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Hornswaggle is an alternate spelling of hornswoggle, an archaic word that means to bamboozle or hoodwink. I take my pronunciation from the late Harvey Korman in "Blazing Saddles" --

"I want rustlers, cutthroats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, conmen, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswagglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass kickers, shit kickers and Methodists!"

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Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Eagles Draft Preview

I'm thinking ... maybe one or two of you out there are somewhat interested in reading this and the rest of you, who number anywhere from 6 - (there doesn't seem to be the sign for infinity on this keyboard) are going to sigh in frustration and surf on to ratemycock.com.

Dave Spadaro, who does the Philadelphia Eagles website and who writes like this -- "Hey, gang! Who's excited for the upcoming season? I am. I think we're going to win it all this year! Yeah! Oh, we lost again in NFC Championship Game? Darn. Well, I'm not going to get to down in the dumps about it. In fact, I'm already over it and moving on to next year, and you should too. We lost again? Oh, well, next year's looking swell! We lost again? Ha ha! No problem. I'm just going to keep a happy face on, then go home and beat my wife. Where's my whiskey, woman?!" -- is smoking crack again.

Here's the link to his list of this year's draft needs. (I don't think he beats his wife by the way, he seems like a very nice guy.)

He rates cornerback as our number one need and after that, inexplicably, halfback. Nowhere does he list defensive line as a need.

I need to set him straight.

The Eagles need to add a corner, absolutely, but they also need to add to their defensive line, add explosiveness to their linebackers, add depth on the offensive line and add a young wide receiver.

If the Birds stand pat at the 28th overall selection in the first round, they might just go with a best available player mentality. If RB Kevin Jones is there, that would be great selection. But that doesn't mean that a starting running back is a major need. They'd be served just as well taking someone in the third or fourth round like Quincy Wilson, the bruiser from West Virginia, or Michael "The Burner" Turner from Illinois.

The idea of three running backs splitting time is stupid. Correll Buckhalter ought to be the starter, with Westbrook getting major touches every game. A third running back is insurance in case of injury.

I've seen widespread criticism of Buckhalter. I thought that he just didn't play enough last year. When Reid, who leaned heavily last year on the experience of our beloved Duce Staley, put Buckhalter on the field, he performed.

Meanwhile, Spadaro seems to think that the Eagles ought to return to the three-headed running back approach, which does not allow for any of the three backs to get into rhythm, or allows a talented player to languish on the bench.

Spadaro knows Andy Reid's philosophy and there's no point in sitting back and pontificating on what the Eagles ought to do if you've been around the Eagles' organization and you know they're not going to do it. Nonetheless, I think many Eagles fans are taking the signing of Terrell Owens as a sign that Reid is breaking from some of the theories that have defined his approach over the past few years, the triumvirate RB attack among them.

At wide receiver, the Eagles did the smart thing in trimming away one of their starters from last year, James Thrash, but they would have been better off letting go of Todd Pinkston. The reason is that Thrash is more versatile: he can line up on the outside or in the slot and he can add value on special teams by returning kicks. Pinkston can do none of these things.

Freddie Mitchell, who is a better competitor than Pinkston, ought to be given the opportunity to compete with Pinkston for the starting outside position opposite Terrell Owens. But if Mitchell were to win that competition, the Eagles would find themselves in a quandry. Since Pinkston can't play in the slot, they'd wind up with a player they've sunk a long-term contract into sitting on the bench.

Cutting Pinkston doesn't work, because it violates one of the primary tenets that have put the Eagles among the elite NFL franchises, avoiding dead cap space at all costs. In other words, they'd wind up having millions of dollars counting against the salary cap on a player no longer on the roster.

The Eagles might frankly be best off trading Pinkston to another team for a fourth-round pick or something in that range. Then you start Mitchell and put either big Billy McMullen or litte, fast Greg Lewis in the slot, and draft one of the plethora of wide receivers in this year's draft to develop.

Linebacker is a position where the Eagles need an infusion of talent. Mark Simoneau, Dhani Jones and Nate Wayne are all good but unspectacular players. Somewhere in the draft the Birds need to add a player who heats up the competition at that position.

When there was speculation that the Eagles were thinking of moving up to the 16th position in the first round, two of the players I thought they might be looking at, if the rumor were true, were D.J. Williams and Jonathon Vilma of Miami, both of whom would add major spice to the linebacker position and instantly upgrade the athleticism in that group.

Defensive line. The player I really thought the Eagles might be looking at in the rumored move up to 16 was Will Smith, the DE out of Ohio State. He would be a potential steal if he slid that far, a beast with speed and power.

As of now, the only upgrade the Eagles have made to a defensive line that last year was humiliated against the opposition's running attack is Jevon Kearse, a great player with a history of injuries. If he goes out with an injury, the Eagles are in trouble.

Third-year end Derrick Burgess can no longer be counted on for anything. I wish him all the best, and I hope the young man recovers to have an excellent career in an Eagles' uniform, but to count on a player who had a surprisingly decent rookie year and then sat out two consecutive years with major leg injuries would be absolute folly.

Jamaal Green, the second-year guy from Miami, is utterly unproven. And I have major doubts about Jerome McDougle, the other Miami DE the Eagles picked last year. Even though his slow start in his rookie year is largely attributable to a host of injuries, I am beginning to pick up a whiff of bust from the player for whom the Eagles traded up to the 15th overall selection to take.

Physically, he seems unspectacular and in the ESPN highlight clips I saw of him, I never once saw a play that made me sit up and pay attention. Is it possible that -- surrounded by such studs as safety Sean Taylor (projected to go #5 overall on Saturday), tackle Vincent Wilfork (expected to go top 15 overall), D.J. Williams and Jonathon Vilma -- McDougle was buoyed by the play of his teammates, who soaked up double teams and made him look better?

I hope I'm wrong. But I think that, if Kearse goes down, the Birds would be in big trouble against the run once again. Adding a monster like Will Smith to play opposite him at DE would be a strong play. At the very least I'd look for a later round addition to the defensive line.

At corner, the Eagles need depth, since Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown ought to be capable starters, and I think they ought to go with a best player available approach. If, when they select at #28, a Derrick Strait from Oklahoma is there, I would not knock that selection. I do hear that cornerback is a deep position this year, however.

Same best-player-available approach goes for interior offensive line. If Vernon Carey from Miami is there at #28, I can't really argue with that. But I could also see the Eagles waiting until later to deal with depth at that position.

Of course, I wouldn't mind seeing the Eagles take WR Lee Evans or Rashaun Woods (one of my coveted players in this year's draft) at that spot, because skill players like that are always the sexier pick, but that's why it's not easy being a GM. If I were a GM my team would probably have six stud receivers and a bunch of club-footed mealsacks on the offensive line.

Seacrest. Out.

.: posted by hornswaggler 2:19 PM


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