NFL Nation: Trevor Laws

PHOENIX -- The Seattle Seahawks and especially the San Francisco 49ers added to their 2013 NFL draft hauls Monday when the NFL awarded compensatory selections to offset net losses in free agency last year.

The 49ers received the 131st overall pick, a fourth-rounder, plus the 246th and 252nd choices, both in the seventh round. The Seahawks received the 241st and 242nd overall choices, also in the seventh round.

Teams cannot trade compensatory picks.

"Under the rules for compensatory draft selections, a team losing more or better compensatory free agents than it acquires in the previous year is eligible to receive compensatory draft picks," the NFL announced. "Compensatory free agents are determined by a formula based on salary, playing time and postseason honors. The formula was developed by the NFL Management Council. Not every free agent lost or signed by a club is covered by this formula."

The 49ers received compensatory choices because free-agent losses Blake Costanzo, Josh Morgan and Madieu Williams outweighed free-agent addition Mario Manningham according to the formula. The Seahawks received picks because free-agent losses Atari Bigby, John Carlson, David Hawthorne and Charlie Whitehurst outweighed free-agent additions Matt Flynn and Jason Jones.

I've put together lists below showing all unrestricted free agents added, lost and re-signed by NFC West teams last offseason.

Update: I've also made available for download an Excel file with tentative 2013 draft order, reflecting comp picks and known trades. This is unofficial. The league has not yet released the official order; additional trades could affect it.

The 49ers have a league-high 14 picks, including two picks in each of the second through fifth rounds. They're in prime position to stock their roster for the future.

By my accounting, the Cardinals hold the 7th, 38th, 69th, 103rd, 140th, 174th and 176th picks. The 49ers hold the 31st, 34th, 61st, 74th, 93rd, 128th, 131st, 157th, 164th, 180th, 227th, 237th, 246th and 252nd choices. The Seahawks hold the 56th, 87th, 123rd, 138th, 158th, 194th, 214th, 220th, 241st, and 242nd choices. The Rams hold the 16th, 22nd, 46th, 78th, 113th, 149th, 184th and 222nd picks.

Arizona Cardinals

Re-signed: D'Anthony Batiste, Mike Leach, Early Doucet, Jay Feely, Dave Zastudil
Added: Adam Snyder, William Gay, James Sanders, Quentin Groves
Lost: Richard Marshall, Sean Considine, Deuce Lutui

San Francisco 49ers

Re-signed: Tavares Gooden, Carlos Rogers, Alex Smith, Ted Ginn Jr.
Added: Mario Manningham, Rock Cartwright, Josh Johnson
Lost: Josh Morgan, Adam Snyder, Blake Costanzo, Reggie Smith, Madieu Williams, Chilo Rachal

Seattle Seahawks

Re-signed: Heath Farwell, Red Bryant, Paul McQuistan, Michael Robinson, Leroy Hill, Matt McCoy
Added: Matt Flynn, Jason Jones, Deuce Lutui, Barrett Ruud
Lost: John Carlson, Atari Bigby, Charlie Whitehurst, Tony Hargrove, David Hawthorne

St. Louis Rams

Re-signed: Kellen Clemens
Added: Cortland Finnegan, Kendall Langford, Scott Wells, Quinn Ojinnaka, Steve Smith, Robert Turner, Jo-Lonn Dunbar, William Hayes, Trevor Laws, Mario Haggan, Barry Richardson
Lost: Brandon Lloyd, Chris Chamberlain, Donnie Jones, Jacob Bell, Bryan Kehl, Gary Gibson

2013 UFA counts for NFC West teams

March, 12, 2013
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The NFL has released its official list of restricted and unrestricted free agents.

The chart breaks down the UFA counts by team in the NFC West.

A quick look at the lists, which include a couple players who have already reached agreement on new contracts:

Arizona Cardinals

UFA offense (4): D'Anthony Batiste, Pat McQuistan, Rich Ohrnberger, LaRod Stephens-Howling

UFA defense (8): Michael Adams, Nick Eason, Quentin Groves, Vonnie Holliday, Rashad Johnson, Paris Lenon, James Sanders, Greg Toler

RFA: Brian Hoyer, tendered to second-round pick.

Note: The Cardinals announced Johnson's agreement to a three-year contract.

St. Louis Rams

UFA offense (8): Danny Amendola, Kellen Clemens, Brandon Gibson, Steven Jackson, Barry Richardson, Steve Smith, Robert Turner, Chris Williams

UFA defense (6): Craig Dahl, Bradley Fletcher, Mario Haggan, William Hayes, Trevor Laws, Rocky McIntosh

RFA: Darian Stewart, tendered to right of first refusal.

Note: The Rams announced Hayes' agreement to a three-year contract.

San Francisco 49ers

UFA offense (4): Leonard Davis, Ted Ginn Jr., Randy Moss, Delanie Walker

UFA defense (6): Dashon Goldson, Tavares Gooden, Larry Grant, Clark Haggans, Ricky Jean-Francois, Isaac Sopoaga

RFA: Tramaine Brock, tendered to right of first refusal.

Note: Walker has reportedly agreed to terms on a contract with the Tennessee Titans.

Seattle Seahawks

UFA offense (2): Cameron Morrah, Frank Omiyale

UFA defense (5): Alan Branch, Patrick Chukwurah, Leroy Hill, Jason Jones, Marcus Trufant

UFA special teams (2): Steve Hauschka, Ryan Longwell

RFA: Clint Gresham and Chris Maragos, tendered to right of first refusal; and Clinton McDonald, tendered to seventh-round choice.

UFA market revisited: How NFC West fared

February, 28, 2013
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Those eagerly awaiting the start of NFL free agency March 12 with visions of your favorite team loading up on accomplished veterans should revisit the list of unrestricted free agents NFC West teams signed last season.

St. Louis, badly in need of a talent infusion following the worst five-year run in NFL history, opened its checkbook to sign a long list of veteran players, some of them at high cost.

That was the exception in the NFC West and I'd be surprised if St. Louis took a similarly aggressive approach this offseason. The Rams have stabilized their roster and positioned themselves to build around young talent.

With that in mind, I'll take a team-by-team look at the unrestricted free agents each NFC West team signed last offseason. UFAs are defined as veterans who reached the market when their contracts expired. Teams also acquired players by other means.

