2008 Philadelphia Eagles All Inclusive NFL Draft Preview (Part 1)

By Lloyd Vance, BIGPLAY Football, Senior NFL Writer and Draft Analyst

2007 Season Overview

Going into the 2008 NFL Draft, the Birds are coming off a head-scratching roller coaster up and down season where they finished 8-8.  “Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda” sums up the theme of the 2007 season, which ended with another unfulfilling journey and no parade for die-hard Eagles fans.  Storylines were plentiful in 2007 with Andy Reid battling family issues, Donovan McNabb coming back from his third season-ending injury, and the cutting of Jeremiah Trotter in training camp to name just a few of the subplots.  But from the start of the season something seemed to be a miss as the team started out 0-2 with a terrible opening game loss to the Packers namely due to the inability of the Eagles return players securing the ball and a Monday Night home opening loss to the Redskins.  After such a bad start where the team had so far not lived up to everyone’s prediction of another NFC East crown.  Donovan McNabb, who clearly was struggling to recover from a 2006 season ending knee injury, had an earlier taped controversial interview air on HBO causing a firestorm leading up to their week three home game.  With the environment around the team and the quarterback swirling, McNabb and the team went out and put forth a Herculean effort torching the Detroit Lions for 56 points and 536 total yards.  All seemed well, but in another bad “Prime Time” loss the Birds were throttled by the Giants 16-3 as McNabb threw for only 76 yards mainly due from the fact he was running for his life as he was sacked 12 times.  Six of the sacks were credited to Osi Umenyiora who dominated first-time starter and injury replacement offensive tackle Winston Justice for most of them.  With the gut-wrenching loss, the Eagles entered the quarter marker and their bye with a disappointing 1-3 record.  Their record at that point seemed unbelievable given that they look to be much more prepared going into the season.

After a bye week where the Eagles got some time off, they fattened up on the lowly New York Jets.  The win setup a home game versus the defending NFC champion Chicago Bears with a strong chance of getting to .500 for the season and building momentum.  This game truly typified a 2007 season where the Eagles would continually get “close”, but fall short in the end.  All day the Eagles moved the ball up and down the field producing 334 yards with 123 yards rushing.  However the yards only amounted to 16 points mostly coming on David Akers field goals.  With the game on the line the Eagles pinned the Bears at their own three-yard line with 1:52 on the clock.  I won’t go through the unpalatable state of events that followed ending with journeyman Brian Griese throwing a touchdown pass to Mushin Muhammad giving the Bears an improbable 19-16 win.  I don’t care what anyone says, I believe the Eagles season was over after that game.  They were now 2-4 and trailed the 6-0 Cowboys badly in their division and you could see a strong level of discontent in “Eagles Nation”. 

With 10 games left the Eagles tried to rally winning three out of their next four contests  improving to 5-6 heading into a pivotal “Mission Impossible” type game against the undefeated Patriots, who were running rough shot over the entire NFL on their way to a 16-0 regular season record – crazily the Birds were a 24 point underdog going into the game.  Without starting quarterback Donovan McNabb (sprained ankle), backup AJ Feeley performed admirably putting up 345 yards and three touchdowns with one costly interception in the 31-28 loss.  The loss teased Eagles fans as they were close enough to taste victory, but in the end it was still a heart ripping loss.  After two more close losses to Seahawks and Giants, the Eagles were sitting at 5-8 with three games left and no playoff chances.  I know fans that I talked to were saying one thing “Lose, so we can have a top 10 pick”.  Their cries didn’t reach the team as to their credit, the Eagles kept fighting beating the Cowboys in Dallas (remember Westbrook cementing the game by falling down at the goal line), going on the road again this time throttling the equally inconsistent New Orleans Saints and completing the slate with a ho-hum home win over the young Buffalo Bills.

