Post NFL Draft Q&A: Shaping the Potential Eagles Roster

What kind of impact will Lane Johnson have on the Eagles this season?With off-season workouts well under way, and the NFL draft in the rear view mirror, lets reflect on the draft, and make some projections for the upcoming season. We asked HighPhive.com contributor and Eagles/NFL Draft Writer for FootballExtraPoints.com Josh Collacchi, and HighPhive leading Eagles contributor/sports analyst for 91.3 WVUD Ben Haley on their thoughts about the Eagles draft.

Q: Lane Johnson of Oklahoma was drafted fourth overall and became the Eagles first round pick on April 25th. How does Johnson fit on the current offensive line for the Eagles? And what does the acquisition of Johnson mean for the future of Danny Watkins, Todd Herremans, and Jason Peters?

Josh: With the Eagles taking Johnson at 4th overall, he will be an instant starter. Johnson will likely move to RT (which he played some at Oklahoma) and Peters will be healthy at LT. Evan Mathis is hurt for now, and will miss most of the OTAs.  This leads to Danny Watkins getting first team reps at LG during the offseason with Todd Herremans moving back inside to RG. Mathis will continue to start when healthy and I believe Watkins will impress Chip Kelly at OTA’s (due to his run blocking) then he could be the 6th linemen for the Eagles, which is a VERY key position. When healthy, the Eagles line will be (from left to right) Peters, Mathis, Kelce, Herremans, Johnson. They have not played together yet, but this is a VERY talented line, and all 5 are supreme run blockers.

Ben: Johnson all but solidifies an already talented offensive line. Johnson’s athletic ability makes him versatile enough to play right or left tackle, or as a second TE in a run blocking formation. Danny Watkins does seem to be the odd man out for now, but will certainly play a role in goal line situations, or filling in for the injured Mathis. Watkins’ services remain in high demand in Philadelphia whose offensive line boasts two starters over the age of 30. The Eagles’ projected starting line has tremendous potential and, given time, could develop into one of the best in football.

Q: In the second round, the Eagles turned their attention to the skill positions and selected Zach Ertz, TE Stanford. Ertz was likely the best player available, and has drawn comparisons to current 49ers TE Vernon Davis. Does Ertz put Brent Celek’s role with the team in jeopardy? Is Ertz a good fit on the Eagles? Will Ertz be able to contribute from day one? And if so, in what capacity?

Josh:  I was really high on Zach Ertz, having him ranked close behind Tyler Eifert at TE in my NFL Draft Rankings. He is not as good a blocker as Vernon Davis, but he is a VERY good receiver. At Stanford he lined up in the slot, at wideout and as a traditional TE. He will instantly contribute to this offense and I do not believe he will jeopardize Brent Celek’s role too much. Chip Kelly will likely run a ton of 2 or 3 TE sets, and I think he will have between 15 and 20 snaps of all 3 TE (Ertz, Casey, and Celek) on the field at the same time. Look for Ertz to be a red zone monster and catch between 40 and 50 balls this season for the Eagles.

Ben: Drafting another offensive weapon in the draft was a priority for the Eagles, and in the second round they chose the best available player. Ertz was my second ranked TE as well as Josh’s, and has better release and route running skills than Tyler Eifert. Due to his skill set, Ertz will fill the starting role on passing downs with Brent Celek filling more of a run blocking role. While three TE sets will certainly include Casey as a TE, I could also see the former Texan in the backfield at FB. Adding a great run blocker with good receiving skills in Casey will let Ertz spend more time catching passes than run blocking, which can threaten some TE’s durability. All that being said, Clay Harbor should update his resume.

Q: The Eagles third round selection come in the form of Bennie Logan, DT LSU. The selection of Logan seems to be based on need for depth at the NT position. But what does this mean for the Eagles’ 2013-2014 defense? Will we see a set of Logan, Isaac Sopoaga, and Fletcher Cox? Can we expect Logan to contribute this season? Do you think Logan was overrated? As he was on a line with Cleveland’s top pick Barkevious Mingo.

Josh: Bennie Logan is a very talented player, and a great leader on that LSU defense, which is slowly beginning to earn the nickname “DLine U” from producing NFL defensive linemen left and right. I did not have Logan ranked as high as John Jenkins from UGA who was on the board at that spot, but the Logan pick solidifies that Billy Davis’ defense will be more 3-4 than anything else. Logan can play in the middle, but can also play end in a 3-4 set, as he is actually quite athletic. I see the Eagles using a rotation of down linemen, but we will definitely see Cox, Logan, and Sopoaga as the main 3 down linemen on most downs. Also, the Eagles could rotate in Antonio Dixon on running downs, which would add yet another big body to the mix.

