By: By BOB GROTZ, firstname.lastname@example.org
With the draft just a dozen days away, the Eagles have offered few clues of their intentions beyond their history.The Eagles, who own the 26th overall pick, have selected linemen with five of their eight first-round picks in the Andy Reid era.
Four of those choices have been defensive linemen, a less than distinguished list now occupied by Mike Patterson, Jerome McDougle and Brodrick Bunkley.
While many expect the trend to continue, there is indirect evidence the Eagles could shock the NFL world by selecting a linebacker or a safety in the first round.
If it's a linebacker, it would be their first since Jerry Robinson of UCLA in 1979. And it might be Paul Posluszny (6-1, 237) of Penn State, who said recently he thought the Eagles were interested and that his in depth get-together with them at the scouting combine "went well - very well."
Even with the addition of veteran Takeo Spikes, the Eagles owe it to themselves to fortify the linebacker position that has struggled to make routine plays, much less big plays the past couple seasons.
Like Spikes, Posluszny can play outside or inside judging by his all-American career with the Nittany Lions.
Ironically the two-time Bednarik Award winner for defensive player of the year may have benefited from the extra year he spent in college after tearing the PCL and MCL in his right knee in the 2006 Orange Bowl. The injury didn't require surgery.
"When I meet with teams they tell me I can play middle linebacker or outside linebacker," said Posluszny, the Nittany Lions' all-time leading tackler with three straight seasons of 100-plus stops. "When I changed positions I learned a couple of things and in the long run, I think that helped me out tremendously just adding to versatility and all of that."
Where Posluszny comes off the board is a matter of considerable speculation.
The Buffalo Bills, with the 12th pick, need someone to replace Spikes and departed middle linebacker London Fletcher-Baker.Posluszny would be a good fit with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have the 15th pick. The Giants, with the 20th pick, could have their choice of Posluszny or linebacker Lawrence Timmons of Florida State.
The Denver Broncos, with the 21st pick, need a linebacker. Ditto the Kansas City Chiefs, at 23. Chiefs president Carl Peterson loves Penn State products.
The New England Patriots (Nos. 24 and 28) and the New Orleans Saints (27) also need linebackers.
With smallish 2005 second-round pick Matt McCoy prone to wearing down at weak-side linebacker and with the position of 2006 third-round pick Chris Gocong up in the air, the possibilities strong side linebacker and defensive end, the Eagles could use a smart, quick-study prospect like Posluszny to compete with Omar Gaither in Jim Johnson's complex defense.
Then again, while Posluszny has the quickness and heart to play in the NFL, his size is hardly a slam-dunk, especially if he plays in the middle.
The Eagles clearly think they need to upgrade inside, proof positive their unsuccessful pursuit of restricted free agent Ryan Fowler, who signed with the Tennessee Titans.
Patrick Willis of Mississippi is the top middle linebacker on the draft board, and as such is unlikely to be around if the Eagles stay at 26.
If the Eagles grab a safety, it would be the first they've taken off the board since Ben Smith in 1990.
The Eagles aren't getting any younger at the position where the 33-year-old Brian Dawkins rallied to make the Pro Bowl but faded in the playoffs.
After re-signing Quintin Mikell to compete with under-sized starting safety Sean Considine, the Eagles flirted with veteran safety Mike Doss, who ultimately signed with the Minnesota Vikings.
Talk of moving cornerback Sheldon Brown to safety is just that although with veteran William James signed for just 2007, no one would be surprised to see the Eagles draft a corner, one of the positions they valued.
Among the group expected to be available later in the first round is Michael Griffin (5-11, 194) of Texas, a hard-tackling but unpolished cover player with 4.4 speed in the 40-yard dash.
The Eagles quietly confirmed running back Brian Westbrook owes them $3 million because of an accounting error they made but the timetable for returning the money remains unclear.
Complicating the matter is Westbrook already has paid taxes on the money, although he intends to repay it according to multiple reports citing his agent Fletcher Smith.
The Eagles signed left-footed kicker E.J. Cochrane to a three-year contract, the Montana State product returning for another offseason and training camp.
Cochrane, 26, a native of Philadelphia, led the Big Sky Conference in scoring in 2004 after a standout career in football and soccer at Pennsbury High.
I know this is every Penn State fans dream, but I dont see this happeneing. I think there are bigger needs in the secondary, and that he is not really the linebacker for Jim Johnson's scheme. Posluszny seems better suited for a 3-4 defense in my opinion. Buffalo passing on Patrick Willis seems crazy to me. After the Senior Bowl, and combine performances, Willis looks like the highest rated linebacker in the draft. I keep hearing about Sheldon moving to safety. I know he has played there a little bit, in some nickle packages, and I wonder how would would do as a full time starter. He does tackle well, and hit hard, so I dont see those being issues for him. That could make CB a very real possibility at 26.
April 19, 2007
By: By BOB GROTZ, email@example.com