April 24, 2007

As Draft Nears, Eagles Say McNabb Is Their Future

Published: April 24, 2007
PHILADELPHIA, April 23 — Donovan McNabb has had a season-ending injury in each of the last two seasons.
Considering that history, and that McNabb is 30, some believe that the Philadelphia Eagles should select a young quarterback in this weekend’s N.F.L. draft.
Last season, Jeff Garcia filled in superbly after McNabb tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, leading the Eagles to the playoffs and a division championship. But Garcia signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a free agent in March, leaving A. J. Feeley and Kelly Holcomb as McNabb’s backups.
The Eagles insist that they remain comfortable with McNabb as their No. 1 quarterback and say they will focus on other positions with the 26th pick in Saturday’s first round. With only two quarterbacks — JaMarcus Russell of Louisiana State and Brady Quinn of Notre Dame — expected to be selected in the first round, this is not an optimum year for the Eagles to burn a high pick on a project quarterback when they have more pressing needs on defense, particularly in the secondary.

“We think Donovan’s coming back healthy, he looks great, and we have A.
J.,” said Tom Heckert, the Eagles’ general manager, when asked about
Philadelphia’s quarterback situation during a round table with reporters

“Even last year, he played great until he got hurt,” Heckert said of
McNabb. “He’s still a heck of a player.”

McNabb is still undergoing rehabilitation, hoping to be on the field when training camp begins in July. Until McNabb returns, nobody can be certain if his recovery from a serious knee injury will be more similar to that of the Cincinnati Bengals’ Carson Palmer or the Miami Dolphins’ Daunte Culpepper.
Both of those quarterbacks sustained knee injuries during the 2005 season. While Palmer was once again one of the N.F.L.’s top quarterbacks in 2006, Culpepper struggled and has not been the player he once was.
The Eagles gambled by not offering Garcia the contract he was seeking, but they say they are set at quarterback after signing Feeley to a long-term contract and obtaining Holcomb, who did not play last season, in a trade with the Buffalo Bills.
On Saturday, the Eagles are likely to consider a cornerback or a safety with their first-round pick. Safety Brian Dawkins remains one of the team’s emotional leaders and best players, but he will be 34 in November.
The Eagles have solid corner backs in Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown, but cover corners are at a premium in the N.F.L., particularly on a team like the Eagles that loves to blitz.
Defensive backs that could be available with the 26th pick include safeties Michael Griffin of Texas and Reggie Nelson of Florida and corner backs Jonathan Wade of Tennessee, Josh Wilson of Maryland and Eric Wright of Nevada-Las Vegas. The Eagles may also opt for help on the defensive line because end Jevon Kearse is recovering from a knee injury.
This has been an usual off-season for the Eagles, with Coach Andy Reid taking a leave of absence from Feb. 12 to March 23 after his two sons, Garrett and Britt, were arrested.
Reid has the final say on all personnel matters, but he did not attend the scouting combine in February. But Heckert said that the Eagles’ draft preparations had not been affected because he and Reid frequently communicated.
“We sent him a bunch of tape and we talked three or four times a day,” Heckert said.
The Eagles have never drafted a safety in the first round, and they have not drafted a linebacker in the first round since 1979, when they selected Jerry Robinson. Philadelphia added a linebacker in the off-season, however, signing Takeo Spikes, who arrived with Holcomb in the trade with the Bills.
Philadelphia’s success rate in the draft has been inconsistent since Heckert joined the organization in 2001. His best draft was in 2002, when the Eagles acquired Sheppard, Michael Lewis, Brian Westbrook and Brown. But the Eagles have only one current starter from the 2003 draft, tight end L. J. Smith.
Last year, the Eagles took defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley with the 14th pick, but he reported late and out of shape and was a disappointment. The Eagles hope for more from Bunkley this season, but Heckert acknowledged that some of the team’s recent selections have not worked out as well as the team had hoped.
“We look at things every year,” Heckert said. “Was his work ethic not what we thought it was, did he fit into our scheme?
“If you’re talking about a good football team, it’s tough for any rookie to come out and start. But after two and a half or three years, if the guy’s not playing, it’s probably not going to work out.”
Heckert said that the Eagles probably would not make a deal to move up in the draft, feeling that a player who can help them will be available at No. 26. But with so many possibilities for Saturday, not even Heckert seems to be sure who that player may be.
“I honestly can’t sit here and tell you who we are going to draft,” he said.
But in Philadelphia, drafting a quarterback is still not a top priority.
I'm glad somebody finally writes an article that has some truth to it. I'm tired of all the "Eagles should draft a QB to replace McNabb" crap. McNabb is a very good QB, and the Eagles will sink or swim with him. I am also confident with AJ Feeley as a backup. The team has shown they could win with Feeley in the past, and he just plays well in the Eagles system.

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