Ben: The Eagles defense is a veritable mystery at this point, most specifically the defensive line. With Cox, Sopoaga, Logan, Dixon, Cole, Graham, Barwin, King, and Kruger all vying for playing time, the defensive front seven has become a bit of a mystery. Certainly Fletcher Cox, DeMeico Ryans, and Connor Barwin have their roles defined, but Graham, Cole, Dixon, and the assortment of linebackers  the Eagles’ have make the addition of Logan a bit of a quandary for me. Graham was rated as one of the top 100 players in the NFL, alongside teammate Evan Mathis, so there is reason to believe he will see significant playing time. If Graham and Barwin start as the OLBs in Billy Davis’s expected 3-4 hybrid scheme, Trent Cole could be forced to play a role as an internal rusher while playing a role as one of three down lineman. The future of Cole within the team could be in question as his age and high salary matched by a decline in production the past few seasons could put his value in question. Remember, the Kelly administration had a part in the Barwin signing, while Cole, Graham, and Dixon are carryovers from Andy Reid’s regime. Cox, Logan and Sopoaga seem to be ideal fits for defensive ends in a 3-4 set, but where will that leave the veterans already on the Eagles’ roster?

Q: What came as one of the steals of the draft, Philadelphia selected Matt Barkley, QB USC with the first overall pick of the fourth round. Barkley has a talent ceiling as high as any player in the draft, and could flourish if given time to develop. What are your thoughts on the Barkley pick? Will he start from day one? Looking back on his senior season, was Barkley’s fall in draft stock due to lack of ability? Or other factors out of his control?

Josh: At first, I reacted negatively, but just because I did not want the Eagles to draft a QB with all of the other needs. But after coming to my senses, this could be one of the steals of the draft, and it actually makes a TON of sense. There is ZERO risk to taking Barkley in the 4th round because of the following scenarios. If he turns out to be just a career backup QB, then you get what you normally get in a 4th round QB. If he turns out to be very good, then you get a STEAL and a franchise QB. If he turns out to be a Kevin Kolb or a Kirk Cousins, you can trade him for a 2nd or 3rd round pick. It is a win-win across the board. But, the most important element of this pick, is the fact that we now know (officially) that Chip Kelly is NOT married to a mobile QB. The fact that national writers assumed this was preposterous, Chip Kelly is an offensive mastermind, why would he force something? Personally, I believe Kelly will just use Vick as an offensive weapon now, seeing as he likes Barkley and Foles. I think Nick Foles starts day one with Barkley as the “backup”. (although he will be listed as the 3rd QB) If Foles works out, then you trade Barkley, if you love how Barkley progresses, trade Foles. It is a great situation to have, and a great pick by the Eagles. As for Matt Barkely himself, last year I believe was an anomaly, as he played behind a patchwork offensive line at USC. It has been said that Barkley regressed dramatically, but think about this, 3273 yards, 64% completion, 36 TD, 15 INT in a pro style offense. If he REGRESSED to that season, I will take it. Barkley is, and I am quoting WIP’s Anthony Gargano, “A Quarterback”, meaning he gets it up top. He has the physical tools (should his shoulder be healthy) and he is a SHARP guy up top. He understands the game, and he is a student of the game. I believe Matt Barkley will be an NFL QB one day, and will be the most successful out of all the QB’s in this year’s draft, which is great news for Eagles fans.

Ben: Matt Barkley was my favorite selection in the draft for Philadelphia. Why not gamble on USC’s leading passer in the fourth round? Forget about Carson Palmer ,and Mark Sanchez; Barkley would have been a top five pick in 2012 and fell victim to injury after returning to USC for his senior season. As you said, drafting Barkley made Nick Foles tremendous trade bait (remember Kevin Kolb?). Thank you for stating the seemingly obvious Josh, Chip Kelly does not NEED a mobile QB for his projected offense, just capable running backs: Lesean Mccoy anyone? Giving Barkley a season to learn behind a veteran in Michael Vick give the Eagles time to develop Barkley’s skills to suit the needs of a specific offensive set. Given time to develop, I believe Barkley will succeed, but for now there is hope for the future for the Eagles at QB.

Q: With their fifth round selection, Earl Wolff, S NC State, became a member of the bird gang. Wolff will likely get a chance to start in training camp due to the knee injury to Kenny Phillips, and the lack of a definite strong safety. How do you expect Wolff to contribute at an already packed safety position? Will this mean the end of Kurt Coleman’s tenure in Philadelphia?

