Much has been said of the Eagles' stock of talent at certain positions, and complete dearth of talent at some others. I still believe the coaches haven't done all they can with what they have-- the offense is as usual far too imbalanced (20 carries for Shady over 2 games is UNACCEPTABLE-- take some pressure off Vick! Passing attempts correlates with turnovers...) and the defensive gameplan by Senor Juan leaves much to be desired to say the least.
However Reid/Roseman could have gotten their Asomugha and Jenkins and Babin and STILL had plenty of cash left over to upgrade the middle of the defense.
The opening weekend LB combo of Fokou at WILL, Matthews at MLB, and Chaney at SAM gets a grade F. The opening day safety unit of Jarrad Page at SS and Coleman at FS gets an F too (Coleman isn't THAT bad, but Page is so remarkably bad he brought the entire unit down to his level).
Now the new linebacker unit of Rolle at WILL, Chaney at MLB, and Fokou at SAM is slightly improved. Rolle especially is playing downhill and not shying from contact, and Chaney's block-shedding deficiencies were at least tempered by his INT and occasional good tackle on Sunday. Overall I'd upgrade the current linebacker unit to a D+ overall, with Rolle being the most productive and consistent.
After Page [mis]played his way to the bench (hopefully for good) I expect Coleman to start at his natural position of SS next weekend, with Allen holding it down again at FS. Coleman is actually very good in run support although he's a liability in coverage, while Allen is sort of the opposite. If both these guys play the way they played last year (Allen at the beginning and Coleman at the end of the season), the safety unit gets upgraded to a grade C. Again, it's a shame it took Castillo 5 weeks to figure these things out (along with playing press man instead of zone). But Jarrad Page should have never stepped foot on the field.
But how good could the defense really have been this season with the 2011 free agent market? Consider the cap space that the following free agent pickups are eating this year (numbers approximate, I did my best to track down accurate figures):
Vince Young: $4 million Steve Smith: $2.3 million Ronnie Brown: $1.3 million Jarrad Page: $575k
Total: $8.2 million, more or less.
Young looks to be the third-- not second, string QB; Page's deficiencies have already been covered, and so far Brown's largest contribution on limited snaps was his hilarious lateral-screen pass at the goal line in the 49ers game. Smith's claim to fame in limited time was his dropped pass-turned INT which led to a 14 point swing in the Giants game. Incredibly-- as bad as this team as a whole has played at times-- if Page, Brown, and Smith were never on this roster, the team could conceivably be 4-1 or 5-0 now given the huge individual errors each one has made at critical moments. Page alone is responsible for at least 2 losses. Jeffy Lurie could have simply pocketed the extra cash and everyone could have won!
Seriously though, that $8.2 million could have been spent FAR more wisely.
Nick Barnett signed with the Bills for a $3.5 million cap hit this year; he is currently 9th in the NFL in total tackles and had a pick-6 against the Eagles. Steven Tulloch signed with the Lions in THEIR Wide-9 scheme for $3.25 million and was last seen on Monday Night Football flying from sideline to sideline, blowing up screen plays, plugging up running lanes, and generally tossing people around. We could have had both of these guys with a couple million left over.
Someone also had to take charge with the cornerback situation, as Samuel ($9.3 million) and Asomugha ($10 million) suck up huge cap space but play completely opposite and contradictory styles. Asomugha is pure press-man, Samuel is pure zone--a route-jumper. Whether we kept Samuel and used Aso's money elsewhere, or traded Samuel after acquiring Aso, SOMETHING had to give, and it was on the Head Coach or D-Coordinator to decide whether this defense was going to continue mostly as a cover 3 scheme or switch to man-up with Aso and DRC.
With one of the corners gone, we could have resigned the sure-tackling Quintin Mikell, providing veteran continuity and leadership and preventing this unit from perceiving itself as a band of mercenaries. Mikell went to the Rams for $6.75 million this year and probably would have accepted less to remain with the team that first gave him a shot as an undrafted free agent. He was obviously reluctant to leave but management gave him no choice.
Consider what the middle 5, the heart of our defense, could have looked like this year:
WLB: Brian Rolle
MLB: Steven Tulloch
SAM: Nick Barnett
SS: Quintin Mikell
FS: Nate Allen
I'd give that linebacker corps a B+ and that safety unit a B to B+ as well. Much better than what we currently have.
Young + Brown + Smith + Page + Samuel = $17.5 million in cap space
Tulloch + Barnett + Mikell = $13.5 million in cap space.
Now after getting rid of Samuel's contract you've actually got $4 million left over in cap space after vastly upgrading the middle of the defense. That money could have been spent on another "big back" who wasn't totally washed up and mentally challenged like Brown (what was wrong with Jerome Harrison?), on another veteran defensive back for depth, on an offensive lineman, or any combination thereof. (Or, of course, Samuel could have simply been traded for a player with a lesser contract, which is the same principle)
Funny math, huh? Roseman and Reid really pulled off a doozie this year.... they had to try HARD to make this team this bad after spending all that cash.