May 04, 2007

Draft Review

The Eagles were expected to use this weekend's draft to fortify their defensive secondary.

Instead, they brought in a possible successor to Donovan McNabb's quarterback throne.

In a move that raised more than a few eyebrows, the Eagles traded out of the first round and selected University of Houston quarterback Kevin Kolb with the fourth pick in the second round.

McNabb, 30, is a five-time Pro Bowler, but has missed significant chunks of three of the last five seasons with injuries.

He tore his ACL last November, but is expected to be ready for the start of training camp.

Eagles head coach Andy Reid insisted that the Eagles' decision to draft Kolb had nothing to do with McNabb or his knee injury, and that he expects McNabb to be the team's starting quarterback for several more years.

But considering that the Eagles recently signed backup A.J. Feeley to a three-year extension and also acquired veteran Kelly Holcomb in a trade with Buffalo, the decision to draft Kolb was curious.

"I'd like to make it very clear that this is not about Donovan and his
progress," Reid said. "He's doing great. He's going to have a heck of a year and
years to come."This was strictly sticking to what we had on the (draft) board
and taking the best player at the time."

McNabb has four years left on his current contract with the Eagles.The Eagles did get some secondary help in the draft, but not until the second day, selecting Clemson defensive back C.J. Gaddis in the fifth round and Albany cornerback Rashad Barksdale in the sixth.

Pro Bowl free safety Brian Dawkins will turn 34 in October. While he still played at a high level last season, it's not known how long that will be the case.

The Eagles, who initially had the 26th pick in the first round, had eyed University of Miami safety Brandon Meriweather in the first round. But he was taken by the New England Patriots two picks before the Eagles went on the clock and traded down.

"We went in (to the draft) and said, `Let's stay very disciplined in picking the
best players available," Reid said. "There were a group of guys we were looking
at (in the first round). There were safeties involved there and some other guys.
We just felt we could trade down and still have the players we considered the
best players."

The Eagles selected eight players in the draft. Few of them are expected to make much of an immediate impact next season. The lone exception might be Penn State running back Tony Hunt, who the Eagles took in the third round.

The 6-1, 233-pound Hunt is a power back who could be used in short-yardage and goal line situations as an alternative to Brian Westbrook and Correll Buckhalter.

RB Tony Hunt. At long last, the Eagles addressed their need for a bigger back to complement Brian Westbrook, selecting the 6-1 1/2, 233-pound Hunt in the third round. Hunt is a much more powerful runner than Westbrook's backup, Correll Buckhalter, who has had 3 knee operations, and likely will be used a lot in short-yardage and goal-line situations.

DE Victor Abiamiri. The Eagles' roster is well-stocked with bodies at defensive end, and their four-man rotation for '07 appears set. But veteran Darren Howard is coming off a poor season and their other starter Jevon Kearse is coming off an ACL injury. With a solid training camp and preseason, Abiamiri could play his way into the rotation.

A closer look at the Eagles' picks:

Round 2/36 — Kevin Kolb, QB, 6-3, 218, Houston
The Eagles traded out of the first round, then shocked everyone by taking Kolb four picks into the second round. The Eagles insist taking Kolb has nothing to do with the future of Donovan McNabb. They say Kolb simply was their highest rated player on the board at the time.

Round 2/57 — Victor Abiamiri, DE, 6-4, 267, Notre Dame
Abiamiri led the Irish with 10.5 sacks last season. With Darren Howard coming off a sub-par season and Jevon Kearse returning from a torn ACL, Abiamiri could force his way into the end picture this summer.

Round 3/87 — Stewart Bradley, LB, 6-4, 254, Nebraska
Bradley becomes the latest entrant in a crowded strong-side linebacker derby. Undersized Dhani Jones has been the starter the last two seasons, but was released the day after the draft. Bradley also can play the MIKE position.

Round 3/90 — Tony Hunt, RB, 6-2, 233, Penn State
Hunt was viewed as a possible second-round pick until he ran a 4.6 forty at his Pro Day workout. Rushed for 1,228 yards last year at Penn State. Gives the Eagles a much-needed power-back option to starter Brian Westbrook.

Round 5/159 — C.J. Gaddis, CB, 5-11, 203, Clemson
Gaddis is a strong, physical defensive back who benched-pressed 225 pounds 20 times at the scouting combine. His appeal to the Eagles is that he can play both corner and safety. Should be able to contribute on special teams.

Round 5/162 — Brent Celek, TE, 6-4, 248, Cincinnati
Celek doesn't have the kind of seam-stretching speed that Eagles starter L.J. Smith has. He's a pretty good blocker and a solid possession receiver who caught 35 passes and averaged 13.7 yards per catch last season. He should be able to make an immediate contribution on special teams.

Round 6/201 — Rashad Barksdale, CB, 6-2, 210, Albany
Barksdale's size and speed — he ran a 4.38 in a pre-draft workout for scouts — prompted the Eagles to draft him. He admitted to being "shocked" that the Eagles drafted him, figuring his best shot would come as an undrafted free agent.

Round 7/236 — Nate Ilaoa, RB, 5-9, 250, Hawaii
Shaped like a bowling ball, Ilaoa is a former wideout with decent speed who averaged 7.6 yards per carry. He is a load to tackle and could be used as both a halfback and fullback.

NOTES, QUOTES—Eagles owner Jeff Lurie said he doesn't think the window of opportunity is close to closing on the Eagles, who have won 5 of the last 6 NFC East titles, but have been to just one Super Bowl during that time.
"We have a franchise quarterback, a terrific nucleus and terrific veteran
leadership," Lurie said. "I always try to analyze where we're at compared to
the other teams. I don't think we're anywhere close to closing that window."

Lurie said the thought that coach Andy Reid might quit earlier this year after his two oldest sons were arrested on drug and weapons charges did cross his mind. "You just don't know," he said.

"When someone's having a family crisis, you don't know how that will continue. He's a terrific coach, a terrific guy to work with. You always want to give as much support and be as flexible as you can so that he can attack those problems."

Reid took a five-week leave of absence. He returned to the team in
mid-March.—Reid said he still hasn't decided where linebacker Takeo Spikes,
who was acquired in a trade with Buffalo last month, will play. "No, we'll just
see," he said. "He's been very open to me. He played WILL the majority of his
career, but he also played MIKE. The position he wouldn't be quite as
familiar with is the SAM linebacker position. I don't really care about all
of that part. I just want good players in there that do their thing. I want good competition that will bring out the best in guys. You can't have enough good players."


"I'm anxious to get behind those older guys and get to learn from them over the next however long. I want to learn the ropes and get them to teach me and soak up everything I can. Be a sponge for however long it takes to get my turn and then get in there and win ball games when I get the chance." — Second-round QB Kevin Kolb.

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