For as much as so many people around town claim not to like Andy Reid, an awful lot of you are starting to think like him. I've seen more blog comments and message board posts in the last couple weeks saying that the Eagles "need" to go after a high-round offensive tackle in April's draft based on some variation of the common theme that Runyan and Thomas are old and Winston Justice sucks.
And hey, it's not just the local guys:
|The Eagles have plenty of options here, from taking safety Kenny Phillips as Brian Dawkins' eventual replacement, to nabbing the highest-rated remaining receiver (DeSean Jackson, Devin Thomas or James Hardy). But with their offensive tackles both having some age issues, Otah gives them a much-needed injection of youth at one of the game's most vital positions. Trading up for a higher-ranked tackle or receiver might also be a possibility if Philly can get some team coveting displaced starting cornerback Lito Sheppard.|
That's from Sports Illustrated's Don Banks, in his most recent mock draft. There's a fair amount of gypsy fortune-telling here -- the Eagles will definitely take a safety or a receiver or a lineman just like today will be eventful and you will meet someone of possible future importance -- but the bottom line is Banks is on board the O-Line train.
Now, if we've learned one thing about Andy Reid, it's that we should never bet against him taking a lineman in the first round. So I'm not going to go way far out there saying it won't happen, to minimize the chances I get Asanted again.
But what I will say is that the Eagles have far, far bigger needs than they do at offensive tackle, for the following reason:
Thomas and Runyan are both still playing pretty well. Tra Thomas has been something of a revelation the last couple seasons. He's become super-committed to his fitness and while he doesn't have quite the physical skills he used to, his technique is superb. He's certainly not getting any younger, but keep in mind he's less than a year older than the Cowboys' Flozell Adams -- who just signed a brand new six-year contract to stay with Dallas. Thomas could still be here in four years, long after everyone else has written him off.
Runyan is a little tougher to evaluate. Last year was not a good year for the big guy. I was actually amazed how much of a free pass Big Jon got last year in the local media. But how do you fairly judge him when he had to play almost the entire season at well under 100 percent due to the "glute" injury he suffered slipping out of the cold tub in October? Runyan had trouble practicing, you know he would have struggled working out, and while he never made excuses, he talked a couple times last year about how much pain he was playing with. That affects you.
Here's the thing about Runyan. Honestly, I don't think he's planning to play much longer. If the Eagles win the Super Bowl this year, I think he'd definitely call it quits. And whereas before last season I thought Thomas was the guy who could be losing his job soon, it now looks like Runyan might be out sooner.
So there's soon to be a hole on the line, which is ok because...
Winston Justice is going to be a very good NFL tackle. I've been banging this drum for almost a year now and I'm going to keep doing it. Yes, Justice got undressed against the Giants. We all know that. But did you watch the Super Bowl? How did the Patriots' Pro Bowl left tackle Matt Light look against Osi?
Not too good.
I know it's the Philly way to completely turn on a high draft pick the moment he demonstrates he's not going to be an All Star the first time he touches the field/court/rink, but come on. It was one game where he got off to a rough start, the coaches did nothing to help him and things just kept snowballing.
The thing to watch with Justice is his feet. They're amazingly quick. And did you know that he ran a 5.15 40-yard dash (pretty good for a lineman), put up 38 reps in the 225-pound lift (very, very good) and posted a vertical jump of 39 inches (insane for a 320-pounder).
The athletic ability is all there, Justice just needs to keep working, working, working on his technique. He had his "Ah-ha" moment last year against the Giants -- I have a feeling that now he's down to business.
But say something happens to Justice, like a freak car accident, then the Eagles...
Go to Plan B, which is to unleash Shawn Andrews on the outside. I think it's an interesting question as to where Andrews has more value. Do you want him inside at guard, stopping middle pressure, blowing up holes in the running game, and racing to the second level to pick off linebackers? Or does he just have too much athletic ability not to be on the outside? (Would love to hear the coaches talk about this.)
So we have Thomas and Runyan ... and then Justice and potentially Andrews ... but if none of that works out ...
Then just put Todd Herremans back at tackle. Herremans is always going to be a bit of a positional tweener. They say he plays a little tall at guard, but he may not have the best quickness and arm length you want at tackle. I don't know. All I do know is that he was a small school All American at left tackle in college and when he had to step in and play that position as a rookie, he more than held down the fort.
I think Herremans is another good example of the double standard for Philly fans. We claim we get on everyone equally, but when it's Jon Runyan struggling with an injury and not playing at his previous level we give him a pass. When it's Todd Herremans playing on a bad knee he had to have surgery on during the season all anyone wants to do is toss him out the back door.
Herremans may not have the physical skills needed to be a top-top guy like Andrews, but he's going to be starting on this Eagles' offensive line for a long time -- just maybe not at guard, which is ok because...
The Eagles have Andrews' clone (without the speed) Max Jean-Gilles ready to step in at guard if either Herremans or Andrews moves outside. Last year, when he got a chance to play against the Saints, he was described by Andy Reid as: "dominant, just absolutely dominant, in the run game. The pass game, he started off slow and then he picked it up and really for three quarters there he was real smooth."
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So please, offensive line is the one position where the Eagles actually have all depth they need (ok, you can throw in quarterback, too). Can you honestly argue that the Eagles are better off making that position a priority over safety, tight end, receiver, cornerback (if Lito goes), or even the defensive line? And I know everyone's all excited about the young linebackers, but if they had a shot at Dan Connor, I'd jump at that upgrade too.
There are plenty of holes to plug on the talent assembly line. Offensive tackle isn't one of them.