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2013 Eagles draft needs: Defensive questions dominate conversation in Philadelphia

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LAST SEASONRush Offense - 117.1 ypg (13th)
Pass Offense - 236.9 ypg (13th)
Total Offense - 354.1 ypg (15th)
Scoring Offense - 17.5 ppg (29th)
Rush Defense - 126.3 ypg (23rd)
Pass Defense - 216.9 ypg (9th)
Total Defense - 343.3 ypg (15th)
Scoring Defense - 27.8 ppg (tied 29th)
MOST PRESSING NEEDSOffense: Health, depth and best offensive linemen available
Defense: Secondary (both corner and safety) and defensive line


The Eagles have four quarterbacks under contract: Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Dennis Dixon and newly signed G.J. Kinne. The four are loaded with questions, and it remains a mystery whether any of them will fit what Chip Kelly wants to do offensively. Vick is under contract for only one year, while Foles is cheap labor as he's playing under his rookie deal. Dixon's contract was for two years, but Eagles brass didn't break the bank signing him, so there's little risk in trying to find The Man from this group this year. If Vick takes to Kelly's offense like a duck to water, everyone wins. If he doesn't, his contract expires and Kelly finds his quarterback for the future in the 2014 draft.


5th roundFB/TB Lonnie Pryor, Florida St. (5-11, 227)6th roundFB/TB Zach Line, SMU (6-0, 232)7th roundTB/FB George Winn, Cincinnati (5-10, 218)
The Eagles have an abundance of running backs. LeSean McCoy, when healthy, could be a 1,500-yard rusher in this offense. Bryce Brown can be maddening for a coaching staff at times, but in this scheme he's an excellent fit. Even No. 3 running back Dion Lewis could excel in Chip Kelly's offense given his ability to make people miss in space. Kelly always liked having a change-of-pace back, which in this case is a power back that gives the offense a different dimension. Ultimately, the Eagles likely won't be drafting a running back on the first two days, but there are some interesting power backs in the later rounds to examine.

Lonnie Pryor is the best of the dual-threat power backs. He was MVP of last year's Orange Bowl based largely on five carries. Zach Line was a two-time, 1,200-plus-yard rusher and reminds many of Mike Alstott. Now, an Alstott-type doesn't appear to be what Kelly desires, but each year at Oregon, he had a power back to complement his team's speed.


5th roundAce Sanders, South Carolina (5-7, 173)
Denard Robinson, Michigan (5-11, 193)6th roundMarcus Davis, Virginia Tech (6-3, 233)7th roundDarius Johnson, SMU (5-9, 179)
Kenbrell Thompkins, Cincinnati (6-1, 193)

When healthy, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin should scare defensive coordinators more than any other two receivers in the league. Both have such explosive qualities, but neither has been able to stay healthy or focused for a full 16 games. That said, both can be rejuvenated in this attack and can change the game for the Eagles in a multitude of ways. The depth behind these two is adequate, but don't be surprised if the Eagles look at a multidimensional threat on Day 3.

Ace Sanders can stop on a dime, give you change and beat you to the edge all at the same time. He's quicker than he is fast, but Kelly could use him on jet sweeps and in a variety of other schemes. Darius Johnson is similar, but probably a better complete receiver with a great pair of hands. Kelly will like the fact that Robinson was a quarterback, so he should be able to read defenses the way Kelly wants.

TIGHT ENDThe Draft Board

3rd roundVance McDonald, Rice (6-4, 267)4th roundChris Gragg, Arkansas (6-3, 244)

The Eagles' duo of Brent Celek and Clay Harbor is adequate but not overly impressive. Celek caught 57 passes and had 10 touchdowns last year, while backup Clay Harbor nabbed 25 balls. Adding another athletic threat who can beat linebackers and safeties would help, but it's not an immediate necessity. 

If Kelly watches enough film to see Vance McDonald running jet sweeps out of the gun as an H-back this season, he'll lose his mind. The former Rice product has every other physical attribute to fit into this offense immediately. Chris Gragg is more of a beefed-up receiver than tight end, but Kelly loves duality in his players.


1st roundT Eric Fisher, Central Michigan (6-7, 306)
T Lane Johnson, Oklahoma (6-7, 303)2nd roundG/T Kyle Long, Oregon (6-6, 313)
T Terron Armstead, Ark.-Pine Bluff (6-5, 306)3rd roundG/T Justin Pugh, Syracuse (6-4, 307)
T Menelik Watson, Florida St. (6-5, 310)4th roundG/T David Quessenberry, SJSU (6-5, 302)

How will this offensive line look from tackle to tackle in 2013? After the quarterback question, this is the only other true issue on the offensive side of the ball. That's not to say there isn't a good crop of linemen on the roster, it's just a matter of how the puzzle pieces fit together – that's the issue, along with their return from injury. If Jason Peters is fully recovered from his injury, would it make sense to bump him inside or over to right tackle and move Todd Herremans inside? Should Peters stay at left tackle and Herremans move inside after drafting a tackle? Should both stay on the edge and the Eagles focus on the interior portion of the line in the draft? Regardless, the draft should add one more piece to this mix, at a minimum.

