Why Are Eagles Ignoring The Defense So Far This Offseason?
The Eagles have made it a priority this offseason to build around the man they consider their Franchise Quarterback. While Carson Wentz threw for 3,782 Yards and 16 Touchdowns his Rookie season, his 62.4 Completion Percentage in many ways was a byproduct of the Receivers that the team gave him to work with last season. The Eagles were 10th worst in the NFL in 2016 in Drops Percentage (4.0) and tied for 6th most Team Drops last season with 24. So the team went out of their way to address this issue by signing veteran Wide Receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, both major upgrades to the Receiving Corps. On top of this, the Eagles also solidified the Offensive Line depth by re-signing Stefan Wisniewski and giving Chance Warmack a one year contract.
But all of these moves are focused on the offense, what about the defense? Injuries hurt the secondary as young, inexperienced players such as Jalen Mills, CJ Smith, and Jaylen Watkins were forced into the lineup. With Ron Brooks lost for most of last season early on and Leodis McKelvin unable to stay healthy consistently, the Eagles were exposed allowing more then 250 Passing Yards in seven games. Heading into 2017 the Cornerbacks currently on the roster that have the most starting experience are Dwayne Gratz (25 starts), Ron Brooks (8 starts) and Jalen Mills (2 starts).
So why are the Eagles content with not getting more help in Free Agency at Cornerback? The NFC East boasts Dez Bryant, Odell Beckham Jr, Brandon Marshall and Terrell Pryor for the 2017 season. Is there any Eagles fan who is confident in Dwayne Gratz, Ron Brooks or Jalen Mills matching up with those those talented Wide Receivers?
So far in Free Agency, ten of the top Cornerbacks are now unavailable. If the Eagles want to build depth in their Defensive Secondary, they will have to potentially settle for Brandon Flowers (31 years old), Sam Shields (major injury last season), or Darius Butler (31 years old). Furthermore, despite the 2017 NFL Draft Class being deep at the Cornerback position, historically this position typically needs time to develop and guys are not always ready to make an impact Week One.
But if the Eagles do decide to use the NFL Draft to address their lack of depth and talent at the Cornerback position, why would you choose to select a Running Back or Wide Receiver with the 14th Overall pick? Is the hope to just outscore everyone and anticipate giving up 24 points or more per game? If you are wary of Washington's Sidney Jones after injuring his Achilles during his Pro Day workout, there are other top tier talented Cornerbacks the Eagles could select in the First Round.
Whether it's Marlon Humphrey (Alabama), TreDavious White (LSU), Teez Tabor (Florida), Kevin King (Washington), Quincy Wilson (Florida), or Jourdan Lewis (Michigan) you can't go wrong drafting a player at 14th overall who projects to be a top tier Cornerback in the NFL. NFL Draft history is full of Running Backs and Wide Receivers who were drafted in Rounds 2 through 7:
-Isaac Bruce (2nd Round)
-Terrell Davis (6th Round)
-Terrell Owens (3rd Round)
-Hines Ward (3rd Round)
-Brian Westbrook (3rd Round)
-Donald Driver (7th Round)
-Anquan Boldin (2nd Round)
-Frank Gore (3rd Round)
-Brandon Marshall (4th Round)
-Jordy Nelson (2nd Round)
-Matt Forte (2nd Round)
-Antonio Brown (6th Round)
-Latavious Murray (6th Round)
So if Joe Douglas and Andy Weidl are the great talent evaluators they have been lauded to be, then they can find guys like Chester Taylor, Ray Rice, Torrey Smith, and Jordan Howard as they did in their previous NFL Drafts. Whether the Running Back is Joe Williams, Samaje Perine, James Connor or Donnel Pumphrey, the Eagles have options in Rounds 2 through 6. Same goes for Wide Receiver with players such as Chris Godwin, Cooper Kupp, Chad Hansen, or Malachi Dupree expected to be available on Day Two of the NFL Draft.
So the Eagles need to go Cornerback in the First Round because Ron Brooks, Dwayne Gratz, and Jalen Mills are not the top three Cornerbacks you want on the depth chart for 2017.