Arizona Cardinals

2012 UFA signings from other teams: cornerback William Gay, linebacker Quentin Groves, safety James Sanders and guard Adam Snyder

Comment: Gay started and played 93 percent of the defensive snaps as a replacement for Richard Marshall, who left in free agency. He wasn't a star, but the defense was solid. Gay gave Arizona the snaps it sought. Groves played 43 percent of snaps as a situational pass-rusher. The Cardinals needed him when an injury sidelined O'Brien Schofield. Sanders played 11 percent. Snyder started 14 games and played much of the season with an injury for a line that was among the NFL's least effective for much of the season. Arizona's young tackles made progress. I thought the team overspent for Snyder, a player San Francisco eagerly replaced with the undrafted Alex Boone, who provided a clear upgrade. Note that three of the four UFA additions last offseason played defense. Arizona needs to target offense this offseason. New coach Bruce Arians and new general manager Steve Keim have praised the existing talent. Arizona might not load up on free agents the way some teams do when new leadership takes over.

St. Louis Rams

2012 UFA signings from other teams: linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar, cornerback Cortland Finnegan, linebacker Mario Haggan, defensive end William Hayes, defensive tackle Kendall Langford, defensive lineman Trevor Laws, guard Quinn Ojinnaka, tackle Barry Richardson, receiver Steve Smith, center Robert Turner and center Scott Wells

Comment: The Rams were major players in the UFA market. Results were mostly positive. Finnegan gave the Rams the production and veteran presence they sought. He was instantly a playmaker for St. Louis. Dunbar was much better than I had anticipated and well worth his contract, which included a $1 million signing bonus and $1.5 million annual average. Hayes provided good depth on the defensive line, and at a reasonable cost ($900,000 for one year). Langford needed time to transition from the 3-4 scheme he ran previously in Miami. The Rams signed him after Jason Jones signed with Seattle instead. Injuries prevented Wells from stabilizing the offensive line, a major disappointment and a reminder of the risks associated with signing older players from other teams.

San Francisco 49ers

2012 UFA signings from other teams: fullback Rock Cartwright, quarterback Josh Johnson, receiver Mario Manningham

Comment: Does this look like a team poised to strike for Darrelle Revis in the trade market? Does this look like a team ready to throw around cash in free agency? Not based on the list of signings last offseason. The interest San Francisco showed in Peyton Manning doesn't apply here. Indianapolis released Manning. Manning was not a UFA. I'd put him in a separate category, anyway. Teams make exceptions for Hall of Fame quarterbacks. Back to the 2012 UFA list. Cartwright and Johnson never played for the team. Neither earned a spot on the 53-man roster. Both served a purpose by initially increasing competition at their positions. For example, Anthony Dixon moved fro halfback to fullback and became a more valuable player, including on special teams. Johnson provided early insurance, but in retrospect, Colin Kaepernick was obviously ready to serve in the No. 2 role before becoming the starter. Manningham provided sufficient value before a knee injury ended his season. The 49ers missed him late in the season, including during the Super Bowl.

Seattle Seahawks

2012 UFA signings from other teams: quarterback Matt Flynn, defensive lineman Jason Jones, guard Deuce Lutui and linebacker Barrett Ruud

Comment: Flynn would have started if Russell Wilson hadn't emerged unexpectedly as the clear choice. Seattle invested $6.5 million per year in Flynn, a sum the team could live with even if Flynn became the backup. It's tough to fault the Seahawks for signing Flynn. They had no idea Wilson would be available in the draft, or that Wilson would perform at such a high level so early in his career. Jones finished the season on injured reserve. That made it impossible for him to provide the interior pass-rushing push Seattle sought when signing him to a one-year deal worth $4.5 million. Lutui and Ruud never earned roster spots. Neither was a liability financially. Both were low-cost insurance policies. Seattle parlayed Ruud into a 2013 draft choice by trading him to New Orleans after the Saints lost Jonathan Vilma.
It will be lost in the specter of Peyton Manning’s arrival and Tim Tebow’s departure, the loss of Brodrick Bunkley is significant in Denver.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports Bunkley has signed a five-year, $25 million deal with the Saints with $9 million in guaranteed money. It is a pricey deal, but he’s a valuable player.

Many scouts thought Bunkley was a key to Denver’s defensive success last year. An underrated player, he was a major cog in the middle.

This is a blow for a defense that must continue to get better. The Broncos needed to add to the position even if they brought back Bunkley. Now, they need several additions to the spot. They need to bring back Marcus Thomas and make other additions. Among the free-agent defensive tackles available are Antonio Garay, Aubrayo Franklin, Trevor Laws and Pat Sims.

Expect Denver to take a defensive tackle (it’s a strong class) with the No. 25 pick. The last time Denver took a defensive tackle in the first round was in 1997 when they took Trevor Pryce. Meanwhile, the Broncos, who are in talks with several defensive free agents, need to continue to get the overall unit better.

The Eagles have ditched the blitz

November, 2, 2011
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The Philadelphia Eagles honored the late Jim Johnson, their longtime defensive coordinator, at halftime of Sunday night's victory over the Cowboys. But the way the Eagles play defense now is dramatically different from the way they played it under Johnson and the last two years for his successor, Sean McDermott. Jeff McLane writes of the conscious decision by Andy Reid and his defensive staff to move away from the blitz-heavy defenses of Eagles past and into a mode where their front four is responsible for pressuring quarterbacks:
All 22 of the Eagles' sacks this season -- they are fourth in the NFL in sacks per pass play -- have come from defensive linemen. Jason Babin has nine, Cullen Jenkins five, Trent Cole four, Darryl Tapp two, Trevor Laws one, and Mike Patterson one.

This was by design.

After firing McDermott in January, the first coaching move Andy Reid made was to lure defensive line coach Jim Washburn away from Tennessee. Washburn had said before that if a team has to blitz more than necessary, then its front four isn't doing its job.

A few weeks after Washburn was hired, Castillo was named coordinator. At an introductory news conference in February, it became clear that Castillo would adopt a more conservative approach than his predecessors.

Simplification was the buzz word.

"If you blitz all the time," Washburn said then, "you'll get killed."

There was a lot of talk in the Eagles' locker room late Sunday night about how they all expected it to take time for all of the new players and all of the new coaches to get together on the same page in the new defensive system. There was a lot of change in the offseason and a lot asked of a lot of people in a short period of time. But in Sunday night's game, everything the Eagles wanted to do on defense (and on offense, for that matter) seemed to work. One of the keys has been the ability of the coaching staff to get the players to continue buying into the new ideas even when they weren't working and the team was losing four games in a row.

The Eagles beefed up on the defensive line in the offseason because, if you're going to rely on your front four to create pressure, you need to have a great front four. The talent and depth they acquired with guys like Jenkins and Babin allow them to put Washburn's theories into practice. You may still see the Eagles blitz every now and then, but when they do it's going to be to throw a changeup. It's no longer the basis of their defensive philosophy. This would seem a far more efficient way of doing things. Time will tell if the Eagles can make it an effective one long-term.

