BY JARED NAGLE, Staff Writer
Ed Note: Jared Nagle is the new Eagles beat writer for High Hopes. He plans to cover the Eagles through the entire off-season, into 2010, as they look to improve upon a first-round Playoff goodbye last season.
Off-Season Need #1: Defensive End
Many of you reading this probably have never heard of Ray Edwards. Edwards, a four year veteran out of Purdue, is the starting right defensive end for the Minnesota Vikings. This past Sunday, against the Eagles most hated rival, Edwards registered three sacks as a major contributor to the Vikings 34-3 walloping of the Cowboys.
But why is this relevant to the Eagles as we head into the 2010 off-season?
The Eagles and the Vikings don’t have a lot of things in common these days, but they do both share the distinction of having a Pro Bowl left defensive ends in Trent Cole and Jared Allen, respectively. They also both have played the Dallas Cowboys in the last two weeks. A quick peek at the boxscore of these games will show that, unfortunately, the similarities end with results.
The Vikings were able to get pressure on Tony Romo without having to blitz, and subsequently held the Cowboys out of the endzone for 60 minutes of football. The Eagles were unable to to get pressure without blitzing despite the fact that they have a top tier talent in Cole. Why? Because the Eagles platoon of defensive ends on the opposite side of Cole were unable to take advantage of the chips and double teams that Cole demands.
Jared Allen, who is likely headed towards a Hall of Fame career, also receives respect from other teams, being double teamed on a regular basis. However, he does have a quality player on the other side of him in Edwards, and Edwards was able to take advantage of his opportunity by sacking Romo three times.
One of the top priorities for the Birds this off-season will be to upgrade the right defensive end position. This past season, the Eagles rotated the likes of Juqua Parker, Jason Babin, Darren Howard, Chris Clemons, and oft-injured Victor Abiamiri. As the saying goes, if you have two quarterbacks, you don’t have one. The same applies to every other position on the field.
The Eagles need stability and production from the right defensive end spot going forward. While Clemons, Parker and Howard can rush the passer, and Babin is a tough blue collar type, none of them have the skill set to be a starter because they don’t have the ability to hold up against the run and rush the passer consistently. Abiamiri has the most potential of the bunch but thus far, he has been unable to stay on the field and can no longer be relied upon. Expect this position to be addressed either through free agency or early on draft day.