Thursday, May 5, 2011
Posted: 12 p.m.
By Ray Didinger
Answering your questions and commenting on your comments, here is todays dip into the mailbag.
Q. Im surprised to see youre mostly down on the Eagles' selections. I think they did pretty well across the board and it is impossible to judge the total picture until we see what (Kevin) Kolb gets us. (Danny) Watkins and (Jaiquawn) Jarrett are instant starters at positions that were weak last year. (Curtis) Marsh looks like a good gamble.
A. Im not down on the Eagles' draft. I thought they did OK. I only had three issues: (1) Taking Watkins when defensive end Cameron Jordan still was on the board. Jordan was projected as a top-15 pick and would have helped the pass rush; (2) Taking Marsh, a cornerback, in the third round. I think hes more of a project than a player at this point; (3) Drafting kicker Alex Henery in the fourth round, which means David Akers likely will be gone. I wouldnt be so quick to change. But I have no doubt Watkins and Jarrett will step right in. Casey Matthews will bring welcome fire to the linebacker corps and sixth-round pick Brian Rolle is a good cover guy who could be a pleasant surprise.
Q. I like the Watkins pick a lot. We all know the Eagles have serious needs on defense, but people have short memories. I think the principal reason the Eagles have been one and done in the last two (playoffs) is because the Dallas and Green Bay defensive lines manhandled our offensive line. Its about time we address the guard position with a high draft pick.
A. I like Watkins, too. My question was the value at that point in the draft: Would Jordan, an explosive pass rusher, have more impact than Watkins, a guard? You can debate that. But I dont question Watkins or his credentials as a first-round pick. He was my No. 1 guard, an outstanding pass protector, a guy that will tighten up the pocket around Mike Vick. He will be a starter from Week 1.
Q. You are wrong when you categorize the drafting of (Alex) Henery as a mistake. David Akers did not sign his tender when he could have done so. He is 36 and his misses in the playoff loss and the Pro Bowl were all easy kicks. They should send off warning signs. I cannot blame the Eagles for covering their bases.
A. Well, Michael, you are in the majority. Ive received dozens of e-mails from fans telling me Im an idiot and it is time for Akers to go. Ive just covered this team for so long that Ive seen too many occasions when a veteran kicker is released and the team winds up with a revolving door situation and a new kicker coming in every week. It can mess up an entire season.
Thats why if you have a solid veteran and Akers fits that description you keep him. I know he missed two big kicks in the playoff game, but that was one game. He made 32 of 38 field goal attempts during the regular season and he was 32 of 37 the year before that, so I would hardly say his skills are eroding. I still think he is one of the three or four best kickers in the NFL. Henery put up great stats in college, but the NFL is a whole different pressure cooker. Lets see how he handles it.
I was reminded many times that the Eagles have done this with other veterans and they usually are proven right. They seem to know when to cut the cord. But kickers have a different career span and good ones can stay good longer than players at other positions. And if this really was just about a contract then the Eagles cut him for the wrong reason.
Q. Im confused. Danny Watkins may turn out to be a solid player, but I believe we need more help on the defensive side. Prince Amukamara was within reach and now hes a New York Giant. On the NFL Network, it showed Eagles' defensive stats: 14th in this, 12th in that, 21st in that and we pick a hockey-playing guard from Canada? Im not an Andy (Reid) basher like most of the guys I sit with at the Linc, but sometimes he baffles me.
A. As I saw Amukamara slip into the teens, I thought the Eagles might trade up as they did for Jeremy Maclin two years ago. Given their immediate need at cornerback, it was a move worth exploring, although I have no idea what it would have cost. But it is clear in the comments made by Reid and general manager Howie Roseman, the team had its eyes on Watkins for months and they were content to take him at No. 23. I know some fans are perplexed by Watkins' age and his background, but he is a good player. So is Amukamara. Having him fall in their laps at No. 19 really was a stroke of good fortune for the Giants.
Q. Im looking forward to seeing Stanley Havili. I think he is a solid all-purpose back from a talented and crowded backfield at USC. I think his pass-catching ability can help immediately.
A. I was surprised Havili lasted to the seventh round. He is a 6-0, 230-pounder who is similar to Leonard Weaver in that he can play both running back and fullback. He is an excellent receiver and as a runner, he has speed to turn the corner and the vision to find a cutback lane.
The downside? Havili is a mediocre blocker, which means he wont be the classic NFL fullback right away. But if he improves in that area, even a little bit, Havili has enough other skills to be a nice piece to have in the Eagles' offense. He is also nice insurance given the severity of Weaver's knee injury.
Q. I saw Chicago moved ahead of us to take the Oregon State defensive tackle (Stephen Paea). Do you think we would have taken him at the next pick?
A. I think thats what the Bears had in mind. Most people knew the Eagles had an interest in Paea so the Bears didnt want to take a chance. They traded with Washington to get the spot immediately ahead of the Eagles (No. 53) so they could grab Paea. Would the Eagles have taken him? They will never tell. They say they were happy to take Jarrett, the safety from Temple.
Paea would have been a good fit in the Eagles' defense. He is a 6-1, 305-pound, three-technique tackle and before you say, Oh, another undersized lineman, consider that Paea set the combine strength record by cranking out 49 reps in the bench press. He is quick off the ball and collapses the pocket.
Q. It is hard to believe that no team drafted DeAndre McDaniel from Clemson. He is a playmaker, hard hitter and plays with a passion. If he gets a chance with the right team, I think he will be an excellent NFL player. Do you know why he was not drafted?
A. A couple reasons. One, he is a bit of a tweener. At 6-0, 220 pounds, he is too small to play linebacker in the pros, but he may not be quick enough to play in the secondary. He had a big season in 2009 (he led the ACC with nine interceptions) but his play fell off in 2010 due in part to injury (broken bone in his wrist). At his size, he should be a physical-type safety but he plays more of a finesse game. Still, I was surprised that no one drafted him. I thought hed go in the later rounds.
Q. The pick that blew my mind was Jake Locker. I heard nothing but bad things about him and then all of a sudden Tennessee takes him with the eighth overall pick. Did the Titans blow it or what?
Leon P.Glassboro, N.J.
A. That was a stunner. Lockers stock did rise in the postseason when he met the pro teams. He is a hungry kid with a passion for the game so he made a strong impression as a guy whose work ethic is off the charts. Titans coach Mike Munchak needs a quarterback (Vince Young, Rusty Smith and Brett Ratliff are on the current roster) but I think this is a big-time gamble. I just dont think Locker is an accurate-enough passer to be successful.
E-mail Ray Didinger at firstname.lastname@example.org
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