Observation deck: Eagles-Jets

September, 2, 2011
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The Philadelphia Eagles used only one offensive starter in their final preseason game, a meaningless 24-14 victory over the New York Jets, and so I thought I'd focus on him. He was Danny Watkins, the first-round pick out of Baylor and the Eagles' starting right guard. He played about 20 snaps against backup Jets defenders, looked good on some, looked lost on others, and I came away with no idea how prepared he is to help protect Michael Vick once the real games begin.

The good: Watkins generally looks strong enough to hold his blocks once he gets his hands on his man. He got good second-level push on one of Dion Lewis' runs on the second offensive series of the game. And he did an excellent job getting down field to make a block on a defensive back on the screen pass to Lewis on the play right before the Eagles' first touchdown. (Oddly, he appeared to be beaten on the touchdown play, but it didn't matter since Vince Young made the throw before the pressure got there.)

The not-so-good: There was a three-play sequence on the first offensive series where he looked very much like a rookie. On the first, his man beat him to the outside and got into the backfield. On the next play, he made some progress into the second level, as Howard Mudd is trying to teach his linemen to do, but got knocked to the ground quickly. And then on the next, he was kind of swimming around in the crowd, blocking no one and looking as though he didn't know where he was supposed to be. Two plays later, he failed to pick up a blitzing Aaron Maybin, who got to Young but was unable to sack him because he's Aaron Maybin and so Young completed the pass anyway.

Watkins is a rookie who didn't have an offseason, and as such he's a work in progress. He'll almost certainly be better by Week 4 and Week 9 and Week 17 than he will be in Week 1. The key is that he has to be good enough, consistently, from play to play, to keep Vick from getting crushed and help the Eagles' offense put points on the board early in the season. Because the Eagles are one of these teams, due to the offseason they had, that can't afford to get off to a slow start unless they're happy with the whole world jumping on their backs about it.

Anyway, some more stuff I saw in the Eagles' final preseason game:

1. Dion Lewis! Oh, I don't have any idea how much he can expect to play -- if at all -- in an Eagles offense that features as many dynamic options as it does. He's the No. 3 running back behind LeSean McCoy and Ronnie Brown in an offense that passes more than it runs. So we might not hear much more from him the rest of the year unless they're going to use him on kick returns as they did Thursday. But if we do, man, is he fun to watch. Good burst at the line. Doesn't need much of a hole to squeeze himself through. Fast. Shifty. Patient. Balanced. Tough to bring down. Yeah, against second-teamers. But he's got some obvious skills, and should be a nice option for the Eagles if they suffer an injury or two at that position.

2. Vince Young is the backup quarterback, and a very good one. The idea that Mike Kafka could beat out Young for the backup quarterback spot was rooted in the idea that Young would take a long time to learn the West Coast offense. And Young may not have it all down yet. But he looks more advanced by leaps and bounds than he did in the first preseason game and in the early training camp practices. And his pure athletic ability and experience as a quarterback making throws in the NFL puts him well ahead of Kafka in terms of being a guy the Eagles can put in, should Vick get hurt, and ask him to win them a game. Young did end up leaving this game with a hamstring injury (on a play that wouldn't have happened but for a botched field goal snap on the play before, incidentally), and Kafka with a rib injury, so there's no way to know what the depth chart looks like at quarterback for the opener. But if everyone's healthy, what Andy Reid said after the game about Young being the backup sounds obvious at this point.

3. Defensive backups. Linebacker Brian Rolle looked good, and defensive lineman Trevor Laws had some nice moments after missing the bulk of the preseason due to injury. Defensive end Phillip Hunt also had a sack, and he's an interesting guy as cuts loom, because he made a big-time name for himself in the CFL and is someone who obviously knows how to play the game and the position. But he's so small for his position that you wonder if he can have any impact at all in a real game against first-team offensive linemen. Hunt has been very good this preseason, but nothing is assured for him yet. The Eagles have to decide if his playmaking ability outweighs his measurables.

4. Alex Henery doesn't look great. And hasn't all month. And you do wonder if going with a rookie kicker is the wisest move in the world for a team with expectations as high as the Eagles' expectations are. Henery missed his first field goal attempt of the night -- a 43-yarder -- very badly. He made a 49-yarder late in the game, which is fine. But there's no doubt he can make a kick from almost any distance. What the Eagles would like to know about him is whether he's reliable enough to make every kick they need him to make. And the first-quarter miss is the kind of thing that makes you wonder. On the plus side, rookie punter Chas Henry looks excellent.

Anyway, four games, none of which mattered, and now the Eagles have a week and a couple of days before they need to beat the Rams in St. Louis or everybody starts yelling that the sky is falling. The spotlight -- and the bulls-eye -- will be on this team all year, and fun time is over.
BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- Call Andy Reid impatient if you want, but like most NFL coaches, the Philadelphia Eagles' head coach is no great fan of the walk-through practices that have taken the place of what used to be the second of his two training camp practices per day.

[+] EnlargeAndy Reid
Jim O'Connor/US PresswireHead coach Andy Reid enters the season with a roster full of Pro Bowlers and high expectations.
"It's like being stopped at a red light with a bunch of cars in front of you," Reid told me after Friday's walk-through. "You want to just hurry up and get where you're going, but there's nothing you can do about it."

The Eagles, you see, have big plans. Reid is in his 13th season as their coach, and although the first 12 have been mostly excellent, each has ended without a Super Bowl ring. The team's urge to change that this season is obvious and inescapable. It's on the ever-shifting roster, which added five Pro Bowlers during a wild first week of free agency that made the Eagles the talk of the league. It's in the eyes of quarterback Michael Vick, who knows last season proved he was good enough to deliver and therefore ratcheted up the pressure to do just that. It's all over the high-energy practices that have featured fights and trash-talking worthy of a Week 16 division matchup. The Eagles know what's at stake and what they must do, and they're eager to get to it.

"This town wants a Super Bowl," linebacker Jamar Chaney told me, referring of course to Philadelphia, not Bethlehem. "The Phillies win. The Flyers win. They want the Eagles to do the same thing. And not just win, like, have a good season. They want you to win a Super Bowl."

The players and coaches hear the fans and would like them to know they feel the same way. Juan Castillo, who's in his first season as defensive coordinator after 13 as the team's offensive line coach, has a cut just above his nose from where he actually head-butted linebacker Keenan Clayton while yelling at Clayton to make a point during practice last week. Yeah, Clayton was still wearing his helmet. Yeah, Castillo wants this pretty badly.

