With the addition of the Eagles’ new pieces on both offense and defense, a familiar cry has been renewed in Philadelphia: we’re too small. Even analysts and reporters – like NFL Network’s Brian Baldinger – have been making the case recently, saying that Andy Reid’s desire for speed on both sides of the ball has led to a serious dearth of size and power. The recent additions of “undersized” players like Jaiquawn Jarrett and Brian Rolle to a group that already contains mini-me’s like Trevor Laws, Quintin Mikell and Nate Allen has given ammo to critics who say our defensive problems all arise out of being too small for the big leagues.
But how do the numbers actually stack up? Is size really that important? Well, according to the league-wide stats for 2010, size doesn’t matter at all. The top three defenses in the league – the Chargers, Steelers and Jets – were not the biggest. That honor goes to the Raiders. In fact, the Steelers’ average size last year was 6’2″, 271 pounds, while the Eagles weighed in at 6’2″, 267. Four pounds, separating our twelfth-ranked defense from the second best in the league. If analysts really wanted to probe the reasons for defensive success, they might look into why four of the top five units ran a 3-4 instead of a 4-3. But I digress.
On offense, I don’t think a case needs to be made at all. Desean Jackson has shattered every myth about the “prototypical wide receiver,” consistently ranked one of the most dangerous in football even though he needs help to reach the top shelf in the supermarket. Dion Lewis – our newest running back – fell to the fifth round in this year’s draft because of his size (5’6″, 194), almost a decade after Brian Westbrook fell to the third for the same reason. We all know how that turned out. Our O-line is average, and our best players (read: Jason Peters) are not exactly massive in relation to the rest of the league. Our problems there are the result of injury and inconsistency, particularly on the right side, and the front office has so far done a good job addressing them in the offseason.
Targeting size alone is a poor way to run a football team. If massive corners were better than skilled corners, Andre Johnson would be lining up on the other side of the line and Darrelle Revis would be out of work. That line of thinking was the reason fans were even considering resigning a 36-year-old Bobby Taylor last season, even though he was cut nearly a decade earlier by the Seattle Seahawks. Yes, he was 6’3″. But that’s not why he was good.
Andy Reid – unlike Al Davis – doesn’t target one specific trait in all of his players. Yes, physicality is important. But he also looking for intelligence, leadership, “high motor”, and determination. The Eagles’ scouting department, in tandem with Howie Roseman and the rest of the front office, has proven again and again they know how find talented, hard-working players from all schools, all backgrounds, and in all shapes and sizes. I, for one, am happy to be rooting for the team that ignores the hype, that doesn’t listen to Baldinger and all the rest when they say Trent Cole is too small, DJax is too fragile, Quintin Mikell is too short. A team that doesn’t see a player’s height and weight as the be-all end-all. In the end, it’s just the short and skinny.