INDIANAPOLIS --When Eagles GM Howie Roseman looks over the draft class, he sees the deepest offensive line grouping in years.
"The talent level overall is probably better than it has been the past few years," Roseman said Thursday. "It's deep. You have some guys who are versatile, who can play tackle, who can play guard, obviously that helps."
Roseman will be looking to upgrade the Eagles' pass protection and should have options, with at least five tackles rated as first round worthy according to most draft analysts.
The Eagles also expect to get help from within. Roseman said center Jamaal Jackson is healthy again after missing all of the 2010-2011 season with a triceps tear.
"That's a veteran who's played at a high level for us for a long time and we're excited to see what he'll do. Getting a guy who's started and played at a high level, that only helps clear up the picture a little bit," Roseman said. He added that tackle Winston Justice should be fine after having knee surgery last week.
Roseman was asked in several different ways about potential trades for Kevin Kolb, but shed no light on the situation. He said the Eagles would evaluate all of their options.
Several of the draft's top offensive linemen have already met with reporters today, including Gabe Carimi (Wisconsin), Anthony Castonzo (Boston College), Derek Sherrod (Mississippi State) and Ben Ijalana (Villanova).
Carimi, linked to the Eagles in several analysts' mock drafts, said he sees himself as the best of a deep tackle class. He elaborated Thursday:
"I'm a physical player that's gone against four potential first round picks this year," said Carimi, a four-year starter at Wisconsin. "I have a better resume just going against better talent."
Carimi said he played against four potential first round pass rushers: Adrian Clayborn (Iowa), Ryan Kerrigan (Purdue), Cameron Heyward (Ohio State) and Wisconsin teammate J.J. Watt. His best games, he said, came in the biggest spots: against Iowa, and Ohio State and in the Rose Bowl.
"I do perform good against good talent," Carimi said.
Many scouts have him projected as a right tackle -- meaning they don't see him as a stellar pass blocker -- but that also happens to be where the Eagles may need help, since Jason Peters has the left side locked up. Carimi said he could make the switch, since he practiced working out of right and left stances at Wisconsin.
Castonzo was more modest, and spent part of his session answering questions about his degree in bio-chemistry and hopes to start a medical research foundation after his football career ends.
"I'm not going to sit up here and say I'm better than him or he's better than me, it's for the scouts to decide," Castonzo said. "My goal is always to be better. I always want to be the best."
Ilajana said his goal is to impress scouts in interviews and show them the man "behind the facemask."
"I just need to be myself," he said. He jokingly added, "Yeah, I'm 6-3-an-a-half, I'm sorry I'm not 6-6, I'm not 6-8, but you know, you put some cleats and a helmet on me I could be."
Ilajana, from Hainesport, N.J., said he grew up an Eagles fan, but is ready to play for whoever takes him.
Below are Combine posts from earlier ...
Three former Eagles coaches, Steve Spagnuolo, Ron Rivera and John Harbaugh, today endorsed the Eagles move to name Juan Castillo defensive coordinator.
There have also been a few funny moments already here at the NFL Combine and some interesting comments from Rivera about what he might do with the first pick in April's draft and his hiring of Sean McDermott. Those items, along with some first impressions from the Combine, are below. But first, the former Eagles defensive aides were asked about their one-time colleague, Castillo, and one-time leader, Andy Reid.
Rivera, wearing a Chicago Bears Super Bowl ring with a C made of diamonds, said the unconventional Castillo promotion has increased the pressure on Reid, but said he thinks the move will work.
"If there is a coach in the NFL that can make that transition, it is Juan Castillo," Rivera said, talking about how Castillo would work in the offseason with Eagles defensive coaches, talking about blitzes and offensive line protections. "I will be surprised if he does not have success. If he has success, I'm not surprised."
Harbaugh said he believes Castillo can be an NFL head coach.
"I'm a big Juan Castillo fan."
Many reporters and columnists sense rising pressure on Reid, with his risky move at defensive coordinator and the team's consecutive first round playoff exits. Spagnuolo said Reid can handle it.
"Andy handles it as good as anybody," Spagnuolo said. "I think it’s pretty evident by him being the longest tenured head coach that he’s doing something right."
