By Justin Adkins:
Among the Eagles many needs on defense, the interior of the line is one of the most obvious, with underperforming first-rounds picks Mike Patterson and Brodrick Bunkley currently being well-paid for average-at-best play.
Well, they would be well paid that is if the NFL didn’t go out of business, but I digress.
Both were drafted to be line-penetrators who could get to the quarterback, meaning their lack of overall size would be balanced by their ability to generate an inside rush. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened. Both of them have a harder time finding a sack than a doctor giving a girl a cough-test. Patterson has also gone on the Corey Simon growth plan, so what was once a lack of size has turned into too much size in all the wrong places. The problem is, his backside may have its own area code but Patterson still gets run over more often than pins on a lane with the kid bumpers on. The Eagles need someone with enough talent to rush the passer and enough stoutness and athleticism at the point of attack that he can be more than a blob who just stands in the way and tries not to get knocked over.
Bunkley isn’t much better, and while he may not look like a tub and doesn’t get tossed around he also doesn’t have much impact either. It was telling that after he recovered from a late season elbow injuy Bunkley was unable to reclaim his starting spot from former undrafted free agent Antonio Dixon. It was also a pretty clear sign that when Bunkley got hurt it was the 6-2, 330 pound Dixon who replaced him, not former second-round pick Trevor Laws — the guy actually picked before DeSean Jackson just a few years ago.
The Eagles will have an opportunity this offseason to address this relatively under-the-radar weakness, and Temple’s Muhammad Wilkerson is a good place to start.
Actually, it would be a continuation as the team has already looked at massive Hampton DT Kenrick Ellis, a line clogging run stopper who could be a second day option. That interest in a big body for the d-line could be a possible hint for the Eagles draft-day plans, and the team’s presence at Temple’s pro day could be an even bigger one.
While it’s not unusual to see a solid Eagles presence at the local university’s audition workout, one can’t help but wonder at the contingent of head coach Andy Reid, defensive line coach Jim Washburn, and general manager Howie Roseman all being on hand, taking things in and privately chatting up the potential first rounder.
Wilkerson has been rising up draft boards, a legitimate prospect from a school that hasn’t had a first-round pick in almost 25 years. He carries 315 pounds on a 6-4 frame with room to grow, and not just the Mike Patterson-twinkie diet way. The Mid-American Conference player of year, he will only get better as a pro, and as he adds size and NFL-level coaching, especially from the great Jim Washburn, Wilkerson could develop as a solid force in the middle of a line that has too much under-achieving and too little size.
Unfortunately, the Eagles even more glaring needs at cornerback and on the offensive line means a player like Wilkerson may be a luxury the team can’t afford to splurge on. Maybe if the owners and players can remove their heads from their collective asses early enough, free agency could actually happen before the draft. That way, the Eagles could fill needs at those other positions and focus on further completing their ongoing defensive makeover by drafting a local kid with the potential to have an immediate positive impact.
A duo of the over-achieving Dixon and the still-developing beast in Wilkerson sounds like a nice possible cure for the rash of mediocrity currently infecting the Eagles’ defensive tackle position.
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