We all remember a few short years ago – the Philadelphia Eagles made what seemed at the time to be a free agency splash. A collection of past and present starters ranging from quarterback Vince Young and receiver Steve Smith, to the golden secondary of Asante Samuel, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha. It was supposed to be the year finally cashed in, literally and figuratively, and brought the Lombardi back to Philadelphia. We all know how that turned out. It was, to say the least, an epic failure. The term “dream team”, coined by Vince Young, become the epitaph and possibly the last proclamation from a Birds team that couldn’t quite figure it out. Fast forward to this past season, and new Head Coach Chip Kelly embraced the pieces he had, put in place a system that maximizes his players’ strengths, and walked away with the NFC East title.
As the Iggles look ahead to the 2014 NFL Draft, analysis and fans alike will debate where the team’s true needs are. The secondary seems to be a general consensus for overhaul. Upgrades at just about every other position of the roster, should they come at the right time and the right price, always make sense. But General Manager Howie Roseman has a challenge in rebuilding and upgrading this team. Go back to the basics that made the Eagles perennial contenders in the 2000′s. It wasn’t the splashy free agency acquisition. It was strong drafts, smart trades, and a coach that didn’t flinch for much of anything. True, everything unraveled at the end, but even Owner Jeffrey Lurie admitted that the organization broke its own rules these last few years all in attempt to make that last seemingly insurmountable jump.
As the Andy Reid era ended in Philadelphia, the Birds shifted back to the basics during the 2013 draft. 1st Round Offensive Tackle Lane Johnson is the most recent example where the strategy paid off. He came in, learned the system, and contributed in every game with a solid and consistent offensive front. He, and the rest of that line, started every regular season game, protecting both quarterbacks Michael Vice and Nick Foles. While it’s impossible to predict injuries, having a strong core of rookie and veterans working together brought back the sense of team and cohesiveness that previous teams seemed to lack.
In a game where coaches and players try to constantly out-think each other, sometimes to the detriment of the team, the Eagles need to go back to what brought them to the dance in the first place. Chip Kelly appears smart and innovative enough to take what is given him and make the most out of it. It’s now up to Roseman and his scouting team to find the best possible pieces to hand off to Kelly. While there will inevitably be the busts and players that just don’t fit, writing a check for the superstar from “the other team” hasn’t exactly worked out all that well in recent history. The draft opens up a large pool of raw talent that the Eagles can exploit and mold into their championship team. It’s what got this team to 5 NFC Title Games, and 1 Super Bowl. It might be what gets them back to the Super Bowl in the coming years.