The Eagles entered the 2002 NFL draft with a mission, to set them up for the future. They didn’t really have any glaring holes that needed attention immediately but what they did have was two aging CB's who were both were two years away from hitting free agency. So the Eagles set out to replace them and did so very successfully.
In the first round the Eagles took Lito Sheppard, a CB from the University of Florida. He was taken with the twenty sixth overall pick and was one of ten players selected in that year’s first round to make the pro bowl in his career.
In the second round the Eagles tabbed another CB, this time from the University of South Carolina. Sheldon Brown was taken fifty ninth overall with the pick the Eagles received from Miami. The Eagles also took safety Michael Lewis in that draft and with their first three picks they revamped their secondary.
It was a brilliant move and two years later Troy Vincent was a Buffalo Bill, and Bobby Taylor was a Seahawk and the two young CB were now ready to become starters after learning under the veterans for their first two years.
Brown and Sheppard went on to be one of the best CB tandems in the NFL while Taylor and Vincent never regained form. Sheppard eventually went on to become a Pro Bowl corner while Brown was regarded as one of the most underrated CB, and one who should have earned a Pro Bowl nod. But all good things must come to an end.
After an injury ravaged season Lito Sheppard was shipped to the Jets in a fair deal which was incentive based and the pick would get better depending on the year Sheppard had with the Jets. While Sheppard didn’t have a great year last season it was what anyone could hope for when you trade a disgruntled CB who has the tag "injury prone" attached to him.
While I expected Sheppard to be traded what I did not expect was the deal that took place today, or should I say the trade rape that took place today. The Eagles shipped Sheldon Brown and LB Chris Gocong to the Cleveland Browns for a fourth, and fifth round picks, and LB Alex Hall. If you’re looking at this and saying "You have got to be kidding me" you are not the only one.
It’s amazing because the Eagles handling of their CB situation in 2002 was genius. They drafted Brown and Sheppard and let them learn under the veterans before letting them start. But recent years would show they have abandoned that philosophy and adopted a new, more idiotic one. They let Brian Dawkins go without having any real replacement for him. After years of knowing that B-Dawk was in fact losing a step they failed to address the need in the draft, instead trading out of the first round, or drafting other positions. The Dawkins moved blew up in their face as they tried to plug in guys that everyone knew couldn’t do the job, shocker here they still need a FS, and will hopefully address it in the first round.
Like the Dawkins move the Eagles make this trade and aren’t setting them self up for the future. I’m sorry but Ellis Hobbs isn’t a starting right CB in this league. He did start for the Patriots when they went 16-0 but that was in the past and last year he was a complete bust. And Joselio Hanson is certainly not a starting CB in this league. A nickel CB sure but not a starting CB on a team that always has high expectations. This move now puts Asante Samuel as your left CB and Ellis Hobbs as your right CB. A guy who can’t tackle on your left and a guy who can’t do much of anything anymore on your right.
I’m not sitting here acting like Sheldon Brown had an amazing year. Yes he did set a career high in picks but he was suspect in coverage at times. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that Dawkins void in the secondary was an offense's gain. Dawkins would clean up everyone's mess and could sniff out a deep ball like no other CB I’ve ever seen. If you go back and look at his big hits right before he lowers the shoulder in the very background you will see a CB who is desperately chasing the WR he was trying to cover. So while Sheldon didn’t have a great year in coverage, don’t downplay the impact that Dawkins leaving had on the team.
Another bad part about this deal was they gave up Gocong. While I’m not a huge fan of Gocong I have always stated he was misused by Andy. It’s funny because last season the Eagles signed DE Jason Babin. Babin was drafted out of Western Michigan in the first round by the Houston Texans. He played DE in college but the Texans drafted him to play LB. Babin never made the transition to LB and after bouncing around the NFL someone finally decided to put the guy back at his natural position, DE. The Eagles had the exact same situation on their roster.
Gocong was drafted in the third round out of Cal Poly Tech where he stared at DE, racking up over 50 sacks in two years. Even with these amazing stats the Eagles transitioned him to LB where he was average at best before renting a bed in Andy Reid's doghouse last year. They should have just transitioned Gocong back to DE but they never did and it is even more puzzling since this is a team who always complains about the lack of solid DE play.
The Eagles traded two starters, one who was actually selected to the Pro Bowl last season (Brown, who turned it down) for mid round picks and a LB who will play special teams. If the Browns are smart they will convert Gocong back to DE, a position they desperately need help with. They have already re worked Sheldon Browns contract in case you were wondering, instead of doing what the Eagles do and just ignore a players asking for an extension.
If the Eagles had gotten a third round pick for the two I would feel better about it but they didn’t. In case you were wondering what the Eagles did last year with their fourth and fifth round picks it wasn’t too exciting. They traded their fourth to get Hobbs and drafted TE Cornelius Ingram who spent all of last year on injured reserve after blowing out his ACL, and they also drafted Macho Harris who I’m not even going to bother explaining what he did last year.
The Eagles will now need to look to revamp their entire secondary again. Eight years after being smart about future plans the Eagles have just dropped the ball the past few years, which have resulted in average at best play from their defense. They need a safety desperately and now thanks to this brilliant move they need another CB, who will have rookie moments and struggle. Buckle up Eagles fans were in for a bumpy ride to mediocre city.