.3 in Dallas-Fort Worth on Tuesday and he made it pretty clear that he's not feeling pressure to fill any certain positions. In some ways, the Cowboys will be rolling out two draft classes in 2010. The '09 class was taken out by a wide variety of injuries, so Jones is anxious to see how some of those players respond. Jones didn't confirm this, but I've been told that the scouting department is taking a long look at the safety position with the No. 27 pick overall. The organization is disappointed in the play of Ken Hamlin and it's time to start looking for his eventual replacement. Alan Ball has looked good at times, but I'm not sure he's ready for full-time duty. The Cowboys also would like to add depth along the offensive line. Doug Free emerged as a solid contributor in '09, but the team needs to continue drafting and developing young linemen. I'm not sure where the Cowboys will find a place-kicker, but it's certainly a major need. In fact, it's probably their biggest need heading into the 2010 season.

New York Giants

The Giants have to figure out what went wrong on defense and start adding talent. Linebacker Clint Sintim is a player from the '09 draft who's expected to take a major step this offseason. And there's also speculation that the Giants could go after Karlos Dansby in free agency. The Cardinals linebacker would give the Giants much-needed speed and power. You also have a major need at safety. The Giants were burned when Kenny Phillips went down with a season-ending knee injury after Week 2. C.C. Brown flamed out as Phillips' replacement and Aaron Rouse wasn't a lot better. You cannot enter the '10 season on a wing and a prayer that Phillips will stay healthy. The Giants will have plenty of options at No. 15. I wouldn't rule out a linebacker with that pick. But if a talented offensive tackle is available, general manager Jerry Reese will be ready to pull the trigger.

Philadelphia Eagles

The back end of this defense needs help immediately. You can't just depend on Asante Samuel and Sheldon Brown to get you through another season at cornerback. With that No. 24 pick, the Eagles should look long and hard at another cornerback. And obviously safety is a position of need. Quintin Mikell can't line up next to Macho Harris or Quintin Demps next season. The lack of a reliable safety really put the Eagles in a tough spot against teams with elite tight ends such as the Chargers and Cowboys. The Eagles also need to be on the lookout for another pressure player on defense. Trent Cole is one of the top defensive ends in the league, but he needs some consistent help. Defensive tackle is another need. I thought Brodrick Bunkley and Mike Patterson looked tired late in the season. The Eagles can't afford for that to happen again. On offense, you have to figure out the Stacy Andrews situation. If you think Nick Cole can be a long-term answer at right guard, you have to think about releasing Andrews and his big salary.

Washington Redskins

If defensive coordinator Jim Haslett is going to make the transition to the 3-4 scheme, the Skins will have a different mindset in this draft. London Fletcher's a great player, but he wasn't made for the 3-4. It just won't work. The Skins will start looking for big thumpers at inside linebacker and excellent pass-rushers on the outside. Brian Orakpo should make a seamless transition to the new scheme, but I'm not so sure about Andre Carter. The Redskins also need to think about drafting cornerbacks and safeties. The back end of this defense needs to show major improvement. But obviously, all the talk will be about the quarterback position. I think Jason Campbell is a legitimate starter in this league, but Mike Shanahan has to go with the guy he's most comfortable with. That's why I think the Skins likely will stay at No. 4 and pick Sam Bradford. Then the Redskins have to start building an offensive line. The offensive line has suffered from years of draft neglect. It's time to start investing in the trenches.

Eagles' D has a long way to go

February, 11, 2010
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AP Photo/Mike FuentesThe Eagles Asante Samuel may be a Pro-Bowler, but he's not exactly a "shut-down corner."
It's been more than a month since the Eagles' season ended in Arlington, Texas, but we've been able to mention the Donovan McNabb situation on a daily basis. It's one of the most compelling storylines of the NFL offseason, but it's not the most important issue the organization is facing.

If the Eagles don't fix their defense, it really won't matter whether it's McNabb or Kevin Kolb behind center. I've already ruled out Michael Vick as the starter despite at least one report that the Eagles are just dying to pay the man his $5 million in 2010. (Since Vick is hosting at least seven NBA All-Star parties in Dallas this weekend, I'll try to catch up with him.)

The Eagles failed spectacularly in December and early January, in part, because they had no answers for Tony Romo, Miles Austin, Jason Witten and Felix Jones. You can blame it on the departure of Brian Dawkins, a season-ending injury to middle linebacker Stewart Bradley or the death of defensive coordinator Jim Johnson. But the Eagles weren't the only team in the league to face adversity in '09.

The club can't afford to obsess about the quarterback position this offseason at the expense of the rest of the roster. There's simply too much work to be done on defense. Eagles president Joe Banner told the club's Web site earlier this week that he didn't think the gap between the Eagles and Cowboys was as wide as those final two games indicated. And that sort of sentiment should scare the hell out of Eagles fans.


Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRECoordinator Sean McDermott's Eagles defense needs to find some answers in the offseason.
Sean McDermott's defense had no hope against the Cowboys because there was not a single player who could match up with Witten. Assigning linebackers such as Will Witherspoon and Moise Fokou to cover Witten is an absolute farce. Even if the Eagles accounted for Witten, it just opened things up for Austin and Crayton across the middle.

