TALKING TO EAGLES general manager Howie Roseman yesterday, the sense was that if the Eagles could have gotten a corner they really liked before the fourth round, while juggling a couple of other urgent priorities, they would have done that.
But you can't have everything. Yes, this was a deep draft, but from the Birds' perspective, "deep" was literally true. There was talent in the first round-and-a-half, and then there were a lot of guys the Eagles had third- or fourth-round grades on, like the corner the team eventually took, Kentucky's Trevard Lindley, in the fourth round.
Once the Eagles traded up for Michigan defensive end Brandon Graham in the first and tabbed South Florida safety Nate Allen 37th overall in the second, using the Donovan McNabb pick, they didn't see another corner they wanted to spend a second- or third-round choice on. So Roseman began a series of maneuvers that added picks to the overall haul while steadily moving the team down in the draft, from 55th overall in the second to 59th to 71st in the third and, finally, to 86th in the third. That was where the Eagles finally selected another player, Washington defensive end Daniel Téo-Nesheim.
"You want to stick to your board," Roseman said in the wake of a draft that saw the Birds add 13 players, the most they've brought aboard since 1986. "It was heavy at the top, but if you couldn't get [a corner] at the top, it was a lull, and your board was much stronger at certain positions. When we've looked back and studied it, the trouble you get in is if you force a particular area or a particular position. We did not want to do that. So, at corner, we just let the board dictate where we were going to take one. We have confidence in the guys on our roster. We all know the best pass rush makes every corner a little better."
In the question of quality vs. quantity, the Eagles clearly felt quantity was the way to go.
"Our board, there was a sharp dropoff at a certain point, and once we hit that, we had a great number of players in that third-to-fourth-round area, and we felt really confident that if we picked up a bunch of those guys, we could really improve the competition level on our team and get a bunch of starters, and I think that's what we did," Roseman said.
Roseman said the emphasis on defense - nine of the 13 picks, including the first five - was part of "the natural turnover of the team." He pointed out that last year's draft, while not offering comparable volume, featured six offensive picks among the eight selections. "When we looked at the composition of the team this year and going forward, we felt we needed an influx of talent on that side of the ball. Put that with the guys we have coming back, and you look at our defense, and it gets exciting."
The initial move of the draft, sending the Eagles' original first-round pick (24th overall) and two third-rounders to Denver for the 13th selection, was pretty much what the Eagles felt they would have to do to get to Graham, Roseman said.
"We felt all along that Brandon Graham was going to be drafted high. He was one of these guys that, the more you watch guys in the draft, he just jumped out," Roseman said. "Heckuva pass rusher, good run player. Highly productive high school, college, everywhere he's been, team captain. Once the defensive linemen were going to start going, we knew he'd be at the top of that list, and we just went and got him."
He said Graham was the clear choice, in the group that included Jason Pierre-Paul (taken 15th overall by the Giants) and Derrick Morgan, selected 16th overall by the Titans.
"It was pretty consistent throughout this process, from the first time we put on the tape from Brandon Graham, we knew this was a player that really fit what we were looking to do and could play at a high level in the National Football League," Roseman said.
After the lack of a high pick at corner, the other surprise was that the Eagles drafted no one on the offensive line, though starting center Jamaal Jackson is coming off ACL surgery and is unlikely to be full-strength early in the season. Roseman reiterated what Eagles coach Andy Reid said after the draft, that "we do expect Jamaal to be a player for us this year, at some point," that Nick Cole is a steady sub, and that 2008 fourth-rounder Mike McGlynn "is in great shape and is a guy we really liked coming out."
If there was a reach among the Eagles' picks, it might have been Téo-Nesheim, especially since the Eagles ended up drafting three defensive ends, after already adding Seattle free agent Darryl Tapp.
"Everyone has different draft boards . . . For us, there were some things that were just really conspicuous," Roseman said. "Super productive, plays really hard, athletic, quick, all-time sack leader at a big time Pac 10 school. You speak to the people there and they just can't tell you enough about his character, how much he loves the game, he loves to play, and then you put on the tape, you see all those things. You put that package together, and for us, it just kind of added up."
BWest passed physical
Apparently, Brian Westbrook passed that physical he took for the St. Louis Rams and is now mulling whether he wants to continue his career in a new city with a struggling team.
The Rams are coached by former Eagles assistant Steve Spagnuolo. Their offensive coordinator is Pat Shurmur, longtime Eagles quarterbacks coach, who also knows Westbrook well.
The biggest negative, beyond the fact that Westbrook won't be winning the Super Bowl in St. Louis anytime soon, might be that the Rams play and practice on artificial turf. The Eagles tried to keep Westbrook's turf exposure to a minimum the past few years; he often sat out indoor practices to keep his left knee from swelling up. When Westbrook was released by the Eagles, a source close to the situation expressed the opinion that if he were to continue his career, it would have to be with a natural grass team.
Westbrook's agent, Todd France, did not respond to a request for comment. Westbrook has said he wants to continue to play.
UFAs now official
The Eagles announced they have agreed to terms with the following 11 rookie free agents, several of whom had already been reported as signings unofficially: defensive tackle Charles Alexander (6-4, 300), LSU; tackles Austin Howard (6-7, 333), Northern Iowa, and Jeraill McCuller (6-6, 328), North Carolina State; wide receivers Blue Cooper (6-2, 185), Tennessee-Chattanooga; Kevin Jurovich (6-0, 188), San Jose State; and Pat Simonds (6-5, 229), Colgate; guard Zipp Duncan (6-5, 297), Kentucky; quarterback Joey Elliott (6-3, 215), Purdue; cornerbacks Josh Morris (5-11, 186), Weber State, and David Pender (6-0, 180), Purdue; and fullback Chris Zardas (6-0, 238), Massachusetts.
Former Eagles running back Tony Hunt will take a step toward returning to the NFL when he takes part in the Giants' rookie minicamp this weekend.
Hunt , a third-round pick from Penn State in 2007, is among 23 players invited on a tryout basis to the 54-player camp that includes the Giants' draft picks and undrafted free agents. He hasn't played since the Birds released him in 2008.
For more Eagles coverage and opinion, read the Daily News' Eagles blog, Eagletarian, at www.eagletarian.com