I had a chance to ask Keith Heumiller of Inside The Iggles a few questions about the Philadelphia Eagles 2011 draft, here is what Keith had to tell me about how they fared:
AI: What were the best selections of the 2011 draft for your team?
KH: Jaiquawn Jarrett, by far. We’ve needed an impact player on defense since Brian Dawkins left, and Jarrett brings the fire. He’s a heat-seeking missile in the box and a punishing defender in the secondary. You can coach a player on his technique or coverage abilities, but you just can’t teach aggression. Some people have, most people don’t. As a rookie, Jarrett is going to make an impact immediately – both on defense and special teams. He may blow the occasional coverage or misread a play or two, but he’ll make up for by forcing some fumbles and, most importantly, infecting the rest of the defense with his berserker attitude.
AI: How do you rate the job of your organizations front office/scouts/coaching staff?
KH: Andy Reid and GM Howie Roseman have cultivated a reputation in the past couple years for being “mavericks,” for drafting and acquiring players that most analysts and fans didn’t see coming. Danny Watkins, this year’s first round pick, is a 26 year old former fireman from Canada who’s only been playing football for four years. But the scouting department – under the direction of the front office – wasn’t looking at age or experience on the offensive line. They were looking at power and durability. O-lines, more often than not, live or die on consistency – the same guys playing next to each other game after game, season after season, until they know what the guy next to him is going to do before he does it. Watkins started every game at Baylor, and has proven himself a durable, powerful guard with the potential to line up on our right side for years to come. While they may not always follow the mock drafts, the Eagles’ coaches, scouts, and managers have proven they know how to find diamonds in the rough. This year was no different
AI: What positions still need to be addressed in free agency?
KH: Cornerback, for sure. The Marsh pick in the 3rd round is intriguing, but he’s too raw to step up into a starting role this year. If there is a free agency, the Eagles have the cap room to jump in on the Nnamdi sweepstakes, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they target a Johnathan Joseph or Antonio Cromartie instead. Of course, there’s talk that the free agency rules might differ from 2010 if and when the stay on the lockout is lifted, but I’d be shocked if the Eagles didn’t bring in a veteran corner to line up down the field from Asante. Right tackle is an issue too, but aside from Jared Gaither I don’t see a whole of talent in the pool.
AI: Biggest sleeper draft choice?
KH: Casey Matthews has some serious upside, if he proves to have the desire and determination of his older brother. Dion Lewis broke all of McCoy’s records at Pitt and has a chance to do some serious damage in a time-share with his old teammate. But if I had to choose one, I’d say Alex Henery, the kicker out of Nebraska. If Akers doesn’t come back in ’11 this guy has a chance to go the Pro Bowl in his rookie year. His 89.5% career accuracy rating is an all-time NCAA record, and he’s solid ice under pressure. Against Colorado he hit a 57-yard go-ahead field goal with 1:45 left in the 4th quarter. I’ll repeat that. 4th and 25, less than two minutes on the clock, down by one, and the coach sends out his sophomore kicker to try a 57-yard field goal. And he nails it. Solid kicking can win a team more than one game in a season, and Henery’s the kind of kid who will get it done when the playoffs are on the line.
AI: Your biggest fear heading into the 2011 season surrounding the state of your team?
KH: That there won’t be a 2011 season. If there is, I’d be worried if we don’t acquire a veteran corner through free agency. Our secondary is relatively young and undersized, and teams made a living exploiting it towards the end of 2010. We need a shutdown corner, or as close as we can get, and if we don’t I think the revolving door of Dimitri Patterson, Joselio Hanson, and Trevard Lindley will continue to haunt us for another long season. I’m also concerned, as I am every year, about the risk of serious injury. Mike Vick was broken at the end of our playoff loss to the Packers, and if we’d had to play again the next week, and the week after that, there was a strong possibility #7 would’ve ended up on the bench. Now that teams have learned the only way to slow Vick down is by mugging him, constantly, new offensive line coach Howard Mudd needs to do a better job of keeping him on his feet and in good condition for December and January.
AI: Danny Watkins and Casey Matthews seem to be garnering a lot of attention. What is the inside scoop on these picks and will they be plugged right in and start?
KH: Watkins is durable, tough, and dominating. The Eagles chose to ignore his age (26) and his short career (4 years) after he started every consecutive game for Baylor and roughed up some of the best D-linemen in the game at the Senior Bowl. He should start at right guard on day one. Matthews is a question mark. He was the defensive leader for the undefeated Oregon Ducks, a signal-caller at middle linebacker and a tough, physical tackler. He needs work in the run game, but he’s got speed and coverage abilities that you just can’t teach. If he proves to be as determined and ready to learn as his older brother, he has the potential to be a serious steal in the 4th round.
AI: Which players from this draft class is going to help most in re-establishing that Philadelphia defense?
KH: Jaiquawn Jarrett, as mentioned above. More than anything else, our defense needs attitude, swagger. Jarrett has that Brian Dawkins/turbodrive blood lust that we’ve been seriously missing for a long time, and I’m hoping it will rub off on his teammates. Casey Matthews should also help answer some questions in the LB core, if he progresses quick enough.
AI: Is David Akers really going to leave?
KH: He’s been dealing with some pretty serious family issues recently, and while he’s not ancient for a kicker he’s around that age where Andy Reid starts to look into replacements. Like Belichick, Reid is good at knowing when to let a player go. And he’s cold-blooded when the time comes. The selection of Alex Henery in the 4th round is a pretty clear indication the team is preparing to go in a new direction, and whether it’s based on private talks between the club and Akers or a just a general, impersonal business move, the smart money says he’ll be gone sometime this offseason. And, for the record, I think his #2 jersey should be right behind #20 in the retirement line.
AI: What’s the latest on Kolb? Is Arizona still in the works?
KH: If Kolb is traded this offseason, he’s going to the NFC West. Arizona and Seattle will be battling it out for rights to the promising young gunslinger, and in the end I’m not totally sure who will win. The Eagles have a strong relationship with the Seahawks front office, but the Cardinals may be able to offer more this year, which of course will be the end-all be-all in negotiations for #4. Whichever one is willing to give up a higher pick – in addition to their first round selection in 2012 – will be declared the winner.
AI: What will your 2011 record be?
KH: 12-4. Two division losses, as usual, along with a close drop to the Pats and a disappointing late season letdown at home against the Jets.