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How Much Can Draft Help This Defense?
April 24, 2017 08:32 PM | Dave Spadaro


By the end of this week, the Eagles are going to have a much different perspective on the 2017 roster. They're going to add pieces they hope will make an immediate impact. And while the offense has been upgraded in free agency, the defense still has some areas to improve.

Just how much work do the Eagles need to get the defense where they want it to be?

"I don't know that answer yet," safety Malcolm Jenkins said on Monday. "We don't have a complete picture yet. I'm sure the plan the Eagles have is a good one and we'll see how it comes to fruition this weekend."

The story of the weekend isn't the first-round pick alone, although the No. 14 selection is at the top of everyone's mind. What are the Eagles going to do at 14? Offense or defense? Immediate-impact player or more of a developmental-type pick?

"I'm not sure that rookies are under different scrutiny and expectations from when I came into the league," said Jenkins, a first-round pick by the Saints in 2009. "I think every pick and every player is different depending on the circumstances. In our case, I don't know which way we're going in the draft. I guess we'll all see what happens and how it looks at the end of the weekend."

Jenkins and Rodney McLeod, together for a second season as the starting safeties, form a strength of the Jim Schwartz defense. For the first time since Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman in 2011-12 (and they weren't particularly effective together), the Eagles have their safeties together for a second consecutive season.

That's a good thing. Beyond that, what do the Eagles have on defense? They have Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Tim Jernigan, and Vinny Curry - who needs to take a big step up from last season - along the defensive line. They have Jordan Hicks at middle linebacker. Nigel Bradham was a positive at strongside linebacker a year ago. Some young cornerbacks, led by Jalen Mills, headline a positional group very much in question.

So there are holes. There are questions.

How many of them can the Eagles answer this weekend?

"Sometimes the players you draft can come in and help you right away and make an impact. That's the ideal scenario," said Joe Douglas, the team's vice president of player personnel, on Monday. "That is one of the ways the draft has changed over the years. Rosters change with free agency and you have a chance to get immediate help in the draft.

"I don't know how many of these draft prospects are in that category. You never know. Last year, before I got here, the Eagles took Carson Wentz and the plan was for him to develop and learn all season. Obviously, that plan changed and Carson stepped in and played very well. Dallas had an impact draft with some of the players they took, including Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott. Those two started and had great seasons for the Cowboys. That's a great draft."

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Can the Eagles have a great draft? Do they need immediate impact from the draft? Certainly, they need some questions answered on defense - and the offense isn't complete, either - whether those answers come from the draft or from internal improvement.

How much, for example, do the Eagles think Mills can contribute after a gritty first season of playing 65 percent of the defensive snaps in 2016? Is Ron Brooks recovering from his quad injury sufficiently enough to where the Eagles think he can be an effective nickel corner, as he was prior to going down? Is Patrick Robinson, a former first-round draft pick, going to find his niche after a career of instability? Are any of the young corners - C.J. Smith, Aaron Grymes, to name two on the roster - capable and ready to take the step forward?

The Eagles are going to hit on the defense in this draft, but we just don't know where or whom. They know they have some positions to upgrade to truly find out how effective the Jim Schwartz scheme can be. X's and O's are one thing, but the Eagles need to make sure they have the right Jimmys and Joes to execute and wreak havoc.

Defense, defense, defense.

The Eagles need more of it, and that's where the draft comes into focus. How much will the Eagles hit the D in the draft? How much immediate impact can they get from it?

We all have so many questions. How many answers will the Eagles draft this weekend?

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