February 21, 2013, 2:30 pm
INDIANAPOLIS – It seemed crazy at the time.
Troy Vincent had made three straight Pro Bowl teams, Bobby Taylor was playing at a high level and on the verge of making his first Pro Bowl team, and the Eagles still had Al Harris, who would go on to become a two-time Pro Bowler.
So what did the Eagles do in the 2002 draft?
Take two cornerbacks.
It seemed to make little sense. Why would a team with Vincent, Taylor and Harris use a first-round pick on Lito Sheppard and a second-round pick on Sheldon Brown?
As it turned out, the Eagles let Harris leave via free agency after 2002 and they let Vincent and Taylor leave after 2003.
And Sheppard and Brown became starters.
“And then when we’re in the Super Bowl, those guys are our starting cornerbacks,” Howie Roseman said.
And that, according to Roseman, is why the Eagles can’t afford to focus solely on defense this offseason.
Even though the Eagles appear to have far more needs on defense than offense, Roseman said the Eagles won’t go into the draft and free agency with defense as more of a priority than offense.
He said that mentality has gotten the Eagles in trouble in the past.
“When you talk about the process and studying things we haven’t done as well, it’s pigeonholing [our needs] and [thinking], ‘I’ve got to just focus on one side of the ball,’” Roseman said.
“You’re sitting in your draft room, and you have a guy with a first- or second-round grade and you’re in the third round and you’re saying, ‘Man, I don’t want to take an offensive player.’
“But when you look at the draft -- and even aspects of free agency -- and keeping your own guys as a long-term decision for your organization, trying to build a core group together and have a chance every year, you can take those players.”
From the outside, it appears the Eagles have good talent on offense, with a solid offensive line returning after being decimated by injuries in 2011, with proven receivers, terrific running backs and a productive veteran tight end.
And from the outside, it appears the Eagles’ three biggest needs are linebacker, safety and cornerback. Not to mention a nose tackle to play in a 3-4 and some edge pass rushers.
The Eagles’ defense was historically bad last year. Over the last 14 weeks of the season, the Eagles forced just seven turnovers and gave up 42 touchdowns.
But Roseman said if the Eagles prioritize that way, they’ll end up missing out on good players.
“When we go back and look at some of our draft boards and some of the players we had highly rated but maybe we had a surplus at that position and didn’t take them, those are the good players from the draft,” Roseman said.
“So it’s very important that as a staff that we stick to our board and make sure we’re taking the best players, because you don’t know where you’re going a year from now, you don’t know where you’re going to be two years from now.
“To just take this moment in time and say you have a lot of depth at a particular position but not look at the big picture, I think that will hurt our ability to compete for a long time as opposed just for the moment.”
E-mail Reuben Frank at email@example.com.