Thanks to a 4-8 start, last season was anything but a dream for the Eagles. Their offense turned the ball over far too often in opposition territory, their defense struggled to stop anyone in the first month of the season and it looked like there might be a housecleaning when all was said and done. Four straight wins at the end of the year put an end to those notions, but the pressure for better results in Philly will be high in 2012.
Linebacker: This unit was terrible last season and acquiring DeMeco Ryans in a trade from Houston only gets them part of the way to where they need to be in 2012. Right now, Brian Rolle and Jamar Chaney would likely be the outside backers and the team could stand an upgrade at either place. Luke Kuechly of Boston College is the top linebacker in the draft, but he played inside at BC. He might be athletic enough to fill the role or the Eagles could wait until the second round for a shot at North Carolina’s Zach Brown, Utah State’s Bobby Wagner or Nebraska’s Lavonte David.
Safety: Brian Dawkins doesn’t live here anymore and that’s a problem for the Eagles defense. Nate Allen got better as the year went along, but strong safeties Kurt Coleman and Jaiquawn Jarrett were never more than adequate. Jarrett could get better or the Eagles could tab Alabama’s Mark Barron at 15 to make that a moot issue.
Defensive Tackle: The Eagles are set on the ends with Jason Babin and Trent Cole, but they didn’t get the production they would have liked from Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson in the middle of the line. A second year in Jim Washburn’s system could make things better, but so could an athletic player like Fletcher Cox of Mississippi State. If not, look for the Eagles to address the position with one of their two second round picks. This isn’t as pressing a need as the first two, but adding the right player could make this a very good defense.
Quarterback: Michael Vick will be the starting quarterback for this team in 2012, but there’s a lot of smoke about the Eagles finding the next guy in line. Mike Kafka can be a backup, but there’s not much reason for confidence he can be more than that. We’ve all heard the rumors about interest in Ryan Tannehill of Texas A&M, but dealing up for a chance to get him seems unlikely. Taking a quarterback who they can groom over the next year or two in the middle rounds wouldn’t be a bad move, though.
The Eagles still have most of the guts of the team that many picked to win the NFC East last season. The need to get better up the middle of the defense is obvious, though, and the Eagles can’t afford to ignore it again this season.