In the end three straight wins to end the regular season to finish 8-8 is “ok”.  Some say that winning at the end of one season is a springboard into the next, example the Packers won six straight at end of ’06 and in ’07 they had a 13 win season.  But I subscribe to the school that every season is different and teams really do start with a clean slate each year.  I have heard by some that the Eagles were a play/game away here or there and that this team was as good as the eventual Super Bowl Champion Giants and the rest of the NFC.  I liked the play of RB Brian Westbrook (1st Pro Bowl Selection and established an Eagles record for combined yards with 2104), WR Kevin Curtis (Scrappy receiver had over 1,100 yards w/ 8 TD’s), and DE Trent Cole (Brought the wood on his way to his first Pro Bowl with 12.5 sacks). But the cold hard reality is that this team needs more quality depth and playmakers to be a “real” Super Bowl contender.  Sure they could have squeaked into the playoffs in ’07, but who could they have beaten averaging less than 20 points in most games and not producing turnovers (-8). 

This off-season is essential for the Eagles to understand that their “philosophy” needs to be changed and that they can no longer live on their Super Bowl from 2004.  They are now a team that has missed the playoffs in two out of the last three years while their division rivals have gotten younger and you hate to say it better — All three NFC East teams except the Eagles made the playoffs in ‘07.  I am not saying drastic measures need to happen, but urgency is omnipotent.  The Eagles started their off-season with a bang by signing high-profile free agent Asante Samuel and bringing in quality role players Chris Clemmons, Dan Klecko, and Kris Wilson.  But we all know as Donovan McNabb goes, so will the Eagles.  After being on the hot seat all season, McNabb finished with good numbers (19 TDS, 7 INT, 3,324 yards passing, 89.9 rating, 9 fumbles (5 lost), 236 yards rushing) and fans should be encouraged by his play in the final three games of the season.  But everyone looking at this team including McNabb is asking “Do the Eagles Have Enough Playmakers?”.  With free agency basically over the team has said “yes” we are okay with our current roster – myself and many others would debate that thinking.  Unless something enormous happens between now and the draft (i.e. Chad Johnson talks his way out of Cincinnati or Roy Williams finally gets traded by Detroit) then Tom Heckert and Andy Reid will look first to the draft to find players.  That thinking is all well and good, but the Eagles need to also “play” their younger players.  They only need to look up the turnpike at how the 2007 Super Bowl Champion Giants for the blueprint on drafting and playing rookies.  The G-Men showed that draft picks can have an immediate impact with all eight of their draftees “The Little Giants” making the team and contributing throughout the season, playoffs, and into the Super Bowl. 

The Eagles found a nice building block for the future in ’07 draftee linebacker Stewart Bradley (3rd Pick), but they need more.  The Eagles will have several options in the draft armed with 11 picks including #19 in the first round, their own selections in rounds 2 through 6, Cleveland 6th rd pick (Center Hank Fraley trade), and Seattle’s 7th rd pick (Fullback Josh Parry trade) plus three supplemental picks (one in the fourth round and two in the sixth round).  The key item to watch in the draft will be how the Eagles cash in the very big “bargaining chip” of disgruntled cornerback and former 1st Rd pick Lito Sheppard, I expect them to at the least equal the 2nd and 5th round selections that the Falcons received from the Raiders for CB DeAngelo Hall.

 

2007 Record with Breakdown

 8-8 Overall Record, Finished 4th in the NFC East and missed the playoffs

5-3 record on the road

3-5 record at home

3-1 vs. the AFC

5-7 vs. the NFC

2-4 in   Division

 

Key Stats and Rankings

Offense

336 Points Scored, (Ranked 17th in the NFL)

42%  – 3rd Downs Converted (Tied for 7th in the NFL)

30:56 in Time of Possession (9th Ranked in the NFL)

27 Giveaways, 15 INT’s, 12 Fumbles Lost (19th Ranked in the NFL)

49 Sacks Allowed (28th Ranked in the NFL)

45% in redzone percentage with 23 TDs in 51 chances (24th Ranked in the NFL)

 

Defense

300 Points Allowed, (Ranked 9th in the NFL)

19 Takeaways, 11 INT’s, 8 Fumbles Recovered (30th Ranked in the NFL)

1533 Rushing Yards, 96 yards per game (7th Ranked in the NFL)

37 Sacks (9th Ranked in the NFL)

No Defensive Touchdowns

 

Overall

83 Penalties for 649 yards (12th ranked in the NFL)

-8 in Turnover Ratio (25th ranked in the NFL)

 

Offense

                    