"Coach Reid has been to the playoffs nine out of 12 years," Castillo said. "That's tradition, but it's not good enough. Before we finish here, we want to win the Super Bowl. Because we don't want to be sitting around when we get older, watching ESPN and having them talk about how we were so close and we never got it done."

So yeah. If it's not too much trouble, the Eagles would like to get this thing going as soon as possible.

THREE HOT ISSUES

[+] EnlargeNnamdi Asomugha
Howard Smith/US PresswireThe addition of Nnamdi Asomugha, 24, gives the Eagles three starting-caliber cornerbacks.
1. Can you have too many cornerbacks? When the Eagles signed Nnamdi Asomugha the day after acquiring Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and they already had Asante Samuel, the first question everybody asked was whether they'd keep all three excellent cornerbacks. The answer, to this point, seems to be yes. Rodgers-Cromartie has made it clear he doesn't mind sitting behind either of the other two, and Asomugha has made it clear that he's happy to play slot corner when all three are on the field if the other two would prefer to play outside. So although there was some early talk about possibly dealing Samuel (and that remains a possibility if somebody blows them away with a great offer), the odds favor the Eagles' keeping all three and just making triple-sure that all the receivers they play against are covered.

2. Will Vick have his receivers? As exciting as things have been during the early practices, you can't escape that Vick is throwing to second-string and third-string receivers. Sure, Jason Avant has looked like a star. But he's supposed to be the No. 3 wideout behind DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. Jackson just showed up Monday after missing the first week-plus in a contract dispute. Maclin has been in camp for a week but has yet to practice as he continues to recover from an illness that neither he nor the team will discuss. If the team can't get Jackson happy and Maclin healthy soon, their top two receivers run the risk of starting the season behind or maybe not on the roster. No matter how many new defensive players they've signed, that would be impossible to overcome.

3. Who are the linebackers? The Eagles have beefed up on the defensive line and in the secondary. They've even added a couple of starters on the offensive line and Pro Bowl backups at quarterback and running back. But they did nothing at linebacker except allow Stewart Bradley to leave via free agency. That means rookie Casey Matthews, the team's fourth-round pick in April's draft, is currently the starting middle linebacker with Chaney and Moise Fokou on the outside. The coaches have been saying very nice things about Matthews, but no pre-draft projection I know of had him as a 2011 starter -- especially on a team that expects to win the Super Bowl. Don't be surprised if the Eagles bring in a veteran to add a little depth and/or experience at the position. Matthews could start Week 1, but it's hard to imagine that the Eagles don't have a backup plan.

D-LINING THEM UP

[+] EnlargeTrent Cole
Howard Smith/US PresswireNew defensive line coach Jim Washburn, left, brings an attacking style that end Trent Cole, right, is excited about.
For all the talk about the rotation at cornerback, the Eagles have put together remarkable depth on the defensive line as well. New defensive line coach Jim Washburn has been using Trent Cole and Juqua Parker as his starting defensive ends in early practices, with newcomers Cullen Jenkins and Anthony Hargrove at the defensive tackle spots. But one would have to think that Antonio Dixon, who has been missing practice with a knee injury, would start in Hargrove's place if healthy, which means Hargrove would join newly signed defensive end Jason Babin on the second-team defensive line. Add in Trevor Laws, Darryl Tapp and, if healthy, Mike Patterson, and Washburn has plenty of options on a line that will have a different mission this year than it has in recent seasons. "We used to do a lot of reading, and now we're attacking, getting after the ball a lot," Cole told me. "Go to the ball every time, get the quarterback every time. I think they took a lot of the thinking out of it. Just go play ball."

O-LINING THEM UP

The offensive line also has a new coach in Howard Mudd, and he has changed the way they play line on that side of the ball, too. "It's a whole new thought of blocking your man," guard Todd Herremans told me. "Instead of meeting him at a spot, you're going to get to them before they get to that spot. It's more of an aggressive approach." Herremans said he's working on changing his ways, and left tackle Jason Peters and center Jamaal Jackson must as well. Rookie right guard Danny Watkins and right tackle Ryan Harris are new, and rookie Jason Kelce could wrest the starting center spot from Jackson. So there's a lot going on with the offensive line, and it bears watching, because keeping Vick healthy is probably the key to the entire Eagles season.

OBSERVATION DECK

  • Assuming Nate Allen's knee is healthy, he'll start at one safety spot, but it'll be interesting to see how the other one shakes out. It looks as though the Eagles would like to give rookie Jaiquawn Jarrett a chance to start, but it's tough to evaluate Jarrett during practices that don't allow hard hitting, because that's his thing. Also in the mix are Kurt Coleman, Marlin Jackson and newly signed veteran Jarrad Page.
  • As many weapons as the Eagles already have on offense, and as good as Brent Celek is, it'd be easy to overlook the signing of tight end Donald Lee. But when I was there, they were lining Lee up one-on-one with defensive ends like Babin and having him block them without help. He did a pretty good job, and if you're wondering how he might be deployed, that could be your answer.
  • Vince Young looks very much like a quarterback with a lot to learn about his new team's offense. So much so, in fact, that you wonder whether Young or Mike Kafka would be the starter if Vick were to suffer an injury early in the season.
  • Fourth-round draft pick Alex Henery has a great big leg. But after all the work they did in free agency and everything that's riding on this season, it does seem a little odd for the Eagles to potentially leave the outcome of a big game in the hands (or on the foot) of a rookie place-kicker.
  • Chaney played middle linebacker last season when Bradley was hurt. And when you ask which he'd prefer, he answers that he'd rather be back there than outside. But the Eagles think that his speed is his greatest asset and that having him on the strong side makes the best use of that. He could be the middle linebacker of the future or a fall-back option if Matthews can't handle it. But right now they appear to prefer him on the outside.
BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- Big Saturday morning crowd here at Lehigh, and they were treated to quite a show as the Philadelphia Eagles offered one of the more spirited training camp practices I've seen.

One of the highlights came late in the practice when defensive end Darryl Tapp jumped, deflected a Mike Kafka pass into the air, caught it and ran it back about 70 yards for a touchdown. The play was good enough on its own to be a highlight, but what really made it memorable was the sight of a red-shirted Michael Vick racing off the sideline and chasing Tapp to the end zone.

"I saw him out of the corner of my eye and thought, 'I'd better run'," Tapp said. "He's ... a little bit faster than I am."

