More LB Talk

Posted: September 1st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 24 Comments »

I’ll write a game preview type thread later.

We had some good LB talk yesterday.  I posted a comparison of the unit vs other teams LBs corps.  There were plenty of good responses in the Comments section.  One of the key points a few people hit on is worth mentioning.

The DL is improved, maybe vastly improved.  The secondary is definitely improved.  That means we don’t need the LBs to be a great unit.  They have to be functional.  Chaney looks like he could be ready to have a good year.  Fokou is an effective starter.  Now we’re down to Casey Matthews.  Can he be an effective starter?  The Eagles guess is certainly “yes”.

I was watching some Oregon tape last night to check out some prospects.  I couldn’t help but notice Casey on a few plays.  He was very confident and aggressive.  He jumped in on one tackle and ripped a players helmet off while forcing him to the ground.  That’s the tough, fiery Casey I saw last year.  He’s nowhere near that point right now, but he did show some emotion last week.  I think having some success helped him.  We need Casey to play with emotion.  That’s him at his best.  You can’t be fiery if you’re confused or nervous.  As he plays, I think he’ll get into a groove and we’ll see him get better.  I expect Casey to be at least an effective starter.

The other thing to keep in mind about the LBs is how they compare to last year.  The roles are switched a bit so let’s just stick with comparing the OLBs as a pair.  Will Chaney/Fokou be better than Fokou/Sims?  Has to be.  Replacing Ernie is addition by subtraction.  The fact that Chaney might also be an outright good player really swings this in favor of the 2011 LBs.

Will Casey be a better starter than Stewart Bradley?  That’s not setting the bar real high.  Stew wasn’t a good player last year.  I think we can hope for at least a draw, if not outright improvement.

What about the Nickel LBs?  We’ve got Chaney and Brian Rolle.  I expect them to be better than Sims and Stew.  You guys know I love Rolle, but I think he’s shown to everyone that he can be a good player in a limited capacity (aren’t those called role players?).  We’ll see if Rolle becomes starting material down the road, but for now I’m excited to have him as part of the Nickel D.

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Speaking of LBs…interesting comment from Dave Spadaro in yesterday’s column.  He was writing about roster battles.  This caveat was at the end of the LB section:

“The Eagles usually keep six linebackers. Look for this position to, potentially, experience some movement in the next week.”

Hmmm.  I’d like us to add a veteran MLB to the mix, but I wonder if anything else could happen.  We aren’t talking about starters here.  Let’s be clear on that.  Chaney-Casey-Fokou will be the primary LBs.

The thing I was wondering about is if the team tries to deal Keenan Clayton.  Rolle is a similar player and has already jumped ahead of him.  Clayton can run, blitz, and cover, but still needs work as a run defender.  Do you keep him at backup WLB?  Do you move Rolle to backup MLB?  Just some stuff to think about.

* * * * *

Speaking of…my new column is up.  I wrote about the benefits of uncertainty and change.  I think it turned out to be a good column.

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Adam Caplan posted on Twitter last night that the Eagles put in a waiver claim on FB Jerome Felton when he was cut by the Lions.  The Panthers got him (because they had a worse record than the Eagles and other 2 teams who put in claims).

Why were the Eagles going after Felton?  Was he coming here to take Owen Schmitt’s job?  Were the Eagles just wanting to take a look at Felton?  Odd move.

24 Comments on “More LB Talk”

  1. 1 GermanEagle said at 11:47 AM on September 1st, 2011:

    “The Eagles usually keep six linebackers. Look for this position to, potentially, experience some movement in the next week.”

    I think the odd-man out at LB will be Akeem Jordan…

  2. 2 Kevin (RC) said at 11:49 AM on September 1st, 2011:

    More appropriately Tommy, why hasn’t Clayton been more of a factor?
    Physically, has everything. We can’t we simplify it for him to the point of “Cover X Guy or Blitz”?

  3. 3 Tommy Lawlor said at 11:52 AM on September 1st, 2011:

    @ Kevin…

    Chaney is the OLB in the Nickel. Rolle is the MLB.

    Clayton would be the OLB in the Nickel. He’s good in coverage, but I think the coaches like Chaney better because he’s good in coverage, but a much better run defender.

    If Chaney was moved to MLB in the Nickel, Clayton would then get on the field as the OLB.

    Keenan can function as a Nickel LB right now. I don’t doubt that.

  4. 4 GermanEagle said at 11:53 AM on September 1st, 2011:


    good point. If the Eagles really cut/trade Clayton it won’t surprise me if he turns out to become another “Chris Clemons” type player for another team…

  5. 5 Kevin (RC) said at 11:54 AM on September 1st, 2011:

    Thanks 🙂

    In the case, I’d rather keep Clayton. He’s insurance to injuries for both Fokou/Chaney. It’s then a question of finding a legit backup MLB as the #6 LB because if Matthews goes down, I’d rather not have to completely shuffle the LB deck.

    Unfortunately, good starters at LB are thin, let alone backups. I do think a Hanson for Dan Conner trade makes some sense.

  6. 6 iskar36 said at 11:56 AM on September 1st, 2011:


    I appreciate your optimism about Matthews. I am not high on him what-so-ever, so hearing the other side from someone whose judgement I trust is at least comforting. That being said, saying we can expect Matthews to be better than Bradley, especially when you write that without providing much of an argument for it, is hard for me to agree with. Matthews has certainly improved over the last 3 games, but he by no means stood out, even in game 3. Just because he made a few extra tackles and showed some emotion afterwards does not make him a great player.