                            PASSING                            RUSHING                   TOTALYARDS  

                        CMP   ATT   YD    YPA   TD   INT             ATT     YD    YPA    TD    

                         350     577 3755      6.0   24    15         421   1974     4.7     12    5729

NFL Rank                         7      10       16   12    11           20         8       2      16       6

 

Defense

                         PASSING                                              RUSHING                        TOTAL YARDS

                         CMP   ATT     YD     YPA   TD INT       ATT     YD      YPA   TD                     

                      312      539     3067    6.0   16  11        403    1533    3.8    10       4982

NFL Rank                     17        18        14   2  30           8         7        8        9       10 

Pro Bowlers: Shawn Andrews (OG), Brian Westbrook (RB) and Trent Cole (DE) – Alternate

 

Stat Leaders 

 Passing

              Att  Cmp   %     Yds  TD  Int 

McNabb 291 473    61.5   3324 19   7

Feeley      59 103     57.3     681   5   8

Kolb         One game played with no passes attempted and 3 rushes for -2 yards

 

Rushing

                   Att   Yds    Avg  TD  Long 

Westbrook 278 1333    4.8    7    36 

Buckhalter   62   313    5.0    4    30

Hunt            10  16       1.6    1     4

 

Receiving

                   Rec  Yards  Avg  TD  Long 

Westbrook   90     771    8.6    5    57t

K. Curtis      77    1110  14.4    6   75t

R. Brown     61      780  12.8    4    45

J. Avant       23      267  11.6    2    31

L. Smith       22      236  10.7    1   26

 

Tackles

Gaither            102  (69 Solo, 0 Sacks)

T. Spikes          86   (64 Solo, 1 Sack)

Cole                   69  (49 Solo, 12.5 Sacks)

S. Brown           68  (61 Solo, 0 Sacks)

Patterson          66  (50 Solo, 4 Sacks)

 

Interceptions

S. Brown             3

Sheppard            2

Dawkins              1

Gaither                1

 

Sacks

 Cole             12.5

J. Thomas      5

Patterson       4

Kearse           3.5

Bunkley          3  

 

Player Movement

IN 

LB Rocky Boiman, formerly of Indianapolis Colts: Signed a 1-year deal with the terms unreleased.  The former Notre Dame player is a high-character guy who can fill in at outside linebacker (good in coverage) and excels on special teams.  The twenty-eight year old was originally drafted in the 4th round in 2002 by the Titans. Won a Super Bowl ring in ’06 with the Colts. Will wear number # 50

WR/KR Brandon “Bam” Childress, formerly of New England Patriots: Signed 2-year deal with the terms unreleased.  The twenty-six year old is a very fast player, who has battled injuries throughout his career.  Signed by the Patriots as an undrafted free agent out of Ohio State in 2005.  Has spent time on and off the Patriots roster in ’05 and ’06 while catching five passes for 39 yards in his career.  Will be called on to play special teams and  return kicks for the Eagles.  Will wear number # 11

DE Chris Clemons, formerly of Oakland Raiders: Signed a 5-year deal with the terms unreleased.  The twenty-six year old comes to the Eagles as a player on the accession as he produced 8 sacks in a limited role for the Raiders (only on the field for 37% of defensive plays).  Will be called on to be a situational pass rusher in the defensive end unit.  Will wear number # 91

FB Dan Klecko, formerly of Indianapolis Colts: Signed a 2-year deal with the terms unreleased.  The former Temple University player is a tough football player who will attempt to make the permanent switch from defensive lineman to full-time fullback.  The twenty-seven year old was originally drafted in the 4th round in 2003 by the Patriots. Has played for two of the best organizations in football in the Patriots and Colts winning Super Bowl rings in ’03, ’04, and ’06. Expect to see a lot of him on special teams and blocking at the goal line. Will wear number # 49

 

CB Asante Samuel, formerly of New England Patriots: Signed a 6-year deal for 57.14 million with 20 million in guarantees.  The twenty-seven year-old cover corner is another player coming over from the Patriots.  Entering his sixth season, the Pro Bowl corner has 22 interceptions in 75 career regular-season games.  The former Central Florida player had six interceptions last year and I know you remember the two against the Eagles including one returned to the house in the Pats victory last season. Originally drafted in the 4th round in 2003 by the Patriots and won Super Bowl rings in ’03 and ’04. Will wear number # 22