[+] EnlargeDanny Watkins and Moise Fokou
AP Photo/Alex BrandonThere were a few scuffles at Eagles practice Saturday, including one involving Danny Watkins and Moise Fokou.
It was that kind of high-energy day for the Eagles. The sun hid behind clouds and kept the heat at bay, so the practice ran long and no one seemed to tire out. There were three fights (all quickly broken up, one by hyperenthusiastic defensive coordinator Juan Castillo), several circus catches, plenty of patented Asante Samuel trash-talking and an especially bouncy performance by newly signed defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove, who practiced as if he'd had four extra cups of coffee before taking the field.

"I don't know what happened out there today," Vick said. "Just something in the air, I think. Just one of those days where, on both sides of the ball, we were like, 'We're going to win every down,' and guys played that way."

A couple of thoughts:

  • Vick was goofing off when he ran after Tapp, obviously, but when he was at quarterback he looked absolutely stellar, threading throws into tight spots, picking up blitzes and staying confidently in the pocket and behind the line of scrimmage rather than taking off for runs. Considering the receivers to whom he's throwing (i.e., not DeSean Jackson or Jeremy Maclin) and who's covering them (i.e. Samuel, Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie), Vick's practice performance Saturday was extremely impressive.
  • Asomugha missed the latter part of practice with a calf injury that both he and the team said wasn't serious. Other injury absences included Nate Allen, who missed the practice with a knee injury, Trevor Laws, who has a hip injury, and Marlin Jackson, whose groin is hurt.
  • There were a couple of offensive sets on which the tight end was assigned to block a defensive end one-on-one. Donald Lee held his own against Jason Babin when called upon to do that. Brent Celek did not fare as well in his attempts to handle Babin, who is another of the high-energy fellows.
  • Howard Mudd seems still to be tinkering with the starting lineup on the offensive line. Ryan Harris played right tackle with the first team Saturday, while rookie Jason Kelce more or less split first-team reps with Jamaal Jackson at center. No reason yet to think Kelce is a threat to Jackson's job, but it bears watching. Rookie Danny Watkins is taking reps with the first and second teams at right guard because he's sure to be the starter there and they want to get him up to speed after a spring and summer that featured no OTAs or minicamps.
  • Vince Young is learning, and it appears he has a ways to go before he knows the offense. But Marty Mornhinweg coached Vick to excellence from a backup role, and the Eagles and Young feel it's worth the shot to see if the same can happen for him.
  • Jason Avant, whose one-handed touchdown catch with Asomugha draped all over him was one of the practice's highlights, said he's not worried about the time that Jackson (holdout) and Maclin (undisclosed illness) are missing. "Those guys know the playbook like the back of their hand," Avant said. "As soon as they're back, they'll jump right in without any problem."

I'll have more on the Eagles in the coming days, as my notebook and recorder are loaded. Much of it will appear in the Eagles edition of "Camp Confidental," which is currently scheduled for Monday. It looks as though my next stop will be Giants camp either Sunday or Monday. I'll keep you posted.
Power Rankings Linebackers ESPN.com IllustrationSan Francisco's Patrick Willis ran away from the field in our voting for the NFL's best linebacker.
ESPN.com’s NFL writers rank the top 10 linebackers in the league today. Next week: Top 10 cornerbacks.

San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis beat out a strong and diverse field for top billing in ESPN.com's latest positional power rankings.

All eight panelists ranked Willis among their top three, elevating the 26-year-old perennial Pro Bowler above James Harrison and DeMarcus Ware as our No. 1 linebacker in the NFL.

Even 12-time Pro Bowler Ray Lewis, the dominant linebacker of his era, pointed to Willis as a worthy successor to his undisputed reign. Not that Lewis is finished just yet. He placed fifth in the rankings behind Willis, Harrison, Ware and the Green Bay Packers' Clay Matthews. But there was no more complete linebacker than Willis.

"Nobody in the NFL plays their position better than Patrick Willis, and that is saying a lot," said Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc., whose insights helped shape my ballot. "He is as good a linebacker as Peyton Manning is a quarterback, as Andre Johnson is a receiver, as Adrian Peterson is a running back. He has no weaknesses."

Willis, a three-time Associated Press All-Pro first-team selection, is the first 49ers player since Ronnie Lott to earn Pro Bowl honors in each of his first four seasons. Joe Thomas and Peterson are the only other 2007 draft choices with four Pro Bowls.

Apples and oranges: Comparing linebackers from 3-4 schemes to their 4-3 counterparts proved problematic for some panelists. AFC East blogger Tim Graham ranked Ware first among pass-rushers three weeks ago, but only ninth among linebackers.

"Patrick Willis, Brian Urlacher and Ray Lewis would be great linebackers in a 3-4 or a 4-3," Graham explained. "DeMarcus Ware and Cameron Wake might not even be linebackers if they played in Indianapolis, Tennessee or Minnesota. At some point, I had to value elite pass-rushing abilities on my list even though those players aren't universal-type linebackers."

There was room for differing views. ESPN.com's John Clayton and AFC North blogger James Walker ranked Ware first among linebackers and first among pass-rushers. AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky ranked Ware first among linebackers and second among pass-rushers.

"Separating Ware, Willis and Harrison is like splitting hairs, because it really depends on what you want in a linebacker," said Walker, who went with Ware, Willis and Harrison atop his ballot. "Ware is a slightly better pass-rusher than Harrison, and Willis is a future Hall of Famer in his prime. Age also has to be a consideration if you’re building a defense, and Harrison will be 33 in May. But they're all great."

First things first: Graham and NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert joined me in ranking Willis first. AFC West blogger Bill Williamson had Willis second only to Harrison.

"When I think of linebacker play in the current day, James Harrison pops out," Bill Williamson said. "I think he’s the gold standard of complete linebacker play. Look at his signature play in the Super Bowl against Arizona. That play will forever be part of NFL lore. Patrick Willis, who is also a great player, doesn’t have that play on his résumé. Plus, Harrison is an ornery cuss on the field. The man was born to be a 'backer."

Willis can't match Harrison in Super Bowl memories -- he could use a quarterback, for starters -- but he's not hurting for signature plays:
Lewis pointed to Willis when ESPN's Dana Jacobson recently asked him which young linebacker reminded Lewis of himself.

"I just love the way he plays the game," Lewis said. "He plays the game with a fire. He reminds me of myself -- a lot, a lot, a lot."

Unanimous decisions: The top five finishers received votes from all eight panelists. The gaps between highest and lowest votes fell between four and seven places for all but Willis, who ranked no lower than third.

Seifert ranked Lewis third. I had Lewis 10th and feared I might be measuring him against himself. No list of top linebackers would be complete without him, I thought, but a younger generation is taking over.

Hugs for Suggs: Lewis' teammate, Terrell Suggs, finished just out of our top 10 despite getting a No. 5 ranking from Kuharsky.

