Eagles mailbag: Is offensive tackle a real option with No. 12 pick?

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I hope everyone had a great weekend. As you settle back into another work week, there should be some excitement about football because it’s April now and the draft is later this month.

As you might expect, a lot of the questions in the mailbag this week were draft related.

I answered a fun hypothetical on Sunday. But let’s start today’s with another couple draft-related questions:

This would be an interesting scenario and I guess it’s not out of the question. In this case, I’m assuming the top tackles are Penei Sewell and Rashawn Slater. If the board falls that way, it would be tough to pass up on one of those players; they’re both very good. But I also see your point and it’s a valid one. The Eagles have Lane Johnson at right tackle and will have either Mailata or Dillard at left.

I don’t think it’s likely the Eagles end up with a tackle at No. 12 but you can never rule it out with this team. Unlike, say, linebacker, they value OL more than any other position aside from quarterback. Let’s play devil’s advocate a little bit: Johnson has been dealing with the same ankle injury since 2018 and he’s 30 now, Dillard is unproven entering Year 3 and coming off a lost season and Mailata showed promise but isn’t a slam dunk and is entering a contract season. So if the Eagles look at it that way, maybe it’s not so crazy to take a guy like Sewell if he falls into that range (don't think he will). But I think it’s still not the most likely outcome.

I’ve been thinking about Darius Leonard a lot in the last few weeks. Not only is he an All-Pro linebacker but he’s also the leader of that defense and sets the tone on and off the field in Indianapolis. He’s a big reason for their success. And then you think about Jonathan Gannon, the Eagles’ new defensive coordinator, who came from Indy and watched how important Leonard has been there.

I still think it’s not very likely the Eagles take Parsons (or any linebacker) in the first round. But with a new coaching staff in place, I think it’s definitely not as crazy as it sounded a few months ago.

We all know the history here. That Jerry Robinson is becoming a household name again in Philadelphia has to do with the fact that he’s the last off-ball linebacker the Eagles have taken in the first round in over four decades. Robinson was a first-rounder out of UCLA in 1979. The Eagles, as an organization, clearly value other positions more. On defense, they value the line and the secondary more. But when they’ve also had some success when they put at least some resources into the position. Think about spending second- and third-round picks on Mychal Kendricks and Jordan Hicks or paying Nigel Bradham in free agency. They finally spent a third-round pick on Davion Taylor last year but he wasn’t ready to play.

Not sure how much say Gannon will have either. Jim Schwartz had plenty of autonomy but he had a much thicker resume when he arrived in Philadelphia; Gannon is a first-time DC. But it’s easy to look at Leonard in Indy and Mike Zimmer’s defense in Minnesota (Gannon’s previous stop before Indy) and think that Gannon will value linebackers more than Schwartz. Will that be enough to make Parsons the guy at No. 12? My guess is still no. But I think there’s a better chance of it than there was even a few months ago.

I like its potential but it isn’t complete. And the lack of experience is troubling. Greg Ward, who has two years under his belt, is by far the most experienced guy.

Here’s who they have now:

Greg Ward Jr.: Solid player in the slot but hasn’t shown explosive play. Definitely a guy the Eagles should want to keep around for now but not sure how high the ceiling goes.

Jalen Reagor: Certainly don’t write off Reagor yet. He had a disappointing rookie season but had three separate injuries and the entire offense was a mess. I’m on record that he wouldn’t have been my pick at 21 but he has truly explosive qualities and it’ll be exciting to see him with a new coaching staff.

Quez Watkins: Finally showed something at the end of the year when given a chance. Seems to have a great connection with Jalen Hurts, which is good for him going into Year 2.

Travis Fulgham: The true wild card. He was the best receiver in the NFL for a month and then disappeared. There’s obviously talent there and it’ll be up to the new coaching staff to find it. I don’t think he’s an elite receiver or the guy who disappeared. Honestly, he’s probably somewhere in the middle.

John Hightower: It was disappointing to see Hightower fall out of favor with the coaching staff and lose snaps after a rough start. He has some talent but I’d have Watkins firmly ahead of him in the pecking order.

J.J. Arcega-Whiteside: One last chance for the second-round pick this year. Not looking good.

Khalil Tate: Former quarterback like Ward. Practice squad candidate.

This is a tough one right now because I don’t think the linebacker corps is finished. The one thing I’m confident in is that Alex Singleton has earned his starting spot. After that? T.J. Edwards is a solid piece but is limited athletically. And Davion Taylor and Shaun Bradley are largely unproven. I think we’ll see the Eagles use at least one of their 11 picks on a linebacker later this month. But I’m ready to throw Taylor into the fire a little more this year. I know he was raw coming out of college but this is a rebuilding team anyway. Let’s see if he can use his athleticism and make some plays.

I’m guessing you’re talking about Jalen Hurts’ jersey number. I like 1 better than 2. I think it’s kind of cool that Hurts is the first QB to wear No. 1 with the Eagles.

I still don’t think the division is very good, but the Eagles are clearly not ready to be contenders in 2021. Can they stick around in this division race for a while? Yeah, probably, depending on the structure of their schedule. But if I had to rank the teams right now, I’d probably put them last.

Looking at free agency, I thought Washington and the Giants improved the most and the Cowboys at least finally locked up Dak Prescott. If he’s healthy, Dak is the best QB in the division by a mile. Meanwhile, the Eagles had to bend over backwards just to become salary cap compliant.

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