TE/FB Kris Wilson, formerly of Kansas City Chiefs: Signed a 3-year deal with the terms unreleased.  The twenty-six year-old H-Back type tight end is not known for his in-line blocking, but he has solid receiving skills.  The former University of Pittsburgh player has good hands and is a willing blocker.  After spending time behind Tony Gonzalez, he will get his chance to push LJ Smith.  Has 42 receptions and 4 TDs in his career with a high of 24 catches in ’07 with the Chiefs. Originally was drafted in the 2nd Rd by the Chiefs in 2004. Will wear number # 88

 

OUT

LB Takeo Spikes (Unsigned as of the Draft) – Former 2-time Pro Bowl player never really seemed recovered enough from past injuries to make the impact plays needed by the Eagles linebacker unit.  Produced 86 tackles, but only 1 sack and no fumble recoveries or interceptions.

– DE Jevon Kearse (Signed by the Tennessee Titans) – Had his best year as an Eagle in 2004 finishing with 8 sacks, but never produced double-digit sacks for the Birds.  His sack numbers have dwindled every year since his rookie year high (14.5) and his bothersome knee may cause his career to be in jeopardy.

– DT Ian Scott (Unsigned as of the Draft) – Was supposed to be in the defensive line rotation after coming over from the Bears, but injured his knee in training camp and spent the year on injured reserve.

– CB William James (Signed by Buffalo) – The former New York Giant never really embraced the nickel role after losing a non-battle with Sheldon Brown for the 2nd corner spot.  Struggled and was eventually passed by youngster Joselio Hanson.

– FB Thomas Tapeh (Signed by Minnesota) – Former 5th round pick in 2004 never really excelled as a true fullback.  Was more of a ‘tweener and a hip injury in ’04 slowed him.  Will be remembered for being called on to catch a swing pass on a crucial 4th and goal versus the Saints in an ’06 playoff game.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS NOT RE-SIGNED

KR/RB Reno Mahe – A utility player and a favorite of Andy Reid.  Every year it seems that Mahe will not make the roster, but he shows up like a bad penny.  The quality punt “catcher” filled the role after the Eagles week one fiasco, but more game-breaking skills in the return game are needed.  His ’07 numbers were 31 punt returns for 249 yards (8.0 ypr) with a long of 32 yards. 

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED

– CB Joselio Hanson – A developing nickel corner that has paid his dues on the practice squad and in NFL Europe.  Filled in well when Lito Sheppard has been injured.  I think his best spot will be as a fourth defensive and helping on special teams.

– S/KR JR Reed – One of the better stories of the ’07 season was the return of the popular hard-hitting safety.  Though not as explosive as in the past, Reed filled in nicely when injuries struck the safety positions.  Of course everyone will remember his gaffe of muffing a punt return against the Packers in week one, but he should be a solid contributor on special teams again.

 

Philadelphia Eagles – 2008 Schedule

PRESEASON

Week 1: Friday, August 8               at Pittsburgh        7:30 pm   ETN/6ABC

Week 2: Thursday, August 14        Carolina               8:00 pm   FOX

Week 3: Friday, August 22             at New England   7:30 pm   ETN/6ABC

Week 4: Thursday, August 28        NY Jets                6:30 pm   ETN/6ABC

 

REGULAR SEASON                                   

Sunday, September 7               St. Louis               1:00 pm   FOX     

Monday, September 15            at Dallas                8:30 pm   ESPN

Sunday, September 21             Pittsburgh             4:15 pm   CBS

Sunday, September 28             at Chicago            8:15 pm   NBC

Sunday, October 5                   Washington           1:00 pm   FOX

Sunday, October 12                 at San Francisco   4:15 pm   FOX

Sunday, October 19                 BYE

Sunday, October 26                 Atlanta                  1:00 pm   FOX

Sunday, November 2               at Seattle              4:15 pm   FOX

Sunday, November 9               NY Giants             8:15 pm   NBC

Sunday, November 16              at Cincinnati        1:00 pm   FOX

Sunday, November 23              at Baltimore         1:00 pm   FOX

Thursday, November 27           Arizona                 8:00 pm  NFL Network

Sunday, December 7                at NY Giants        1:00 pm   FOX

Monday, December 15             Cleveland              8:30 pm  ESPN

Sunday, December 21              at Washington      1:00 pm   FOX

Sunday, December 28              Dallas                   1:00 pm   FOX

(All times are EST with every game simulcast on WYSP (94.1 FM) and WIP (610 AM)

