Inside the Ravens with Aaron Wilson

Monday, April 26, 2010

Eagles' rookies could push out some vets


Baker's dozen likely to re-configure Birds' roster


Stage two of the Eagles rebuilding project will commence this weekend with the first, and only, mandatory minicamp at the NovaCare Complex.

After this past weekend's draft added a baker's dozen of ps to what might turn out to be the youngest, if no longer "the best'' roster in the NFL, there will be several interesting battles to watch from now until the team opens the season against Green Bay.

Let's take an early position by position look at some of them.

QUARTERBACKS

I, like many, would love to see a fair fight between named starter Kevin Kolb and Michael Vick, but it's not going to happen. Kolb is one, Vick is two and rookie draft pick Michael Kafka is three. A street free agent or an undrafted rookie will be added as a fourth just to take some reps.

A note on Kafka from a scout before the draft: "He throws a lot of picks, but at least he's willing to pull the trigger. You don't see that from a lot of young kids.''

RUNNING BACKS

Leonard Weaver signed a new long-term deal and is the fullback; that's been decided. Last year's second-round pick LeSean McCoy will be the starting running back. The competition for the backup spots should be good.

Restricted free agent signing Mike Bell should have one spot and sixth-round pick Charles Scott, at 239 pounds, provides a big option as well. Eldra Buckley played well enough on special teams last year to be given a long look. There is the chance the team keeps five here.

WIDE RECEIVERS

The top three are set with DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant. The back two might be as well with newly-resigned Hank Baskett and fifth-round pick Riley Cooper. That might be as solid a quintet as the Eagles have had at this position in a long time, providing Cooper contributes even a little bit.

Note on Cooper from another scout: "He's a physical, possession receiver. Thing is he'll make a great catch one play and then drop a routine one the next play.''

TIGHT ENDS

Small-school workout machine, Clay Harbor was apparently too good to pass on with the 125th pick, so there will be an interesting battle here as well.

Brent Celek is the starter; that's for sure.

Harbor, out of Missouri State, will battle last year's fifth-round pick Cornelius Ingram, coming off his second ACL tear (but will be ready for minicamp) and Martin Rucker, who looked good at practice late last season.

Note on Harbor: "He wowed some guys at his workout, but I'm not sure. If you play at a I-AA you should dominate. He didn't dominate.''

OFFENSIVE LINE

In what has to be the shock of the draft, Andy Reid ignored his offensive line and said afterward he was happy with who he has there.

Well, bully for him.

There still isn't a healthy center on the team. Right guard is in flux, and if you're fine with Jason Peters and Winston Justice at tackle, then you don't remember Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan.

DEFENSIVE ENDS

The Eagles added three -- first-round pick Brandon Graham of Michigan, third-round pick Daniel Te'o-Nesheim of Washington and fifth-round pick Ricky Sapp of Clemson, a converted linebacker -- to the four who were already there.

The most they are likely to keep is five, maybe six -- if they go light somewhere else.

Victor Abiamiri (knee) is hurt again, and it might be time for him to get on with a career outside of football. That was a bad second-round pick in 2007.

Trent Cole, of course, is set on the right side, and newly-acquired Darryl Tapp should be safe. Graham and "Te'o'' aren't going anywhere, so it could be Sapp or Juqua Parker, the only non-kicker on the roster over 30 years old.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES

The only addition was seventh-round pick Jeff Owens of Georgia, who slipped because of a knee injury that sidelined him for a year-and-a-half.

If Owens is healthy and any good, he could beat out 2008 second-round pick Trevor Laws, another one of the Eagles' Terrible Twos.

LINEBACKERS

This should be a party, too.

The Eagles added two -- Ernie Sims and Alex Hall -- through trade and then drafted two more -- Oklahoma's Keenan Clayton in the fourth round and Mississippi State's Jamar Chaney in the sixth round.

Sims, if he can stay healthy, will likely start on the weak side, with Stewart Bradley, coming back from an ACL injury, in the middle and Akeem Jordan switching over to the strong side.

Clayton will get the chance to be Sims' backup, but the scouts I trust, don't think much of him.

Chaney, who the team got good value with in the sixth round, but has also battled injuries, could be Bradley's backup.

Hall and Moise Fokou could battle for the backup spot on the strongside.

That leaves Omar Gaither and Joe Mays in trouble.

CORNERBACKS

Only one came via the draft surprisingly, and that was Kentucky's Trevard Lindley, in the fourth round, who was graded as a seventh-round pick by some.