If the Eagles determine that Peters or Herremans should (and can) move inside, tackle is a need. As such, Eric Fisher and Lane Johnson make sense with the No. 4 pick. It might be a tad high for Johnson, but if the Eagles like Fisher, they'll like Johnson. Kyle Long played guard for Kelly at Oregon, even though he could transition out to tackle with his feet and size. Terron Armstead is intriguing given his physical gifts. He plays with decent technique already and won't lose many physical street fights at the line of scrimmage.


1st roundDT Sharrif Floyd, Florida (6-3, 297)2nd roundDT Jesse Williams, Alabama (6-3, 323)
DE Margus Hunt, SMU (6-8, 277)
DT/DE Kawann Short, Purdue (6-3, 299)3rd roundDT Brandon Williams, Missouri Southern St. (6-1, 355)
DE Malliciah Goodman, Clemson (6-4, 276)
DE/DT Akeem Spence, Illinois (6-1, 307)4th roundDE William Gholston, Michigan St. (6-6, 281)5th roundDT Montori Hughes, Tenn-Martin (6-4, 329)7th roundDT T.J. Barnes, Georgia Tech (6-6, 369)

The Eagles will transition to a 3-4 defense under new  coordinator Billy Davis, but expect them to use both odd and even fronts. Regardless of the scheme up front, the Eagles don't have players to fill out a defensive-line meeting room.

This will be a focus for the Eagles after having cut Cullen Jenkins, Mike Patterson and Jason Babin over the last three months. 

Sharrif Floyd made the biggest jump on draft boards this past month, but he's had the attention of NFL scouts for a while. It finally came together for the Philadelphia native over the second half of the 2012 season. He is a prototype three-technique, but his fit here may ultimately depend on how Davis orchestrates the scheme. Jesse Williams would take a ton of heat off the linebackers with his strength over the nose, while Margus Hunt is the most freakish physical specimen in this class of defensive linemen.


3rd roundOLB Jamie Collins, Southern Miss (6-4, 250)4th roundOLB Chase Thomas, Stanford (6-3, 244)5th roundOLB Lerentee McCray, Florida (6-2. 250)

Unlike the defensive line, the linebacking corps is stocked, but whether they'll all ultimately fit in this defense remains a question. Can Brandon Graham and Trent Cole play outside linebacker (and stay healthy) in a 3-4 and can DeMeco Ryans play better in Philly's 3-4 as opposed to how he performed in Houston's 3-4 in 2011? Last year's second-round pick Mychal Kendricks is more than likely the team's only sure thing. But if Davis feels confident that Graham and Cole can handle the edge and Ryans will be more than adequate inside, this shouldn't be a high-level priority.

Jamie Collins may be the best overall athlete in the outside linebacker class, but his performance this season was lost behind an 0-12 campaign. Chase Thomas is the prototypical OLB who can rush, drop and play the run, plus Kelly has coached against him for the past four years. Lerentee McCray is a day three gem who didn't make much of a dent for the Florida defense until his senior year, but he rushes the quarterback well if nothing else.

SECONDARYThe Draft Board

1st roundCB Dee Milliner, Alabama (6-0, 201)2nd roundCB Desmond Trufant, Washington (6-0, 190)
S Matt Elam, Florida (5-10, 208)
CB Johnthan Banks, Miss. St. (6-2, 185)3rd roundS Jonathan Cyprien, FIU (6-0, 217)
CB Robert Alford, SELA (5-10, 188)
CB David Amerson, N.C. State (6-1, 205)
S Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma (5-11, 213)4th roundCB Leon McFadden, SDSU (5-10, 193)
CB/S Tyrann Mathieu, LSU (5-9, 178)5th roundCB Terry Hawthorne, Illinois (6-0, 195)
S Robert Lester, Alabama (6-1, 220)6th roundCB Micah Hyde, Iowa (6-0, 197)7th roundS John Boyett, Oregon (5-10, 204)

The secondary is earmarked for a rebuild. Nnamdi Asumogha will be asked to restructure or leave, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is an unrestricted free agent. Odds are that neither one will be in green and white in 2013, indicating a total transformation in the secondary. Brandon Boykin should hold down one side, but the other may go to a rookie.

The Eagles have struggled at safety since Brian Dawkins left, and last year was much of the same. Given all of that information, the Eagles will start the rebuild as early as the No. 4 pick in this draft.

Dee Milliner is the best and most complete ready-made corner in this draft despite having shoulder surgery after the combine. If the Eagles draft OL or DT at No. 4 and Desmond Trufant is still on the board in the second round, Philadelphia would be wise to pick him up. He may not be quite on Milliner's level as an all-around player, but he can cover like a blanket. Matt Elam is the best safety in this class, while Johnthan Banks' film will help teams forget about his mid-4.5 speed.

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