The 10 players your team can least afford to lose to injury, Eagles edition

By my count, Tood Herremans gave up just one blindside sack of Michael Vick last season.

10. Jason Kelce: Way back in February, Rich Tandler of CSN Washington, Rafael Vela of Cowboys Nation, Eric Edholm of Pro Football Weekly, and I did an “NFC East draft” in which we drafted from the pool of players in the NFC East.  One player I was targeting was Jason Kelce.  In my opinion, even as a rookie, he was easily the best center in the NFC East in 2011, and is a player that is only going to get better.  I thought I’d be able to get him somewhere around 25th-30th overall.  Nope.  The Cowboys rep, Rafeal, grabbed him… at 18th overall.   With all the great players in this division, Kelce went 18th, and nobody batted an eye.

I’m not sure how much longer Howard Mudd is going to coach.  At the end of the 2011 season, there were questions on whether he was going to return in 2012.  Kelce has the potential to be a good center in the NFL for the next decade.  The more reps Kelce can get under Mudd’s watch, the better.

On a side note, I know that he’s going to come up in the comment section, so I figured I should mention Brent Celek here as well.  I debated on who I should put at 10 between Celek and Kelce.  I certainly wouldn’t argue with anyone that would list Celek higher.  It was a tale of two seasons for Brent last year:

Brent Celek Rec Yards TD
First 5 games 9 73 0
Last 11 games 53 738 5

The Eagles want to run more 2-TE sets next year.  They currently only have 2 “NFL TE’s” on their roster: Celek and Clay Harbor.  If you lose Celek, you may as well just rip the entire 2-TE set section out of the playbook.

9. DeMeco Ryans: I think this one is fairly self-explanatory.  The Eagles’ LB corps were a horror show last season, and Ryans is tasked with bringing in veteran leadership, and, you know… drastically better play from the MLB position.

8. Todd Herremans: I charted all 24 sacks Michael Vick took last season, and found Herremans guilty of giving up just one blindside sack (to Brian Orakpo).  If Herremans were to go down for a game or two, the Eagles could survive inserting King Dunlap into the lineup and giving him some extra help.  But if Herremans were lost for an extended period of time, I don’t like King’s chances (or rather, Michael Vick’s chances).

7. Nate Allen: Philly.com’s Jeff McLane listed 10 nuggets of info from conversations he has had with Eagles personnel.  It is absolutely worth a look in its entirety, but I’m going to steal a large chunk of his very first bullet point:

It didn’t come as a complete shock when Andy Reid said earlier this week that Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman would be his starting safeties when OTAs begin Tuesday. But it did hammer home – once again – that Jaiquawn Jarrett is not ready to start in the NFL. While formal full squad practices start in five days the Eagles have been at work since mid-April. Jarrett was supposed to benefit from a full offseason. If he had showed any improvement in the classroom – where the bulk of work has been done over the last month – you may have seen the Eagles hand him the job now knowing full well that there was still plenty of time for Coleman to win it back. But the Eagles want Coleman, who also has never had a full offseason, to get the repetitions. Of all the safeties on the roster, I’ve been told Coleman is the one that best “gets it.” Jarrett, meanwhile, continues to struggle. I recently asked a defensive coach where the Temple product had issues he made a running motion with two fingers. Because Jarrett doesn’t have elite speed – or anywhere near it – he needs to make up for it by thinking one step ahead. And right now he’s a step behind.

Yikes.  The little 2-finger running motion thing is not good.  Sometimes players are slow to make the transition from college to the NFL because complex NFL defenses take some time to pick up, and sometimes it just takes some adjusting to the speed of the game, even if you have legitimate NFL measurables.  Those things can be overcome with coaching and experience.  But if you’re slow, there’s very little that coaching can do for you.

When Nate Allen entered the league in 2010, he was immediately put into the starting lineup the first day of camp.  He looked smooth at Lehigh, like he’d been in the league for 5 years.  When the season began, he had 3 picks and 6 PBU’s in his first 5 games, and was very much in the early conversation for Defensive Rookie of the Year.  Then he cooled off some, had an atrocious game in which he and Ellis Hobbs were repeatedly embarrassed by the Titans’ Kenny Britt, and his season ended when he ruptured the patellar tendon in his right knee in the “Miracle at the Meadowlands” game.