[+] EnlargePatrick Willis
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswirePatrick Willis has averaged nearly 149 tackles per season since joining the league in 2007.
"I unabashedly love Suggs, and frankly would have placed him higher if I thought there was any way he needed help to crack the top 10," Kuharsky said. "To me, there is a great deal of subjectivity in ranking this position when mixing guys from 4-3s and 3-4s, so I did a lot of know-them-when-I-see-them ranking. Suggs is absolutely a top-10 guy to me."

Clayton, Seifert, Graham and I did not list Suggs on our ballots while searching for the right mix of 3-4 and 4-3 talent.

Fit to be tied: The players tied for ninth on our list illustrate the varied criteria for the position. Kansas City's Tamba Hali is a pure pass-rusher in the Chiefs' 3-4 defense. Carolina's Jon Beason is a traditional 4-3 linebacker with the versatility to play multiple spots. He changed positions twice in 2010.

Beason peaked at No. 5 on my ballot. NFC South blogger Pat Yasinskas had Beason sixth and considered ranking him higher.

"There was a time when I would have ranked Beason in the same echelon as Willis," Yasinskas said. "I think he has a chance to re-emerge if Carolina can put a better team on the field, particularly by getting better at defensive tackle and keeping blockers off Beason. If that happens, I think Beason can be as good as any linebacker in the league."

Youth on his side: New England's Jerod Mayo appeared on six of eight ballots, ranking sixth overall between Lewis and Urlacher. At 25, Mayo was one of two linebackers younger than Willis to earn a spot among the top 10. Matthews, 24, was the other. Graham ranked Mayo third.

"Nose tackle Vince Wilfork might be the anchor of the Patriots' defense, but Mayo is the one who ties their defense together," Graham said. "Mayo is a tackling machine who compensates for shortcomings at outside linebacker and injuries along the defensive line. He would be a star in any system."

On an island: Four linebackers received a single vote. That list featured Brian Orakpo (Clayton), Lance Briggs (Seifert), London Fletcher (Walker) and Wake (Graham).

Best doesn't mean most valuable: Matt Williamson called linebacker the toughest position to evaluate. I'll close by passing along a few of his thoughts:

  • "Willis is so exceptional it would be a coin flip with Ware. Willis has no weaknesses, but if I were a general manager, I would take Ware because pass-rushers are so hard to find. You can get away with a C-level middle linebacker and still have a good defense. You can have a two-down run-stopper and pull him out in nickel."
  • "Ray Lewis would not be in my top five at this point. For his age, he is still exceptional and a borderline Pro Bowler, but he doesn't run like he did. I remember when I was with the Browns, I looked at every report the team had written since 1999 and Lewis had the highest grade ever given out. He was nearly perfect."
  • "Hali is a one-trick pony, a pass-rusher, but he is great at it -- as good as any pass-rusher in the league."
  • "Beason is like Patrick Willis, but he is 95 percent of him. He can play outside, inside, he's smart -- but there is so little around him that people don't realize how good he is."
  • "Pass rushing is Clay Matthews' greatest gift, but he is the prototypical outside linebacker. He's a great technician and way more explosive and athletic than people realize. He's good in coverage, not great, but they line him up all over."
  • "London Fletcher is underrated, but not in this conversation. How Beason is to Willis, Fletcher is to Lewis. He is smaller and slower than Lewis, good among older guys."
  • "Brian Urlacher is still a really good player, but the top 10 might be a stretch. I would take him ahead of Lewis, behind Beason and Willis among 'Mike' 'backers. He is good in coverage. People forget that he was a safety at New Mexico. He doesn't run like he used to and is just not as dynamic as he was in the day."
  • "The Steelers have the best linebackers in the league. LaMarr Woodley is very strong and in that conversation too. Definitely top 15. Harrison is great against the run, extremely strong and one of the few linebackers in the league that is a difference-maker from an attitude standpoint. He brings attitude to the table like a Jack Lambert or a Dick Butkus or a Ray Lewis type. He is feared. He is one of the best leverage players in the league, great in pursuit, tenacious as hell. The other guy to know about is Lawrence Timmons. He will be spectacular."

It's official: Eagles stars will ride pine

January, 2, 2011
1/02/11
2:58
PM ET
I just had a look at the Philadelphia Eagles' inactives list, and it's a star-studded cast: Running back LeSean McCoy, right tackle Winston Justice, wide receiver DeSean Jackson, defensive end Trent Cole, defensive tackle Trevor Laws, middle linebacker Stewart Bradley, cornerback Asante Samuel and quarterback Michael Vick will all be in street clothes for today's game against the Dallas Cowboys.

Tight end Brent Celek and receiver Jeremy Maclin will be quarterback Kevin Kolb's best options -- if they take the field. It will be interesting to watch running back Jerome Harrison in a feature role. I'm sure he and Eldra Buckley will get plenty of touches.

Wrap-up: Eagles 34, Texans 24

December, 3, 2010
12/03/10
12:37
AM ET
The Eagles coughed up a 20-10 halftime lead, but quarterback Michael Vick led them to a 34-24 comeback win in the fourth quarter Thursday night. Let's take a closer look at how it happened:

What it means: The Eagles are in sole possession of first in the NFC East (at least until Sunday afternoon). Philadelphia (8-4), which plays at Dallas in 10 days, will have a great opportunity to be 9-4 when it faces the Giants in two weeks. It was a gut check for the Eagles after they dominated much of the first half. The Texans came roaring back to take a 24-20 lead, but Vick calmly led a touchdown drive early in the fourth quarter. He took way too many hits in the first half, but he managed to stay on his feet and make some huge plays down the stretch. Vick threw for 302 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He also ran for a touchdown. I'm still not sure why Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg allowed Vick to take so much punishment. They could've run the ball more in this game, but that's nothing new.

The real McCoy: Eagles running back LeSean McCoy was too much for the Texans to handle in the open field. He had eight catches for 86 yards and destroyed Houston in the screen game. The Texans dropped seven players back in coverage, but none of them could tackle McCoy in space. He added 44 rushing yards on 12 carries, but he did most of his damage in the passing game. He has become one of the best pass-catching backs in the league. It looked like the Texans weren't adequately prepared for his quickness. It was just a brilliant performance by McCoy, who reminds me a lot of Brian Westbrook when he gets in the open field. He makes defenders look really bad.

A huge play by Brent Celek: Clinging to a 27-24 lead with 6:36 left, the Eagles faced a third-and-19 from Houston's 24-yard line. Vick threw a short pass to Celek, who was ruled down after an 18-yard gain. Replays showed that he was able to whip his body around and reach past the first-down marker, and Celek campaigned for Reid to throw the challenge flag. Reid, not known for his game management skills, wisely let the clock tick before challenging. The Eagles won the challenge and scored two plays later on a 5-yard touchdown pass to Owen Schmitt.