Right now, Asante Samuel and Ellis Hobbs are the starters, with Lindley, Joselio Hanson and Dimitri Patterson in reserve.

Ugh.

Look for Victor "Macho'' Harris to move to cornerback from safety.

SAFETIES

It will be a surprise -- and not a good one -- if second-round pick Nate Allen of South Florida doesn't start opposite Quintin Mikell. Free agent addition Marlin Jackson will be in the mix as well, unless he also moves back to corner.

Quintin Demps should work on being the return man, if he can hold off undersized seventh-round pick Kurt Coleman of Ohio State.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Browns reach for Haden


Cleveland, under Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert, took the first reach when they selected cornerback Joe Haden of Florida with the seventh pick.

From the scouts I talked to, Haden is good, not great and may never be a No. 1 corner. That's not what you want with the No. 7 pick.

Then again, as much as I like Holmgren, he's never been a good draft man (check his picks in Seattle), and Heckert, well, enough said.

Sam I Am


There were a lot of options for the Rams with the first pick, including trading down with Cleveland for a bevy of picks.

St. Louis did the right thing by taking Sam Bradford, the quarterback from Oklahoma.

Of course you never know about No. 1 picks, especially quarterbacks. Know this, however, you don't win without a franchise quarterback, and the Rams haven't had one since Kurt Warner left.

Now the hard part for head coach Steve Spagnuolo and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, two former Eagles assistants, is whether to start Bradford from Day One, or to let him sit, watch and learn.

If they learned from Andy Reid, they will take their time the way he did with Donovan McNabb and let A.J. Feeley play the role of Doug Pederson.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Will Jerry Jones still be smiling when Bryant holds out?


It will be interesting to see if Dez Bryant reports to training camp on time…

Let’s put the reported behavioral issues aside and consider the facts.

To start, let’s turn the clock back one year to the 2009 NFL Draft. Then a raw burner named Darius Heyward-Bey was the first wide receiver to come off the board, selected by the Oakland Raiders with the 7th pick. Three slots later the 49ers chose Michael Crabtree.Other than Al Davis, no one in this galaxy thought DHB was a better player than Crabtree, particularly Crabtree and his agent Eugene Parker. Crabtree threatened to sit out the entire season and re-enter the draft in 2010.

After a hideous holdout (ending in early October) during which Parker argued that his client should be paid more than DHB’s $23.5 million in guarantees, Crabtree caved and accepted the paltry sum of $17 million in guaranteed money.Yesterday with the 22nd pick the Broncos made Demaryius Thomas the first wide receiver selected in the 2010 NFL Draft. Thomas has off the chart athleticism but like DHB, he is a bit unrefined. Also like DHB, a receiver most consider superior was chosen after him.

Enter Dez Bryant.

Similar circumstances right?

Given the NFL’s slotting system, you would think that Thomas would receive a slightly better deal than Bryant.

Tell that to Bryant’s agent.

His name is Eugene Parker.

Think Parker learned anything from last year?

I guess time will tell but the bet here is Bryant will opt for a big H in big D.

Monday, April 5, 2010

McNabb to Redskins, a double edged sword


Roughly 11 years ago the Philadelphia Eagles drafted Donovan McNabb with the second overall pick and since then he's been the face of the franchise. Eleven years long and I'll be honest I enjoyed every one of them. Both fun and frustrating he was the most exciting and best QB the Birds have ever had in franchise history. At this point the Birds are getting the 37th overall pick and either a 3rd or 4th round pick in the 2011 draft in a trade with the Washington Redskins.

Here's my take: The Eagles now have 11 draft picks so hopefully they can walk away from this draft with two blue chip college ballers like Sean Weatherspoon from Missouri and Eric Berry from Tennessee. Outside of a big LB and S that can step in and make an immediate impact I'm not so sure I like this move.

You have Mike Shanahan in Washington now and he is hoarding RB's. Donovan's always been successful in a run happy offense. Donovan has decent receivers down there too. Chris Cooley and Santana Moss are solid outlets for him. I mean let's be honest he has been very successful with less! Remember James Thrash and Todd Pinkston?

Adding Donovan to the Skins turns that team around and leaves the Birds with a big question mark at QB. Say what you will about Kevin Kolb but he was good against a poor defense and a prevent defense. I would think he can step in and be the answer for the Eagles, but he's not proven yet in my mind.

Did the Eagles in one fell swoop weaken themselves and strengthen a divisional rival?