 

2008 Eagles Draft Picks

1st Rd   19th overall

2nd Rd   49th overall

3rd Rd    80th overall

4th Rd    115th overall

4th Rd   131st overall (Compensatory Pick)

5th Rd   152nd overall

6th Rd   184th overall

6th Rd   191st overall  – (From Cleveland – Hank Fraley Trade)

6th Rd   200th overall (Compensatory Pick)

6th Rd   203rd overall (Compensatory Pick)

7th Rd   230th overall (From Seattle – Josh Parry Trade).

 

Team Needs

1.  OT – The O-line was solid in ’07 pushing Westbrook well over 1,000 yards and quarterback McNabb was able to finish the season.  But there are some definite areas of concern with the unit.  Too many sacks were allowed 49 (Finished ranked 28th in the NFL) and bookend offensive tackles Jon Runyan and Tra Thomas are 34 and 33 respectively.  There is a need for one or possibly two players to be chosen as future successors to the aging veterans.  Third year player Winston Justice has done little, so he is a big question mark and Todd Herramins looks like a better fit as swing player.  The Birds need to draft a young offensive tackle to team with Pro Bowl Guard Shawn Andrews for the future. This position is stacked in this draft, so I could at least two O-Linemen selected by the Eagles.

2.      Kick Returner – In today’s NFL most teams place an importance on having a game-changing homerun threat at the kick return position, I am not sure that the Eagles agree with the majority as “ball security” is paramount to them.  Since veteran return man Brian Mitchell left town, the Eagles have struggled to find an explosive and ball secure returner.  The Birds finished near the bottom in the NFL in field position (29.08 yard line for a ranking of 25th) and they have not had a kickoff return (since 2001) or punt return (since 2003) for a touchdown in some time, so this position must addressed.  They can longer afford to throw just any player into this position and I won’t bring up the Green Bay game again. The Eagles should use a mid round pick (4th or 5th round) solely dedicated to this area.

3.   Safety – Need to bring in a player with pedigree to eventually replace stellar free safety Brian Dawkins (35 in November). With Dawkins and SS Sean Considine always seeming to be battling injuries a younger guy to throw in the mix is needed.  Quinton Mikell is a good fill-in and special teams guy, but he is not a long range answer.  Must improve in deep coverage and in creating turnovers.  Will need to dig for a replacement in the draft as this position is not deep this year.

4.  DE  – The Eagles got heat from a variety of players (37 sacks), but other than Pro Bowl player Trent Cole (12.5) no one came close to double digits.  The addition of Chris Clemons will help, but more playmakers are needed.  All the Eagles have to do is look in their division at the pressure (league leading 53 sacks) that the Super Bowl champion Giants’ front four caused leading to turnovers and wins.  The effort of Juqua Parker (formerly Thomas) is good, but with an unknown in second-year player Victor Abiamiri, the team cutting ties with Kearse and underachievers Darren Howard and former first round pick Jerome McDougle fighting for their Eagles careers, another young two way DE that can rush the passer is needed.

5.  WR – So you want a receiver Philly fans to finally fill the void or is it a canyon that has existed since the departure of — The initials that we dare not say —  T.O.   Sure we can all hear Andy Reid’s 9-year common retort –uh, uh, [Throat Clear], “We are okay with our receivers”.  But 16 receiving touchdowns from your entire receiving corps when Patriots receiver Randy Moss had 23 touchdowns by himself, says it all.  Kevin Curtis was scrappy (77 catches for 1110 yards, 14.4 yards per catch, and 6 TDs), but he is better suited for the slot.  Fourth year receiver Reggie Brown in my opinion has not lived up to his second round selection and after him you have a bunch of “guys” in Hank Baskett, Jason Avant, Greg Lewis, and the other receivers. Need to find a receiver who can start out on special teams helping in returning kicks and possibly growing into something.  There are good second round and mid-round level players at this position, so you could see one or two players (speed w/ 4.4 speed and a big 6’4 plus) selected.