The drive: The Texans put together a 13-play, 86-yard scoring drive in the third quarter to take a 24-20 lead. But after a ridiculous squib kick by Neil Rackers, the Eagles had good field position at their 40-yard line. (Were the Texans scared of Jorrick Calvin?) Vick quickly hit DeSean Jackson on a gorgeous 33-yard pass that set up the go-ahead touchdown early in the fourth quarter. Jackson finished with three catches for 84 yards, and something tells me he won't get chewed out by Reid following this performance. He and Vick connected on the Eagles' first play from scrimmage, setting the tone for the offense. Philadelphia scored on its first three possessions and it was 2-of-4 in the red zone in the first half, a big improvement over the past two weeks.

Laws makes a nice grab: Texans quarterback Matt Schaub tried to dump the ball to Arian Foster late in the first half, but Eagles defensive tackle Trevor Laws reached up and snagged the ball for an impressive interception deep in Houston territory. The Eagles settled for a field goal and a 20-10 halftime lead. It was the first takeaway of Laws' NFL career.

Allen was exhumed from the goal line: The Eagles did a fairly nice job on Texans running back Arian Foster, but he ran over rookie Nate Allen on a touchdown reception in the third quarter that trimmed the Eagles' lead to 20-17. It looked like something Herschel Walker would've done to a defensive back (Bill Bates, anyone?) when he was at Georgia, and Allen had to be a bit embarrassed.

What's next: The Eagles will get an extended break before heading to Dallas for a Sunday night game. I'm sure Reid will give the Eagles Friday through Sunday off . That should give them a chance to finish strongly. There's a decent chance the Eagles and Giants will be 9-4 when they play in two weeks, setting up a great Dec. 19 matchup at New Meadowlands Stadium.

Draft Watch: NFC East

March, 10, 2010
3/10/10
12:00
PM ET
» NFC Recent History: 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: Recent history.

Dallas Cowboys

One of the reasons the Cowboys don't have any glaring needs (other than place-kicker) is that they hit on some picks in '07 and '08. And of course, you can't discount what Bill Parcells and Jeff Ireland accomplished in stocking this team with talent from 2003 to 2006. Owner Jerry Jones has spent a lot of his money on defense, and in the first round in '07 he turned to Purdue outside linebacker Anthony Spencer, who was brilliant down the stretch in '09. In 2008, the Cowboys found a running back and a cornerback in the first round. Felix Jones and Mike Jenkins could both be stars in the league for years. Because of the Roy Williams trade in '08, the '09 draft was pretty much a wash. The Cowboys tried to land special-teams standouts who could hopefully play their way into larger roles. Other than kickoff specialist David Buehler, the '09 draft is still a mystery. With the 27th pick in next month's draft, the Cowboys don't have to reach for any position. I know they're hoping to see a couple of cornerbacks slip in the first round and it would be nice to add a linebacker. But there are no glaring needs heading into the draft, and that puts Dallas in an enviable position. But if you study trends over the past seven years or so, you'd have to expect the Cowboys to go with a defensive player in the first round.

New York Giants

The Giants can't rest on their laurels of that outstanding class of '07. When you land a quality running back such as Ahmad Bradshaw in the seventh round, you're on a roll. And general manager Jerry Reese will always be remembered for a class that included Aaron Ross, Steve Smith and Kevin Boss. It was an immediate impact draft, and the Giants need another one in April. In '08, the Giants took a safety and cornerback with their first two picks. Safety Kenny Phillips out of Miami has the talent to become a Pro Bowler if he can recover from a serious knee injury, and cornerback Terrell Thomas was one of the few defenders who played well in '08. The Giants selected wide receiver Mario Manningham in the third round, but the '08 draft was about creating depth on defense. It's hard to nail down a trend with Reese and his scouting staff because they're pretty patient about waiting for the right players. They rarely get obsessed with a certain position, although linebacker is certainly a big need in April. I expect the Giants to stay right where they are at No. 15 and select a talented player. But I promise you that Reese hasn't committed to taking a linebacker.

Philadelphia Eagles

In the 2007 draft, the Eagles drafted their future (presumably) quarterback in Kevin Kolb. Then they landed starting middle linebacker Stewart Bradley in the third round and superb tight end Brent Celek in the fifth. Defensive end Victor Abiamiri has never really lived up to his second-round status and running back Tony Hunt was an outright bust from the start. The Eagles tried to bolster their defensive line in '08, but Trevor Laws has been a disappointment and Bryan Smith is nowhere to be found. The draft was saved by a wide receiver out of Cal named DeSean Jackson. He's become one of the most feared offensive players in the game. The Eagles continued to covet speed and quickness on offense in '09 by drafting wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy. They also hit on late-round pick Moise Fokou, who could emerge as an outstanding special-teams player -- if he'll stop getting penalties. The Eagles haven't done enough in the draft to bolster their secondary over the past three years. It's time to start drafting cornerbacks and safeties a little earlier. Macho Harris and Quintin Demps have been decent finds, but you can't just throw them out there as starters. It's time for the Eagles to use premium picks on the defensive side of the ball if they want to close the gap with the Cowboys. To be clear, it's time to find someone who can cover Jason Witten and Miles Austin.

Washington Redskins

With new coach Mike Shanahan and general manager Bruce Allen, this organization is headed in a different direction. We haven't seen any of the splashy moves in free agency that owner Dan Snyder loved. In the past, the Redskins rarely had a lot of picks in the draft. They took safety LaRon Landry in '07, but he's never really met expectations. He obviously has a lot of physical gifts but his habit of biting on double moves gets the Skins in big trouble. In '08, Snyder and Vinny Cerrato turned to the offensive side of the ball and spent their three second-round picks on two receivers and a tight end. The verdict's still out on the '08 draft, but tight end Fred Davis emerged as a consistent threat when Chris Cooley was injured last season. And Devin Thomas has rare speed and quickness as a wideout. Now, he needs to continue showing maturity. With the addition of pass-rusher Brian Orakpo in '09, the Redskins landed a Pro Bowl player. Now it's time to start drafting offensive and defensive linemen. That's the trend that stands out over the past decade. The Redskins didn't build in the trenches, and they've paid the price. With the No. 4 pick, Shanahan will be tempted to take a left tackle. Especially if Sam Bradford's already gone. And it's hard to go wrong with either Russell Okung or Bryan Bulaga.

