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Wednesday, January 12, 2011
What changes should Andy Reid make?

By Matt Mosley

I'm planning to take a look at the biggest offseason questions for the four teams in the division for my Thursday column. But let's get a head start with the NFC East's only playoff team.

Bob Ford of the Inquirer wonders whether the Eagles' playoff failures over the years should be blamed on Reid or an overall lack of talent. I've hit on this theme before that Reid has an arrogance that suggests he can win with his players or your players. He often comes back from his offseason self-scouting camp and concludes that a few personnel tweaks might get the job done. Last offseason was more dramatic than most because of the Donovan McNabb trade, but you can't say all the turnover on defense really amounted to much.

Andy Reid
Eagles coach Andy Reid may need to make some upgrades in the secondary.
"It is as if Reid believes he has the staff and the system capable of winning the Kentucky Derby with whatever plow horses wander into his stable," writes Ford. "You can get lucky with players sometimes, but it isn't how the NFL really works. Look at the team on the field Sunday against Green Bay. There were 10 starters among the 22 on offense and defense who entered the league either as undrafted free agents or seventh-round draft picks.

"There were seven starters among the 22 who entered the league as either first- or second-round picks, a number that includes both Ernie Sims and Winston Justice, one of whom is probably gone and one of whom wasn't a starter by the end of the game.

"The old basketball coaches always say, 'It's not the X's and the O's. It's the Jimmys and the Joes.' That's the case here. The Eagles aren't talented enough. Whether that is because the player personnel department hasn't done a good enough job of identifying and acquiring the talent, or whether the coaching staff hasn't done a good enough job of developing it is a fair question."

Ford concludes that a roster overhaul is needed for the Eagles to take the next step. I'm not sure the Eagles are in a position to make massive changes. They had 11 of their 13 rookies on the field at some point this season. And some of them -- Nate Allen, Brandon Graham, Kurt Coleman, Keenan Clayton -- showed a lot of promise. You expect that from Graham and Allen because of where they were taken in the draft (first and second rounds), but it seems like GM Howie Roseman has also done a nice job hitting on players in the later rounds. If you examined the New England Patriots' starters, I think you'd also find quite a few undrafted free agents and late-round picks. And you don't have to look further than quarterback for a good example.

The Eagles did not have enough quality depth at cornerback heading into the season, and that ultimately played a large role in their issues on that side of the ball. I still don't understand how and why they convinced themselves that Ellis Hobbs was a starter. He played poorly and then suffered a season-ending injury. And when Pro Bowler Asante Samuel was injured, the Eagles were left with Dimitri Patterson, Joselio Hanson and rookie Trevard Lindley receiving most of the reps.

I don't think the Eagles need to make the types of sweeping personnel changes that we saw last offseason, but they do need to zero in on some specific positions. And if that means spending some serious money on free agent cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, so be it.

I do think the Eagles' roster is in much better shape than it was at the end of '09. But that doesn't mean much when you keep losing in the wild-card round.