Thursday, September 28, 2023

Games People Play 5.3.2006

By Rick Racela

No one can say for sure how any team did in the NFL draft last weekend, but Eagles’ fans have reasons to be pleased.
It’s always interesting to look back on college selections from years past to see how they fared.  There are very few sure things but it’s fun to speculate.
A pessimist will wonder why desired defensive tackle Broderick Bunkley dropped to number 14.  The Florida State big man can pump 225 pounds a whopping 44 times.  He emerged as a college star in his senior season, which is a little disconcerting.  We don’t need a “one hit wonder” in town.
Bunkley’s attributes were espoused by many experts and pundits.  On paper he’s certainly the penetrating and pass rush happy interior lineman the Eagles crave.  Their defense was shredded last year, often up the middle.  Bunkley should team with 2005 USC draft pick Mike Patterson to improve that situation.
The most interesting player is second round pick Winston Justice, the USC tackle that fell to the number 39 pick.  The Birds were rumored to be taking Justice with their top selection.  They orchestrated a trade to move up and grab Justice and it looks like a potential steal with aging Tra Thomas on the left side and right tackle Jon Runyan.
A highly productive, yet unknown smaller school player emerged as the team’s third round selection.  Chris Gocong joins the team from California Polytechnic Institute, Cal Poly, for short.
As a 1-AA stand-up defensive end, Gocong recorded an incredible 41 sacks over the last two seasons.  It’s tough to predict success, but it appears that players who have been productive do better than those who run fast, jump high and look good in shorts, but haven’t done anything yet.
Here’s hoping Gocong can take the weak side linebacker spot from underachieving Dhani Jones.
Coach Andy Reid is a former collegiate lineman and makes no secret of his belief that winning begins with strong play up front.  In the fourth round, Philadelphia selected Georgia’s Max Jean-Gilles. 
This guy is a massive offensive guard who could push his way into significant playing time with the trade of disappointing Artis Hicks to Minnesota.  At 6-4, 356, Jean-Gilles gives the team a huge interior lineman to ward of inside blitzers and burly nose tackles.
The Birds do not have a legitimate number one receiver and that concerns many fans.  Also in the fourth round, they selected Michigan wide out Jason Avant.  He’s not very big, nor very fast, but he was productive at a major college football program.  Perhaps he’ll be a contributor. 
Olympic skier Jeremy Bloom was the number five pick.  The former Colorado football player is seen as a special teams kick and punt returner.   He’s only 5-9, 172, but he’s had some success returning kicks in a major college program.  He might be insurance in case injured J.R. Reed never returns from his freak fence-leaping injury.
Tennessee linebacker Omar Gaither was also a fifth round selection.  He’ll have a tough time making the team unless he can excel on special teams.  At 6-1, 233, he has the size and enough speed to get down the field and make special teams tackles and blocks.
USC defensive tackle LaJuan Ramsey was the final selection, a sixth rounder.  He’s 6-3, 290 so he should be able to stuff the run once he gets off of the practice squad.  Injuries to starters could put this guy into the rotation. 
Once again, he played a big time schedule at a big time school so he was worth taking a chance on. 
Keep in mind that the Eagles have a history of signing some quality undrafted free agents.  They’ve received strong contributions from many of these forgotten players, including the recently departed Thomas and Hicks.  Current defensive lineman Sam Rayburn went undrafted.
So much depends upon good health and some luck.  With five exhibition games this pre-season, the Eagle decision-makers will have more game film with which to evaluate the new players. 
It’s almost time for summer.  Then it’ll be time for training camp.  Can’t wait.

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