Eagles draft outlook: Offensive tackle

Don't be surprised to see the Eagles address depth at offensive tackle behind Winston Justice (pictured) and Jason Peters. (David Maialetti / Staff Photographer)

If you're a draft junkie in the Philadelphia area, be sure to join us at McFadden's next Tuesday night for a special event. Should be a lot of fun.

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.

First up is offensive tackle.

The situation: The Eagles are set with their starting right and left tackles for years to come. Winston Justice showed last season he can start on the right side, and the Eagles rewarded him with a contract extension that runs through 2013. Is Justice a finished product at 25 years old? No. He still needs to improve. But considering how he stepped up last season, it's reasonable to believe he will get better.

Almost exactly one year ago, the Eagles dealt for left tackle Jason Peters and awarded him with a six-year deal. Two things about his 2009 campaign: One, he did not live up to Andy Reid's billing as the best left tackle in the league. Two, there's no denying that the Eagles were better with him on the field than with one of his replacements. Peters was up and down, and it doesn't help that he had one of his worst games of the year in the playoff loss to the Cowboys. However, he showed flashes of being the kind of player the Eagles pictured him to be when they traded for him.

Depth: There are a lot of question marks here. Last season, when Peters went down, it was Todd Herremans sliding over to left tackle and the Eagles bringing in a reserve to play guard (Nick Cole, Max Jean-Gilles and Stacy Andrews all rotated in at various times). But will the Birds have the same luxury this year? If Cole is counted on to fill in for Jamaal Jackson at center, and Herremans slides over to tackle, the team would have to count on a guard combo of Jean-Gilles and and Andrews. Far from ideal.

Andrews is a key here. When he arrived, most penciled him in as the right tackle. Instead, he was moved to guard and had a disastrous first season in Philadelphia. His health and performance will be a major factor in determining how flexible the Eagles are when a lineman goes down with an injury. Will he be good enough to start at right guard? Will he be good enough to provide depth there? What about tackle? Could he fill in if needed? Those are the questions that will need to be answered.

The only other tackles on the roster are King Dunlap and Fenuki Tupou. Dunlap, a seventh-round pick in 2008, will be entering his third season. It was obvious last season that the coaching staff did not think he was capable of being a contributor, or he likely would have gotten in the games when Peters was out. Tupou was a fifth-round pick last season, who was placed on injured reserve in September.

My take: The Eagles have bigger holes than offensive tackle, but the last thing they want is to be stuck in a major bind should Peters or Justice go down, especially with a young quarterback taking over. Sliding Herremans over is OK, but it makes them weaker at two positions. Ideally, the Eagles would be able to bring in a reserve tackle and leave Herremans at left guard, should Peters go down.

We'll throw the old "best player available" caveat into all these posts, because for the most part, it holds true. That being said, I would be surprised if the Eagles went offensive tackle in the first round, but it really wouldn't shock me to see them draft one after that. Again, several factors go into this: how they feel about the current players on the roster (mentioned above), how they have the tackle prospects graded, and when those guys go off the board. The Eagles have drafted a tackle in five of the last six seasons, and addressing their depth here is a good idea.

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