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Bird Feed: Poor drafts haunt Eagles defense

Is it completely insane to hope the Eagles just stop drafting defensive players?

I mean, sure, it’d be tough to balance out the roster, and the defense would need to be built completely via trades or free agency as a result, but that’s got to be better than status quo, right?

Let’s pretend for a moment this was a realistic solution. If the Eagles passed on defensive players and drafted only offensive players, they would have more than enough assets to adequately build their defense. After all, the Eagles have been fantastic at finding offensive talent in recent drafts (McCoy, Jackson, Celek, the list goes on). It’d be easy to flip young offensive stars for solid defensive players.

I’m telling you, this makes complete sense. If you still suck at something after you’ve tried year after year to improve, you should probably stop, right? Conversely, if you excel at something, and you’ve proven you can consistently succeed, why not do it more? While the Eagles continually acquire offensive talent throughout the draft, they couldn’t draft a defensive star if a 25-year-old Reggie White was on the board staring them in the face.

If you don’t believe me, or think I’m being unreasonable (which I totally am), take a quick look at the defensive players the Eagles have drafted in the previous five drafts.

2007
Victor Abiamiri
– 2nd round, Defensive End: If spending time on injured reserve got you in the Hall of Fame, Abiamiri would be a first ballot candidate.
Stewart Bradley – 3rd round, Linebacker: Showed a ton of potential in those earlier seasons. Then, he blew out his knee and got a concussion on opening day the next year. Never was the same player. Bradley just took a pay cut to stay on Arizona’s roster.
C.J. Gaddis – 5th round, Defensive Back: Never made the Eagles team. Stuck around with the Falcons but never saw the field. Been out of the NFL since 2008.
Rashard Barksdale (Avon’s brother?) – 6th round, Defensive Back: Failed to make the team. Out of the NFL after only appearing in six games.

2008
Trevor Laws –
2nd round, Defensive Tackle: Showed flashes, but never good enough to stay in the rotation and make an impact. Consistently outplayed by undrafted free agents like Antonio Dixon and less heralded free agent signings like Derek Landri.
Bryan Smith – 3rd round, Defensive End: Lasted one year with the Eagles. Appeared in six games before he was a goner.
Quintin Demps – 4th round, Safety: Showed some promise as a rookie before getting burnt like toast in the NFC Championship Game. Eagles waived him prior to the 2010 season. Demps played for the Houston Texans last season.
Jack Ikegwuonu – 4th round, Defensive Back: Valued as a steal at the time because a knee injury dropped him out of the 1st round. Ikegwuonu played in one game before being released in November of 2009. Since then, he’s been arrested for stealing sneakers. Seriously.
Joe Mays – 6th round, Linebacker: Mays never prospered as an Eagle and was traded in 2010 to Denver for RB J.J. Arrington (aka nothing). Mays has started more than half his games with the Broncos at middle linebacker.
Andy Studebaker – 6th round, Linebacker: Placed on the Eagles practice squad before being picked up by the Kansas City Chiefs. He’s been a reliable player there, even starting five games in 2011.

2009
Macho Harris –
5th round, Defensive Back: Waived after one year with the Eagles and then played three games for the Redskins in 2010. And that’s the extent of his NFL career.
Moise Fokou – 7th round, Linebacker: Solid player, but even on a team with a linebacker corps as weak as Philadelphia’s, Fokou has struggled to hold on to a starting spot. Considering he was a 7th round selection, he should be considered a reasonably successful pick.

2010
Brandon Graham –
1st round, Defensive End: Struggled in rookie season, bum knee in 2011. 2012 will determine whether he’s a bust or not.
Nate Allen – 2nd round, Safety: Ditto.
Daniel Te’o-Nesheim – 3rd round, Defensive End: Waived before the 2011 season and then signed to practice squad before Tampa Bay claimed him. (For those keeping track, that’s two third round picks in three years that failed to even make the team in their sophomore season. Brutal.)
Trevard Lindley – 4th round, Defensive Back: Gone before the 2011 season. (I really liked Lindley. Thought he had potential. Clearly, I was wrong. He hadn’t played for anyone else since being cut UNTIL… that’s right; the Eagles signed him in January 2012. Weird.)
Keenan Clayton – 4th round, Linebacker: Clayton’s played in 21 games since being drafted and started once. Hasn’t been more than a special teams contributor.
Ricky Sapp – 5th round, Defensive End: Left the Eagles in August of 2011 for undisclosed reasons. He was waived shortly after and is currently a member of the Jets.
Jamar Chaney – 7th round, Linebacker: Started all 16 games for the Eagles in 2011 and still hasn’t made a play. Ok, that’s a littler harsh, but Chaney appears to be a bigger part of the problem than the solution.
Kurt Coleman – 7th round, Safety: I’ll say this: Coleman isn’t afraid. He plays hard and doesn’t shy away from contact. Sadly, he’s not a good tackler and his coverage skills are suspect. Both attributes are kind of important to the safety position.

2011
Jaiquawn Jarrett –
2nd round, Safety: For those keeping track, that’s four safeties drafted in the last three drafts. Perhaps the team should explore a new scouting approach? Jarrett started two games and never did anything spectacular. Too early to tell what he’ll amount to, but since the Eagles are discussing upgrading the safety position AGAIN, it doesn’t look good for Jarrett, Allen, or Coleman.
Curtis Marsh – 3rd round, Defensive Back: Appeared in seven games for the Eagles in 2011. I’d bet 89% of Eagles fans couldn’t even guess his number. (Where did the days go when the Eagles drafted talented cornerbacks with their eyes closed?)
Casey Matthews – 4th round, Linebacker: After Clay Matthews took the NFL by storm in 2010, the Eagles hoped to cash in on some of that Matthews family magic. Sadly, things didn’t work out. Matthews started early in the season before getting benched and becoming a whipping boy for Philly fans.
Brian Rolle – 6th round, Linebacker: Started 13 games as a rookie and was the most impressive defensive rookie. He’s undersized but has great instincts and makes big plays. We’ll see if the Eagles like him as much as I do.
Greg Lloyd – 7th round, Linebacker: Never saw the field for the Eagles in 2011. Will probably be fighting for his NFL career come training camp.

As you can see, it’s no coincidence the Eagles defense as been the ugly sister in recent years. What’s worse, the Eagles used their first five picks in 2010 to take defensive players and then used three of their top four picks in 2011 to do the same, and still, the defense struggles. One poor draft hurts bad enough. Blowing three or four consecutive drafts causes a franchise to suffer for years. We’re seeing that now with the Eagles. (It’s important to note that free agent signings [Babin, the now departed Samuel, Jenkins, Asomugha] have mostly kept the defense competitive.)

In order for the defense (and the Eagles as a team) to compete for a title in 2012, the front office must hit a few singles and maybe even a home run with their defensive draft picks this weekend. Or, the underachievers from past drafts could just suck less, because that’d work, too.

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