Draft Watch: NFC East

February, 24, 2010
2/24/10
2:00
PM ET
» NFC Busts/Gems: 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: Busts and late-round gems.

Dallas Cowboys

From a bust standpoint, let me offer up the '09 draft class. But that's not completely fair because the class was pretty much wiped out by injuries last season. The one unquestionable gem is USC kickoff specialist David Buehler. Some of us laughed when the Cowboys spent a sixth-round pick on a player who wasn't supposed to compete for the place-kicking job. But Buehler led the league in touchbacks and participated on the punt and kick return units. Another gem is 2008 fourth-round pick Tashard Choice. When offensive coordinator Jason Garrett has gotten him on the field, Choice has produced in a big way. In 2008, he appeared to be the most complete back on the roster at times. From a bust standpoint, go back to the '07 draft and look at third-round pick James Marten out of Boston College. You could tell pretty quickly that Marten wasn't a player. And in the fourth round of that same draft, the Cowboys got cute in taking former University of Washington quarterback Isaiah Stanback to play wide receiver. Stanback was a shoulder injury waiting to happen and he didn't take advantage of numerous opportunities.

New York Giants

They'll be talking about the '07 draft for years. The Giants have four starters from that class and they found the ultimate gem in seventh-rounder Ahmad Bradshaw. The former Marshall running back had some off-the-field issues that caused him to plummet in the draft, but he was a valuable part of the Giants' march to the Super Bowl in '07. The Giants also landed cornerback Aaron Ross (first), wide receiver Steve Smith (second) and tight end Kevin Boss (fifth) in that draft. And don't forget about starting safety Michael Johnson (seventh). That's the draft that put new general manager Jerry Reese on the map. In '08, the Giants were able to land starting safety Kenny Phillips late in the first round and Terrell Thomas late in the second. Phillips appeared to be on his way to stardom but a season-ending knee injury in '09 has tempered those expectations. Thomas was forced into a starting position in '09 and performed admirably. We're still waiting to find out what mid-round picks Bryan Kehl and Jonathan Goff turn out to be. Those guys aren't really gems or busts. The verdict's still out on 2009 second-round pick Clint Sintim. Certainly not a bust, but he needs to show something this season. And for all the time we spent bragging on Cal Poly wide receiver Ramses Barden, the guy couldn't get on the field. If he can't get on the field in 2010, he'll be trending toward bust status. North Carolina State running back Andre Brown had gem potential, but he suffered a season-ending injury in training camp.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles found two gems in the '07 draft. Stewart Bradley is a quality starting middle linebacker who was selected in the third round and the Eagles took Pro Bowl-worthy tight end Brent Celek in the fifth round. The two players have become close friends and they're a huge part of the Eagles' future. In fact, Philly has already signed Celek to a contract extension. From a bust standpoint, the Eagles wasted a pick on Penn State running back Tony Hunt in '07. It's hard to believe that they took Hunt in the third round. And it's not as if Victor Abiamiri has been some type of standout second-round pick. Obviously, we're still waiting to see what becomes of the Eagles' top pick in '07, Kevin Kolb. In '08, the Eagles landed DeSean Jackson in the second round. But two picks before Jackson, they selected defensive tackle Trevor Laws. So there's your boom and bust scenario. The rest of that class is pretty forgettable. Fourth-round selection Quintin Demps has been serviceable, but I wouldn't refer to him as a hidden gem or anything. From the '09 class, wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy were excellent value picks. They should both be a huge part of the offense for several years. Moise Fokou was a gem in the seventh round. He has the potential to be a special-teams standout and he eventually cracked the starting lineup, although that was predicated by a string of injuries. Still, it's obvious the Eagles like Fokou. He's constantly around the ball.

Washington Redskins

The '07 draft was pretty much a waste of time. The Redskins barely had any picks, but they did manage to select safety LaRon Landry sixth overall. The tragic loss of Sean Taylor meant that Landry had to become the main man at safety. He wasn't ready for that type of responsibility and he's never really lived up to his immense potential. We'll see if Jim Haslett can help him reach the next level. In the second round of the '08 draft, the Skins took wide receivers Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly. Neither player has really distinguished himself, although Thomas took some important steps in '09. Kelly won the starting job coming out of training camp, but he didn't do anything with it. Sandwiched between those two picks was former USC tight end Fred Davis. He came on strong in '09 once Chris Cooley was lost to injury. It looks like Davis will be a player. Thomas and Kelly could go either way. Unless there's a dramatic change this offseason, third-round pick Chad Rinehart will be a bust at guard. Seventh-round pick Chris Horton was a great story early in 2008, but his star has faded a bit. Until he reclaims his starting safety spot, it's hard to call him a gem. The '09 draft was another one-hit wonder. It looks like first-round pick Brian Orakpo will be a perennial Pro Bowler. He's an excellent pass-rusher and I think he'll flourish in Haslett's 3-4 scheme. No one else in the class stood out.

Cowboys-Eagles inactives: Vick the backup

January, 9, 2010
1/09/10
7:00
PM ET
ARLINGTON, Texas -- As we've already told you, Michael Vick is active for tonight's game and I would expect for him to play a fairly significant role in the game plan. The Cowboys spent more time in the film room preparing for Vick this week because they felt like the Eagles would be in more of a desperation mode in this game. Now let's take a look at the inactives for both teams:

Cowboys: QB Stephen McGee, S Pat Watkins, CB Cletis Gordon, LB Jason Williams, G Montrae Holland, C/G Duke Preston, T Pat McQuistan, LB Curtis Johnson

Eagles: QB Kevin Kolb, CB Geoffrey Pope, FS Quintin Demps, T King Dunlap, C Dallas Reynolds, WR Kevin Curtis, TE Martin Rucker, DT Trevor Laws

Vick suits up as emergency QB

December, 27, 2009
12/27/09
3:32
PM ET
PHILADELPHIA -- Eagles quarterback Michael Vick (quad) will serve as the emergency quarterback today against the Broncos. Kevin Kolb will replace Vick as the backup to Donovan McNabb.

The rest of the Eagles' inactives: CB Geoffrey Pope, S Quintin Demps, G/T Stacy Andrews, G Mike McGlynn, WR Kevin Curtis, TE Martin Rucker, DE Trevor Laws

Broncos inactives: Emergency QB Tom Brandstater, WR Eddie Royal, CB Ty Law, RB LaMont Jordan, S Vernon Fox, ILB/FB Spencer Larsen, G Seth Olsen, DL Chris Baker

Former Eagles safety Brian Dawkins will be introduced last for the Broncos. I'm sure there will be a huge roar from the crowd, but the Eagles haven't planned any formal ceremony to honor their former star.

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