The return of Bradley will certainly help the Eagles' cause but this defense isn't one player away from making noise in the playoffs. Everyone wants to talk about letting Dawkins get away, but I'd argue that the lack of depth at cornerback is just as big of an issue. You have to admire Sheldon Brown for playing through pain on numerous occasions, but that doesn't cancel out the fact that he was a liability at times.

Asante Samuel will always go to Pro Bowls based on his gaudy interception totals -- and those are important. But Samuel's reluctance to make contact with ball carriers will continue to be a sore spot with coaches and fans. Let's not act like Samuel's a so-called shut-down corner. I'm pretty sure Deion Sanders was the last man to fulfill that role. Samuel is one of the biggest gamblers in the game, which makes the Eagles susceptible to the big play (Austin on the sideline).

I know it's fashionable to talk about taking the "best player available" in the draft, but the Eagles better make sure that player can cover a wide receiver. Who do you guys trust in the Eagles' secondary? I still think Quintin Mikell's a quality player, but he was exposed when he had to line up next to inferior talent.

I think the Eagles would be wise to either trade for a veteran safety or find one in free agency, like the Cowboys did with Gerald Sensabaugh last March. Sean Jones certainly wasn't the answer last offseason and Quintin Demps is firmly entrenched in Andy Reid's doghouse. I think it's extremely difficult to ask a rookie to make an immediate impact at the safety position because of its complexities.

The Eagles were so desperate in the secondary at one point this season that they signed a former Mr. Irrelevant who couldn't stick with the Detroit Lions. I would identify the best two or three cornerbacks in this draft and try to get one of them at No. 24. I know you're not exactly set along the offensive line but teams such as the Colts (and even the Eagles) have shown that you can find starters in the later rounds.

Then there's this little thing about finding another pressure player to take some heat off defensive end Trent Cole. And for the record, I don't think it would be wise to dump a bunch of free-agent money into signing Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers, who might be asking for Albert Haynesworth money, which sounds ludicrous to me. Haynesworth, who is a couple years younger than Peppers, signed a contract that included $41 million in guaranteed money.

There's no chance I'd make that type of commitment to Peppers, who had 10.5 sacks for a bad Panthers team in '09. The Eagles spent roughly $30 million on defensive end Jevon Kearse before finally cutting their losses following the '07 season. Kearse was younger than Peppers when he arrived in Philly and he was an enormous disappointment even before a season-ending knee injury in 2006.

The ubiquitous scout turned broadcaster/writer Mike Lombardi has suggested the Eagles trading backup quarterback Kevin Kolb for Browns defensive tackle Shaun Rogers. And isn't a 31-year-old defensive tackle with a checkered past exactly what the Eagles need to finally win a Super Bowl?

No, I'm afraid there won't be a lot of shortcuts available in trying to catch up with Wade Phillips and the Cowboys. Andy Reid and his new boy wonder general manager Howie Roseman are going to have to close the gap via the draft. The Eagles have obviously hit big on offensive players such as DeSean Jackson, Brent Celek and Jeremy Maclin in recent drafts.

Now, they desperately need to rebuild a defense that seemed to become old and slow overnight. Or maybe you agree with Banner in that those two blowouts at the end of the season were an aberration.

Cowboys' Romo, Jenkins to play in Pro Bowl

January, 25, 2010
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Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and cornerback Mike Jenkins have been added to the NFC Pro Bowl roster. The Cowboys and Eagles now have a combined 18 players headed to Miami.

Some of the players in this year's Pro Bowl are pretty questionable, but Romo and Jenkins are both deserving. It will be Romo's third appearance in the game but 2009 was his best overall season in my opinion. I think Jenkins has had a better season than both Sheldon Brown and Terence Newman, the two players in front of him at cornerback.

Romo was added to the roster because Brett Favre has an ankle injury. And something tells me that's not the only body part hurting this afternoon.

Eagles taking over the Pro Bowl?

January, 21, 2010
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Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News has an information-filled blog item that I wanted to send in your direction. He notes that cornerback Sheldon Brown would be the next man up for the NFC Pro Bowl roster if one of the three players in front of him drops out. The Eagles already know that quarterback Donovan McNabb will be added to the roster, which gives them eight players in all.

Does that seem like a high number for a team that went belly up in its final two games? Absolutely. But of course the votes were tallied before those games were played. I thought Brown did an admirable job playing through injuries this season, but do you guys think he played better than Cowboys cornerback Mike Jenkins? I certainly don't.

Obviously, the Pro Bowl is a popularity contest. Once Jenkins earns his way onto the team, he'd have to play pretty poorly to miss out on subsequent trips. Terence Newman's been added to the roster, but I don't think anyone in Dallas would argue that he performed better than Jenkins this season.

Having players drop out of the Pro Bowl isn't uncommon, but because of the date change, I think we'll see more dropouts than usual this time around. And that's why the Eagles and Cowboys could combine to have 16 players in uniform for the game. Honestly, there's no perfect answer for the Pro Bowl. I would have no problem if the league decided to save some money and just stop having the game.

Players would be furious because many of them have contract incentives tied into the Pro Bowl. Would you guys be upset if you woke up one day and the Pro Bowl had been canceled -- forever?

Bowen also has some good stuff on Donovan McNabb and how some of his stats from this season aren't quite as impressive as some of us may have thought. He linked to an interesting statistical analysis on a blog called The Scouts Notebook.

In other news, Jerry Jones announced that Wade Phillips is one of the shrewdest talent evaluators around.

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