Still recovering from his injury early on in 2011, Allen only played 4 snaps in the first two games, before reclaiming his starting spot at FS. He struggled for much of the season, but played very well in the Eagles’ 4 game winning streak to close the season.

The Eagles need Allen to stay healthy.  Of Allen, Coleman, and Jarrett, Allen is the only safety the Eagles have with big league measurables.  A safety duo of Kurt Coleman and Jaiquawn Jarrett would be a very slow one.

6. Jason Babin: The Eagles might have the deepest defensive line in the NFL, but there’s little debate that from a pass rushing standpoint, the dropoff from Jason Babin to Brandon Graham is a rather large one.  Babin was born to play DE in the Wide 9.  While he’s not the best run defender on the planet, and he commits more penalties than you’d like (12 in 2011), you simply can’t replace 18 sacks.

5. Trent Cole: Does everything.  Rushes the passer and defends the run as well as any DE in the league (although JPP is right on Trent’s heels in that department).  I get that it’s a little odd to have two DE’s make this list when the Eagles have so much depth on the DL.  While the DL wouldn’t be a weakness if Cole or Babin went down, both are so good, and so difficult to block in the passing game, that if you lose either guy, a major strength would become merely an average to above average position.

4. DeSean Jackson: DeSean’s troubled 2011 season is well documented by now, so I won’t get into all of that.  The bottom line remains that he’s as much of a threat to score any time he touches the football as any other player in the NFL, and teams around the league never stopped fearing him in 2011.  Here’s what I mean:

  • The guys circled in yellow are Eagles eligible receivers not named DeSean Jackson.
  • The guy circled in blue is DeSean Jackson.
  • The red line is drawn from the line of scrimmage to the safety giving over-the-top help on DeSean.  That would be a cushion of 20 yards.

So essentially, what you have here is Jeremy Maclin getting a one-on-one matchup up top with Mike Jenkins, the slot receiver getting a one-on-one matchup on the safety, Brent Celek getting a one-on-one with a linebacker, and if you choose to send him out into a pattern, LeSean McCoy one-on-one against a linebacker.  That’s the value of DeSean Jackson.

3. Nnamdi Asomugha: Nnamdi had his worst season in a long time in 2011, but I think the general feeling (and one that I share) is that he’ll be much better in 2012 after a year getting acclimated in Philly (or rather, Philly getting acclimated to Nnamdi).  The Eagles don’t have a backup on their roster that has proven they can play on the outside in the NFL.  Joselio Hanson has had some success in the league, but only in the slot.  I’m not even sure there’s a clear answer as to who would fill in as the starter should Nnamdi go down.  The consensus pick would probably be Curtis Marsh, a player that I like, and a player that has some upside, but also a player that only has 13 career snaps.  I guess with the same logic, a similar argument could be made that Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie might deserve a spot on this list somewhere as well.

2.5. (The ghost of Jason Peters): This is where I would have ranked him. (Pouring out some of my 40 for the big guy)

2. LeSean McCoy: He’s a bona-fide star, and should he go down, the Eagles don’t have much in the way of anything you would trust to carry the load, catch passes out of the backfield, pass protect, and you know… score touchdowns. Top 3 RB in the league.

1. Michael Vick: “Starting at QB, from Northwestern, number 3, Mike… Kafka……….. (echo) Kafka.”

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  7. [...] Bama put up a post exploring which Eagles would be worst to lose to injury.  I’m not touching this topic.  This is like talking about a no-hitter in the middle of the [...]

  8. Steve says:

    Where is Derek Landri?!?! This list sucks.

    1. TF says:

      You are awesome.

      1. T_S_O_P says:

        Kelce or Celek, with some jumbling – they are the same guy!

        1. Ha, wow, never noticed that.

        2. Steve D. says:

          Both from Cinncinatti too. Wierd.

  9. brisulph says:

    I would argue for Cole above Nnamdi, simply due to how damn good he is… Aso is also quality, but a lot of the secondary game depends on a strong, firing on all cylinders front four.

    1. deg0ey says:

      That’s a reasonable argument, but the drop-off from Nnamdi to Marsh is likely to be pretty damn huge. At DE it’s not as big of a problem because there’ll be Graham, Curry and Hunt/Tapp – I’d hope between them they’re able to plug the gap, at least to a reasonable standard, even if they probably won’t be as good as Cole.

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