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How Quickly Can Roster Improve?

Posted Jan 28, 2013

A Pro Bowl came and went without a single Philadelphia Eagle in the game, something the team wants to change in a hurry. Upgrading the roster is high on the offseason list ...

The 2012 disappointment was just that. No excuses. You don't go 4-12 and blame a few bounces of the ball and a handful of injuries. You take the season for what it was and you correct what you think needs correcting.

That's why the Eagles have a new head coach in Chip Kelly and why they will soon -- we think -- introduce the entire coaching staff. Looking ahead, the roster could have some volatile times as general manager Howie Roseman and Kelly make it better.

The Eagles don't have to tear it all down and build from the foundation, for sure. There are some substantial pieces in place on this roster already. But with what is expected to be a healthy salary cap situation and the fourth overall selection in the April 25 draft, the Eagles can improve this roster significantly in the offseason.

Let's take a look at some of the areas to address ...

OFFENSIVE LINE

The Eagles expect left tackle Jason Peters, center Jason Kelce and guard/tackle Todd Herremans to be healthy for training camp, at the very latest. Those three would join left guard Evan Mathis in the starting lineup, presumably, and give the Eagles a solid foundation moving forward. Who competes for the fifth starter's role? Where is former No. 1 draft pick Danny Watkins in the big picture?

What kind of linemen does Kelly need to run his offensive scheme effectively? The early thinking is that Kelly wants athletic, quick-footed linemen rather than road graders, but that hasn't come from the coach's mouth. Instead, we've all kind of taken what we saw from Kelly's Oregon teams and pushed that concept forward to the NFL.

Truth is, we don't know. The good news is that the Eagles have some pieces to consider up front, including second-year man Dennis Kelly, who gained valuable playing time in his rookie season. With some good health and a solid addition or even two, the Eagles could be outstanding up front offensively in 2013.

QUARTERBACK

This is the ginormous question that has fans talking every day: Who is going to play quarterback for the Eagles in 2013? Does Kelly favor Nick Foles, who has some shining moments as a dropback quarterback in his rookie season of 2012? Would he rather go with Michael Vick and all of the athleticism that Vick brings to the table?

Or, the third alternative, does Kelly look outside the current roster for his quarterback solution?

Should the latter be the case, the most viable option could be the draft, where the Eagles hold that precious fourth pick. West Virginia's Geno Smith is likely to be the first quarterback taken, and he could be under consideration. Smith's workouts and postseason showcase moments are still to come, and there's no telling how fast he's going to rise or fall in teams' eyes based on his work.

DEFENSIVE SECONDARY

The lack of big plays from the secondary was stunning in 2012. The safety play was largely poor all season and the performance from cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie regressed throughout the campaign. It was a distressing fall from grace.

Now, what do the Eagles do to improve the secondary? They have to make a decision on Rodgers-Cromartie, who is slated to be an unrestricted free agent in March. Asomugha's contract reportedly jumps to about $15 million in 2013. Is he worth keeping at that price?

The Eagles have young prospects in Curtis Marsh, Brandon Boykin and Brandon Hughes, but are they ready to become starting players at this level?

There are some veterans who will hit the free-agency market and the draft has a couple of high-caliber talents. There is a chance the Eagles overhaul cornerback and make this a longer-term fix, but no doubt the corners need to be addressed.

As for the safeties, the Eagles have a lot of work to do here, too. Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman had too much inconsistency last season. Colt Anderson made some plays as a late-season starter, but he's best suited as a reserve safety and a standout on special teams.

The Eagles need a playmaker or two at safety. The challenge is that the talent level at safety in this league is thin and that most teams are scrambling at safety. Can the Eagles resurrect Allen? Is Coleman able to step up and be a consistent starter?

PASS RUSHERS

Whether the Eagles stay in a 4-3 scheme or move to 3-4, they've got to be more explosive and consistent at getting to the quarterback. The defensive end group, thought to be bottomless in talent last year, just didn't change games as the Eagles hoped they would. Trent Cole's production fell off a cliff. Jason Babin was ultimately released. Brandon Graham came on late in the season, to a degree. Phillip Hunt played sparingly and Vinny Curry hardly suited up.

Darryl Tapp is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent, so the question is whether he will return. Are the Eagles strong enough here, no matter the scheme?

The front seven seems to be in better shape, although a move to a 3-4 would require the Eagles to go out and get a standout nose tackle to anchor the line of scrimmage and occupy blockers. That's not an easy find.

Bottom line for the Eagles: There is some talent here. Had Peters and running back LeSean McCoy been healthy all season in 2012, the Eagles wouldn't have been where they were in the standings and they would have had more "blue-chip" talent on scouts' boards.

The exciting thing is that the Eagles have a real chance to make great strides toward a better roster, and fast. How quickly can they turn the roster into a Super Bowl winner? Ultimately, that's the question that means the most of all.

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