Offense or defense? Kelly and Eagles have to pick
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Chip Kelly has to choose between another playmaker for his dynamic offense or a player to bolster a defense that needs the help.
The Philadelphia Eagles went from worst to first in the NFC East in Kelly’s first season as coach thanks to an offense that set team records for points (442), total net yards (6,676), touchdowns (53), and gross yards passing (4,406).
The defense improved drastically after a poor first month, but struggled in a first-round playoff loss to New Orleans. So the Eagles should be leaning toward adding an impact defensive player with the 22nd overall pick in the NFL draft.
Their two top needs are a pass-rushing linebacker and defensive back. However, general manager Howie Roseman has a “take-the-best-player-available” philosophy. It’s worked well for him the last two years.
Here’s five things to know about the Eagles going into the draft:
RATING THE QBs: Despite Nick Foles’ breakout season, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Eagles ended up with a quarterback in the draft.
Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles, Derek Carr and Teddy Bridgewater are considered the top four guys. One or two may be available when the Eagles pick in the first round. Would they pull the trigger if it’s Manziel?
Kelly said he “loves” Manziel and the kid broke his heart when he chose Texas A&M over playing for him at Oregon. Foles said he doesn’t care if the Eagles draft 10 quarterbacks. Roseman said the Eagles will take the player rated highest on their draft board.
TRADING PLACES: The Eagles have made 13 draft-day trades, including seven involving the first three rounds, since Roseman became GM in 2010. Considering they only have six picks in this draft, it’s likely they’ll make a move or two to acquire extra selections. That could mean trading down and moving out of the first round. But having fewer picks doesn’t make them reluctant to trade up, either.
“I’d like to have 15 picks, but we have to get the right guys and that’s the most important thing,” Roseman said. “When you look back at successful drafts, if you can come out of it with three starters, that is a really good draft. There aren’t a lot of drafts where you can come out and do that. So we still have enough picks to do that. Obviously, you’d always like to have more picks ...”
Philadelphia has drafted more players (41) in Roseman’s four years as GM than any other team in the NFL.
REPLACING DESEAN: Releasing three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver DeSean Jackson after the best season of his career was a gutsy move for Kelly and Roseman. Many draft gurus predict the Eagles will select a receiver in the first round. But there’s plenty of depth at the position, so they could wait and get a quality player later in the draft. They’ll be looking at bigger receivers. The diminutive Jackson had excellent speed, but wasn’t much of a threat over the middle because of his size.
Whether it’s early or late, the Eagles expect to draft a receiver.
“I think there will be a point in this draft, and that could be in the seventh round when we have a guy (rated) in the fourth round, that there is going to be a really talented receiver,” Roseman said. “I just feel like when you look back at the history of the draft, the wide receiver position always goes later to begin with, and now with the influx of the underclassmen at the position, I just think that’s how it’s going to turn out now.”
SAFETY CONCERNS: The Eagles have had a huge void at safety since Brian Dawkins left after the 2008 season. Malcolm Jenkins, signed away from New Orleans in free agency, could solve the problem. Second-year pro Earl Wolff showed potential as a rookie. So, don’t expect Philadelphia to take a safety, especially in this draft class.
“I don’t think it’s a good group overall,” Roseman said. “I think that you’re talking about a drop-off certainly when you get to (rounds four to seven).”
POST-DRAFT: The extra two weeks to prepare for the draft allowed teams to focus on evaluating players who won’t be drafted. There will be plenty of quality rookie free agents available, especially with 102 early entrants.
″(I) really know those guys better than I’ve ever known guys later on the draft board,” Roseman said.
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