Josh: I liked the Wolff pick a lot, as he played as an all-around safety at NC State. In his senior season, Wolff totaled 119 tackled, 2 interceptions and 8 passes defensed. The 119 tackles will be music to Eagles fans’ ears after experiencing a debacle last season in the secondary. I believe Wolff will strictly play special teams in the beginning if everyone is healthy. But, Wolff is a spectacular athlete with a ton of upside, so he could definitely be a safety of the future for the Eagles. I don’t think his selection will affect the roster too much, but most teams only keep 5 safeties. Chung, Phillips, Wolff, Anderson and Allen are closest to locks to making the team, so that leaves out Kurt Coleman. Not one Eagles fan would be disappointed at that.

Ben: What impressed me most about Earl Wolff was his physicality; the Eagles’ need a physical force in the secondary who can deliver big hits defending the run game as well. While Colt Anderson could certainly fill a need as a run stopper on this team, I see Wolff getting a chance in the open competition expected to surround the starting safety positions in training camp. While he may not start this season, at the very least the Eagles’ must feel confident about their special-teams roster going into 2013. Anderson, Chung, Phillips and Wolff are locks to make the roster at safety when healthy, as they were all singed under the Kelly administration. As for Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman, expect only one of the duo to make the team, which likely means the end of the Coleman era in Philadelphia.

Q: Without a selection in the 6th round, the Eagles turned to their three selections in the seventh round to add some needed depth to their defensive line. Starting with picks number 212 and 239 the Eagles drafted defensive ends Joe Kruger and David King respectively. Which of these players was a better value pick? Who is more likely to find play time this season? Who, if either, is a long term solution for the Eagles?

Josh: I actually liked the Joe Kruger pick a lot, he is not his brother, but if he would have stayed at Utah for one more season, he may have come out next year in the 2nd or 3rd round. So this is tremendous value for the Eagles. He could be a very good pass rusher in the future, and now has the chance to learn from one of the best in Trent Cole. Kruger is 6’6 270 lbs, so with the right technique he has a chance to be a force. David King is just a pick to add depth to the 3-4 down linemen. At 6’4 280 lbs, he has the frame to fill out a bit more, and like Kruger, King is a prospect. The exciting thing about King is that he is a athlete, so the potential is there. I would say Kruger is the better player now and in the future, but neither should see the field in anything other than rotational situations this year.

Ben: As far as value drafting is concerned, Paul Kruger is a standout due to his decision to leave Utah. I agree that neither of these men will likely see the field much in 2013, though Kruger does seem to be a better value pick in the seventh round due to his age. King grew up an Eagles fan, and has great size matched by raw athletic ability. If he can be developed into a dominant pass rusher, King could play a large role in the Eagles defense in the years to come. Consider King and Kruger to have the advantage over other linemen prospects currently on the Eagles’ roster, as this was the first draft crop of the Kelly era.

Q: Perhaps the best pick in the Eagles draft came in the form of Jordan Poyer, CB Oregon at pick 218 in the seventh round. Many believe Poyer to be NFL ready, do you think this is viable from a seventh rounder? Was Poyer the best value pick in the draft for Philadelphia? How does the addition of Poyer shape the Eagles secondary for 2013?

Josh: This year, I wanted Jordan Poyer in the 3rd or 4th round. A lot of draftniks feel the same way. The only reason Poyer slipped was because of a “bad combine”. The truth is, Poyer is a football player and a good one at that. Expect him to compete for the Eagles nickel corner job and he will play in 4 CB formations. I think he was the best value in the ENTIRE draft, and should see the field quite often this year. I am very high on Poyer as he was in my top 7 at the position in this year’s draft. He will excel anytime he is asked to play in a zone, but can cover some of the average NFL WR in man situations. I wouldn’t put him against a Calvin Johnson, but I would put him on a Pierre Garcon. Best pick in the draft in my opinion for the Eagles.

Ben: Poyer was just the icing on the cake for the Eagles draft. As we agreed prior to the draft, Poyer is an NFL-ready talent who can be developed into an every-day starter on defense. The addition of Poyer could put Brandon Boykin’s nickel-corner job in jeopardy, though I expect both of these young CB prospects to see plenty of time in a shallow group of cornerbacks. For now, pencil in only Cary Williams as the only sure starter heading into training camp.  It was hard for me to choose between Ertz, Barkley or Poyer as my favorite selection in the draft because all three were fantastic value picks, and could play a role as soon as the 2013 season. Furthermore, all three addressed massive needs for an Eagles’ team in transition. Regardless, Howie Roseman failed to disappoint in yet another NFL draft.

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Benjamin Haley

Ben Haley is the Sports Director for 91.3 FM WVUD. Ben also serves as a sports broadcaster for the University of Delaware. . He is the main Philadelphia Eagles contributor for HighPhive.com! You can follow him on Twitter @BenHaley11.