By Justin Adkins:
The NFL may have technically gone out of business, but despite the current lockout/labor mess, the 2011 draft is still scheduled to occur on April 28-30. And that means teams are conducting business as usual when it comes to scouting and working out prospects. Luckily for Eagles fans desperate to see improvement in the defensive talent level, the team is looking at linebackers, an area on the team needing an immediate upgrade.
Per NFP’s Aaron Wilson, the Eagles have worked out Ohio State linebackers Brian Rolle and Ross Homan.
Rolle is a small, speed guy at 5-9, 229 lbs who ran an impressive 4.51 40 at the Combine. He could project as Ernie Sims’ replacement at weakside linebacker though it’s likely Rolle will be more of a special teamer in the NFL, especially early on. The All Big Ten selection is also looked at as a possible safety prospect. Rolle’s 28 bench reps at the Combine were impressive for a player his size, and he demonstrated decent explosion with a 33-inch vertical leap.
Homan is a more traditional-sized linebacker at 6-1, 240 lbs who posted solid measurables at the Combine, running a 4.66 40, putting up 32 bench reps and a 35 1/2 inch vertical. Like Rolle, Homan was also an All Big Ten selection. He racked up 278 tackles as a 3-year starter for the Buckeyes, 17 for a loss, as well as seven picks.
Another linebacker the Eagles are working out is Syracuse’s Doug Hogue, per NFP’s Bradd Biggs, via Hogue’s agent David Canter. Hogue is a developmental type prospect who converted to linebacker from running back prior to the 2009 season. His lanky, 6-3, 235 lb frame needs to add mass (only 18 reps on the bench at the Combine), but he does have solid 4.63 speed.
None of these guys are the answer to the Eagles issues at linebacker, but it’s a good start.
Another area that the Eagles should plan on addressing is defensive tackle, where the best player there right now is the formerly undrafted free agent Antonio Dixon. Former first round picks Mike Patterson and Brodrick Bunkley are pretty much average, and for undersized pass rush types they don’t get to the quarterback. Bunkley was supplanted as a starter by Dixon after Bunkley suffered an arm injury, with Dixon keeping the job even after Bunkley healed. Add to that group undersized former second round non-factor Trevor Laws, and the position needs an upgrade, especially in the size department.
Enter Hampton defensive tackle Kenrick Ellis, who at 6-5, 345 lbs is an absolute monster. Per NFP’s Wilson, Ellis is being looked at by the Eagles, as well as the Pittsburgh Steelers, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, and Green Bay Packers.
The massive lineman is much more of a run stuffer than a pass rusher, so the Eagles bringing him in could be a possible acknowledgement that their “fastball” approach doesn’t exactly work on the inside. It’s really past time they start blowing up O-lines with size up front, allowing their undersized defensive ends to pin their ears back and focus strictly on getting to the quarterback. And having wide loads up the middle will help the shaky linebacker corps when it comes to stopping the run. With new defensive coordinator Juan Castillo likely looking to put his stamp on the defense, a philosophy shift wouldn’t be that big of a surprise, nor is it a bad idea. Making a statement with a beast like Ellis would be a good start.
Ellis has had his share of off field trouble, though He found himself at Hampton after getting kicked out of South Carolina for allegedly failing multiple drug tests, though he wasn’t discussing specifics at the Combine. That said, apparently the big man accounted himself well in Indianapolis, owning up to his troubles and conducting himself well.
“I had character issues,” Ellis said. “I had disciplinary problems. They did everything they could. It just didn’t work out for me. I had to get out of there. I had to look within myself and change a lot of things within myself and around me. And after I changed those things, it was pretty much easy after that. I had to realize that I had a problem, and I confronted it and overcame it.”
Sounds good, and it’s possible he’s sincere and turned things around. He could also of course be looking to boost his second-round draft grade. At his size and talent level however, a team like the Eagles could be tripping over themselves to give this guy the now-cliched second chance. And as we saw this year, if the guy can play, he could have been busted snorting lines off the backs of foreign underaged prostitutes and most fans will still cheer him.
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