Of course, the long tenure cuts both ways, since Reid has not won a championship in his time in Philadelphia.
Other quick hits on the draft and Combine:
-- Rivera dropped some hints that his Carolina Panthers are interested in Auburn quarterback Cam Newton with the number one pick.
"Franchise quarterbacks are really what’s happening with this league in terms of this becoming a passing league," he said, saying he wants to find a guy like he had in San Diego, Philip Rivers. Rivera then compared Newton's size to rising young stars such as Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco.
"Cam’s got those types of physical attributes: tall, powerful young man ... he might be the best athlete of all of them," he said. And then read this carefully: "He’s a winner. You got back to his junior college and his college days, you can’t pass that up either."
Can't pass that up? Interesting.
He quickly added that he has his eye on 7 to 10 prospects at the top pick.
-- Rivera said Sean McDermott will benefit from moving to Carolina because he was under incredible pressure following Jim Johnson in Philadelphia.
"This was an opportunity to get Sean, I want to say, out of the shadow of Jim. It was a very difficult situation, but I think he handeld that well and showed his maturity," Rivera said, echoing comments he made to the Inquirer's Jeff McLane at the Super Bowl.
-- Some off-beat observations:
-- John Harbaugh had the early leader for understatement of 2011. He telling a story about learning under Andy Reid and said "He's not a big explanation guy, as you know." Yes, I have heard such a thing.
-- Harbaugh was asked what coaching advice he gave his brother Jim. As it turned out, Jim had slipped into the crowd and was sitting at a nearby table. Why don't you just ask him, John asked, to much laughter. Jim stood up, but didn't have any immediate wit. "See, he can't give you anything good!" John quipped.
-- Bills coach Chan Gailey was asked about the draft's defensive linemen and the importance of attacking quarterbacks. He said something I've though of many times over the course of the season: "Any team that's out there, every one of them puts a premium on pass rushers."
Sean McDermott said he wanted to get after quarterbacks with four rushers. Juan Castillo says he wants to attack with four rushers. Jim Washburn was praised for his ability to get pressure with four rushers. Is there a defensive coach at any level of football that wouldn't love to get pressure on the quarterback? But every time we see a new guy on defense and ask what they want to do differently, the answer is the same: get pressure on the quarterback. As if that's some great secret.
More updates later. We'll hear from Howie Roseman around 3. My initial post of the day on first impressions of the combine is below:
The 2011 Scouting Combine officially gets underway in about 30 minutes (from the time I begin this post, anyway) with the man everyone wants to hear from: Buffalo Bills head coach Chan Gailey.
OK, maybe not, but he's the first person to meet the press, followed by a couple of former Eagles: Steve Spagnuolo and Ron Rivera. Eagles GM Howie Roseman is meeting the media at 3, and it will be interesting to hear what angles the national press takes with him, and if his answers are any different than those us locals can extract. My guess is the rest of the writers will be asking about much the same stuff as the Philadelphia media: Michael Vick, Kevin Kolb. The reserved and cautious Roseman might have a challenge holding his audience, though. Thirty minutes after he takes the podium Rex Ryan steps up at a separate location.
This is my first Combine, and the set up of the entire event is interesting. Downtown is overrun with reporters, agents, team officials, executives and scouts mixed together in a way we rarely are during the season. Andy Reid was on Les Bowen's flight to Indy; Marty Mornhinweg was on mine.
The press is in what would normally be the concourse at Lucas Oil Field and we have a schedule of when executives and coaches will be dragged before us. There are several podiums, so many of the press availabilities will overlap. TVs overhead show the NFL Networks coverage, which, I gather, is how we'll view most of the actual work outs. Select players will be brought in to answer questions from the press. Today it's offensive linemen, which should be a position of interest to Eagles fans.
I had a combine overview in this morning's Inquirer and here on Philly.com.
Some press guy just made a call for volunteers to help be part of a combine quote-sharing system, where we each transcribe a different player and share it all, so we can get comments from everyone, even if we're out of the room or talking to someone else when a player of interest meets the media. I better go get in on that. More later as the day develops.
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