Following the defection of Hugh Douglas to Jacksonville, the Eagles were forced to find a legitimate replacement for his pass rushing abilities. After passing on some lackluster free agents this off-season, the NFL draft was the perfect chance for the team to find their replacement for Douglas. But many doubted the caliber of player who could be acquired at the 30th selection. That's when Andy Reid and company pulled out a shocker when they traded up to the fifteenth spot to select standout end Jerome McDougle from the University of Miami.
Touted as a strong, fast and physical defensive end, Jerome McDougle will be the perfect fit to replace Douglas on the Eagles defensive line. En route to leading his Miami Hurricanes to a National Championship in 2001, McDougle earned all Big East honors by notching 110 tackles, 13 sacks and 30 stops for losses. It is omnipotent that McDougle be in camp on time to get all of the practice reps he can, and for this to happen he will need to sign a contract in the next 48 hours. Going into this season he will be backing up the likes of Brandon Whiting and Derrick Burgess. However, if Burgess is not healthy or Whiting falters early, McDougle could see a very early professional debut.
With tight end Chad Lewis getting up there in age, and the team's need for a solid tight end, in order to run the West Coast Offense, the Eagles selected L.J. Smith from Rutgers with their second round pick. The 6-3 258 Smith showed the ability to spread the field during his time in college. The Eagles hope that in years to come Smith will blossom into a Jeremy Shockey type of player. If that is the case, outside linebackers will have their hands full in coming seasons with Smith roaming the field. Look for the Eagles to run many two tight end sets early in the season, and for Smith to step in and replace Lewis in the starting lineup by the middle of this season.
When the third round of the NFL draft began, the Eagles chose to select a receiver to bolster their lackluster corps. With their selection Philadelphia chose a prototypical slot receiver. Billy McMullen is not the fastest receiver on the squad, but with his great vertical leaping abilities and his enormous hands, he should be able to bring down many a touchdown pass from Donovan McNabb. Going into camp Freddie Mitchell is emerged in a battle against McMullen for the third receiver spot, and if Mitchell fails to produce in camp or in pre-season games it is likely that McMullen will get the job. Like McDougle and Smith, he is still without a contract and that could be detrimental towards his prospects of becoming the team's slot receiver.
Still not satisfied with their current state at defensive end, even after selecting McDougle, Philadelphia chose his Miami teammate Jamaal Green in the fourth round. From Camden NJ, playing for the Eagles is a dream come true for Green. In 44 college games, Green's stats are comparable to McDougle's. He recorded 145 tackles, 24 sacks and 27 tackles for loss. Needless to say, after the selections of two Hurricanes, the Eagles have their defensive end rotation set for years to come. Eventually Green and McDougle will line up together in the starting lineup, and when they do, Opposing quarterbacks will be tormented by their pass rushing abilities for years to come. Green has been the first Eagles draft pick to sign a contract and will be in training camp on time. This bodes well for his playing time in 2003.
If these four players can have solid training camps, and quietly learn the systems on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball this year, they will set the foundations for very solid professional careers. On paper, this may be Andy Reid's most balanced draft classes, and with a team that has been knocking on the door of the Super Bowl for the past three seasons Philadelphia has done a pretty good job at drafting players for the future. This year, Reid's selections each have the chance to play now, and if they make the most of their chances, it will be a very entertaining year for Eagles fans in 2003.