 6.  CB – With the signing of Asante Samuel this unit got a much needed upgrade, but in signing the NFL’s number one defensive free agent, the Eagles opened a can of worms with Lito Sheppard.  We all know Sheppard will not make it to training camp, so it is necessary to find a corner in the draft that can be groomed as Sheldon Brown’s eventual replacement.  After Rod Hood left free agency before the ’07 season, a big hole was left in the Eagles secondary.  Will James was a disappointment and slot receivers had good games versus the Eagles.  With so many team going to four and five receiver sets, the Birds need a quality backup, who can also play on special teams and possibly help in the return game.  With the great depth in the ’08 draft at this position there is no reason that two players can’t be selected.

7.  RB – For the second year in a row Brian Westbrook showed he is a premier back in the NFL as he finally made the Pro Bowl. He broke the Eagles record for combine receiving and rushing yards, but one has to ask at 28 years old can the mercurial back continue carrying the load essentially by himself.  I definitely think 368 touches not including his occasional punt return is enough.  With the new trend in the NFL being the use of a tandem in the backfield (Giants, Saints, and Jaguars), the Eagles need to find a partner for Westbrook.  Correll Buckhalter has been a good story the last couple of years coming back from his knee troubles to average a hearty 5.0 ypc in ‘07, but he is always a play away from injury and he is also approaching thirty.  With Tony Hunt firmly in Reid’s doghouse due to his blocking and Ryan Moats looking like he is ready to move on a younger back is needed. If ever there was a draft to pick a running back the 2008 NFL draft is it.  There are several high producing running backs coming out including several that have kick return experience.

 8.  TE – It was evident by the Eagles woes in the redzone that McNabb’s favorite targets needed some assistance going into the ’08 season.  Injuries limited LJ Smith to only 10 games, 22 catches, and one touchdown.  The Eagles used the franchise tag on Smith, but the Eagles may need to start thinking about a replacement.  The possible emergence of ’07 training camp sensation Brent Celek and the addition of Kris Wilson will help, but I would like to see a tight end added in the draft that can push Matt Schobel.  The preference is for a blocking type that can also contribute on special teams.  There are a couple of tight ends in the draft, but with so many teams running spread offenses in college, blocking is not a strong point for many in the draft class.

 9.  LB – Even with the release of Spikes and moving Stewart Bradley into the starting lineup at middle linebacker more is needed.  The entire linebacking unit only had 3 sacks and 2 interceptions.  The NFL is now built on hybrid players and schemes at the LB area.  4-3 teams often incorporate 3-4 schemes and pass rushing based on the talent at LB.  The Eagles biggest problem is the aforementioned game-changing plays, but coverage is also a concern as teams like to run play action and screens on them.  Need to select another linebacker to help Rocky Boiman on special teams.

 10.  Kicker – I know a lot of Eagles fans are saying, “Wait a minute we have automatic Akers”.  The automatic part may have been the case in the past, but the former Pro Bowl kicker is approaching 34 and in 2007 he was 24 for 32 overall while making only 2 for 10 from beyond 40 including an alarming 1 for 6 between 40 to 49 yards. With his leg appearing to be not as strong since his ’05 hamstring injury, the Eagles should bring in a younger guy to push him. My suggestion would be a late round pick, an undrafted free agent, or possibly inquiring about Rams extra kicker and Chiefs ’07 draftee Justin Medlock.  The left footed kicker flamed out in Kansas City, but he had a made field goal percentage of 85.7 in college.

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One Response

  1. The Eagles clearly have a long way to go to get back to their years of glory. Coach Andy Reid has been an embarrassment to the team. He doesn’t seem to have a handle on his family or the team. Donovan McNabb though clearly talented does seem to be a bigger problem than once thought. He very well may have been the problem back when he was fussing with all pro talented receiver Terrell Owens. Owens has moved on to Dallas and doesn’t seem to be having the problems it was once thought he was causing. Donavon has stayed on in Philly and is still not producing. He stays hurt most of the time. It may be time for Philly to find a new QB and Coach.

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