Eagles draft outlook: Guard, center

Can Nick Cole get the job done at center? (Clem Murray / Staff Photographer)

Over the next 10 days, I'll go position-by-position, taking a look at the Eagles' current roster, in an attempt to determine where their biggest draft needs are. Yesterday we did offensive tackle.

Next in our series is the interior of the Eagles' offensive line - guard and center.

The situation: Let's start with the one stable position: left guard. Todd Herremans gives the Eagles a quality player there, both in the run game and the pass game. Put him down on your depth chart without hesitation. The only caveat would be if the Eagles had an offensive tackle go down and Herremans had to switch positions.

Beyond him, though, there are a lot of question marks. And pretty much everything stems from the injury to center Jamaal Jackson. Until Jackson returns, what are the team's options at center? The most obvious one is Nick Cole, who slid into that spot during the two games against the Cowboys last season. I'm the only man in America who thinks Cole could be OK with a training camp's worth of practices at center under his belt. Everybody wants to kill him for the Eagles' losses to Dallas, but if you really look at those games, Cowboys nose tackle Jay Ratliff was not nearly the factor he was in the teams' first meeting earlier in the season. The problems Cole encountered were with the snap and with communication. Not saying those should be swept under the rug, but they are areas that could improve as he gets more reps.

Which brings us to right guard. Ideally, that would be the spot Cole filled. He proved to be a better option than both Stacy Andrews and Max Jean-Gilles there last season. But looking at the current roster, if Cole's at center, Andrews and Jean-Gilles would battle it out at right guard. At the end of last season, the coaching staff was more confident in Jean-Gilles than Andrews. But Andrews has the higher ceiling, if he's healthy and playing well, of course (a big IF).

Depth: Let's start at center. Other than Jackson and Cole, there's Dallas Reynolds, Mike McGlynn and A.Q. Shipley. McGlynn is a fourth-round draft pick from 2008, who has seen limited action.

Reynolds was signed as an undrafted free agent out of BYU following last year's draft. He was cut before the season and then signed to the practice squad before Week 16. He stayed their until joining the active roster before the Week 17 matchup against Dallas.

Shipley, a Penn State product, spent last season on the Steelers' practice squad. The Eagles signed him in January.

McGlynn would also be an option at guard.

My take: If the Eagles go offense with one of their first- or second-round picks, an interior lineman would make the most sense. If it's a center who can come in and play right away, great. Cole can slide over to right guard.

If it's a guard who can come in and play right away, you take your chances that Cole can improve and start at center until Jackson gets healthy.

In other words, it would be surprising if the Eagles don't select an interior lineman fairly early. But, as I'll mention in all these posts, it will depend on who's high on their board and who's available when they pick.

As we've learned in recent years, Andy Reid and company will surprise us.

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