The Eagles did a lot of rearranging Thursday, though not enough to disguise some rather significant flaws.
To review, David Akers, Sav Rocca, Kevin Kolb and Leonard Weaver are going. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Jason Babin and (probably) Vince Young are coming. DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Asante Samuel, Winston Justice and Brandon Graham are somewhere in between. Also Danny Watkins.
The upshot: There are still huge concerns about the special teams and the right side of the offensive line. And the jury is certainly out on the back seven on defense, until all the new pieces get used to one another. (FYI: Rookie Casey Matthews — i.e., Clay’s little brother — was the first-team middle linebacker the first day of training camp, with Jamar Chaney on the weak side and Moise Fokou on the strong side.)
The long-awaited Kolb-for-Rodgers-Cromartie trade with the Cardinals was obviously the day’s biggest news. It’s a deal that could benefit both teams, since Arizona was in desperate need of a quarterback and the Eagles had a gaping hole at right cornerback, opposite Samuel — the caveat being that QBs never seem to play as well after they leave the Birds as they do before doing so. (See: “Feeley, A.J.,” and “McNabb, Donovan.”)
But that’s a potential concern for Arizona. As for Rodgers-Cromartie, general manager Howie Roseman said he is “a Pro Bowl-caliber cornerback.”
“He’s got explosiveness, he’s got great ball skills,” Roseman said. “He’s also got great height (at 6-1), so he’s able to match up with bigger receivers. Rare speed. An explosive guy. Knows how to break on the ball. Can press. Can play off. Can play all sorts of coverages, and in our defense we want him to do those sorts of things.”
He figures to get a lot of work, with Samuel — who, like Maclin, has been excused from drills for the time being to attend to a personal matter — on the other flank.
They will likely be joined in the starting secondary by safeties Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen, though of those four only Coleman was running with the ones during the team period Thursday afternoon. Allen was limited, while he continues to recover from the knee injury he suffered as a rookie last year.
So the temporary first-string quartet consisted of Coleman and Marlin Jackson at safety, with Joselio Hanson and Trevard Lindley at corner. If the Eagles ever line up that way in the regular season, they will be in deep, deep trouble.
More fallout from the trade: With Kolb gone, there is an opening for a No. 2 quarterback behind Michael Vick. Coach Andy Reid tried to give third-stringer Mike Kafka a vote of confidence, saying that the team never would have made the deal if the braintrust didn’t believe in him, but that dog simply won’t hunt. More believable was a report by Clark Judge of CBSports.com later in the day, indicating that the Eagles are about to sign Young, late of the Titans.
As for the line: Justice, the starting right tackle the last two years, is on the Physically Unable to Perform List, while he recovers from offseason knee surgery. That means King Dunlap has Vick’s back for now, which is hardly a comforting thought. And on Thursday, Mike McGlynn was lining up at right guard with the starters; the Eagles have penciled in Watkins, their first-round pick, as the regular at that spot. But he has yet to sign.
On a sad note: Weaver, an all-time good guy, made the Pro Bowl in 2009 at fullback, then suffered a gruesome knee injury in last year’s opener against Green Bay. On Thursday he was waived after failing a physical. A shame.
The bottom line: OK, let’s say everything breaks right. Let’s say Watkins is a stud and Justice or Dunlap hold the fort and Matthews is really good and Rodgers-Cromartie makes a seamless transition. And let’s also say that DeSean Jackson gets his contract redone and enjoys another big year. None of it matters if the kicking game falters. And as of now — with Akers going to San Francisco and Rocca going to Washington — the Eagles are going to have rookie Alex Henery as their kicker, and possibly their punter. And if not him in the latter role, then another rookie, Chas Henry.
That, folks, is a recipe for disaster.