    I guess technically you said “we can hope,” and if you mean that literally, fine… but reading between the lines, I think you meant that as a given, and frankly, that is by no means a given. There is a very distinct possibility that Matthews fails, and he has yet to show anything that suggests he will be better than Bradley.

  7. 7 GermanEagle said at 11:59 AM on September 1st, 2011:


    if Matthews fails we can always bring back Trotter..

  8. 8 Iskar36 said at 12:09 PM on September 1st, 2011:


    I’m not arguing that Bradley was a great LB by any means either. I agree with the point that being better than Bradley is not setting the bar high, but unlike Sims, replacing Bradley is not simply addition by subtraction.

  9. 9 Tommy Lawlor said at 12:15 PM on September 1st, 2011:

    @ iskar…

    I think Matthews can be better than 2010 Stew, which is what I was talking about. Go back and watch those games. Stew struggled. He started at MLB for 12 games and had 49 solo tackles. That’s just not good. He was physically okay, but not mentally. He didn’t trust the knee and it really hurt his play.

    Can Matthews be better than 2011 Stew? That I don’t know because I have no idea which Stew will show up. The guy from 2008 was really good, but there’s no guarantee he’ll ever get back. Also, Stew has a lot of injuries, in college and the NFL. Can you count on him to stay on the field?

    I like the guy and hope he has a terrific career. Just can’t count on him.

    Casey is unproven, but in a way both players are mysteries. The Eagles rolled the dice on the younger, healthier, and cheaper player. Can’t say I blame them for that.

  10. 10 Max said at 12:23 PM on September 1st, 2011:

    @Tommy – on another note re: the OL – I read gcobbs column this morning abt Danny Watkins – I presume GCobb goes to some practices – he seems down on Watkins – your thoughts?? I really hope he is not a first round bust.

  11. 11 izzylangfan said at 12:23 PM on September 1st, 2011:

    When I learn a new physical skill I usually go at it slowly trying to get the movements down before I go at it full force. This it seems, is what you suggest Casey Mathews is doing. Normally I wouldn’t have any problem with this except for Andy Reid has long held that on his team you should go at it full bore as you learn. Make your mistakes at 100 miles an hour so when you finally learn you are ready to go fast. So why has Andy violated one of his main rules in Mathews case?

  12. 12 bula said at 12:31 PM on September 1st, 2011:

    AXE MAN!!!

  13. 13 Shawn said at 12:39 PM on September 1st, 2011:

    I hope they put in Dion Lewis as KR/PR. Would like to see the Eagles carry 5 receivers and have 11 DL.

  14. 14 Tommy Lawlor said at 1:16 PM on September 1st, 2011:

    @ Max…

    Interesting post from GCobb.

    No way you can call any player a bust 3 games into his career. GCobb was careful not to do that. He’s got his doubts about Watkins and that’s fine.

    We’ll see how things go as he plays and gets more comfortable. Danny is new to G and new to the right side. I think he’ll adjust as he gets used to it.

  15. 15 Kevin (RC) said at 1:43 PM on September 1st, 2011:

    Watkins a bust?
    – He’s trying a new position
    – He’s on a different side
    – He’s played beside two different centers
    – He’s played beside two different RT… and soon to be a 3rd.
    – He’s played 1 1/2 games of football
    – He’s had no off-season
    – He came into camp late

    Calm down people.

  16. 16 Morton said at 2:40 PM on September 1st, 2011:

    The linebackers aren’t even the issue. Everyone keeps talking about the linebackers, but the biggest problems for the defense in the preseason so far has been an inability to stop teams *passing* on *third downs*. This was less of a problem in the Cleveland and Baltimore games, but it was pronounced in the Pittsburgh game. This problem has nothing to do with the linebackers. It has everything to do with the defensive line, the blitz packages, and the coverage schemes. The linebacker “issue” is a red herring perpetuated by people who fail to analyze the games in depth and fail to accept the uber-importance of the passing game in today’s NFL and the almost complete marginalization of the running game. As long as you have athletic guys who will tackle the RB on 80% of the plays, occasionally break up a pass to a TE, you don’t need world-beaters at the position at all to succeed as an NFL defense. Rushing gains are almost immaterial to successful drives in the NFL because eventually, even the worst linebackers will force a team into a 3rd down more often than not, and at that point what becomes important is pressure on the QB and coverage downfield.

    As much as we like to crow about our defensive line talent, the four-man rush was shockingly ineffective at generating pressure on more than a few 3rd downs in the Pittsburgh game, which allowed Roethlisberger to bide his time in the pocket until deep routes opened up for WRs and TEs being covered by safeties or linebackers.

    This isn’t a problem of poor linebackers; it’s a DL issue. I still maintain that Trent Cole is merely a “good” player who is above-average as a run-stopper and above-average as a pass rusher, but he is not the elite RDE that Eagles fans make him out to be. He was handled in the Pittsburgh game. Cullen Jenkins shows flashes of pass-rush ability, but he is not an every-down pressure player and can be easily stoned at the point of attack. Jason Babin has looked shockingly ineffective in every snap this preseason.

    Surprisingly, the most effective pass rusher in the preseason thus far has been Phillip Hunt. Notice the difference in Colt McCoy’s ability to make reads and compose himself in the pocket in the Cleveland game when Jason Babin is on the field and then later in the 2nd quarter when Hunt is subbed in for Babin. The difference is remarkable. Hunt’s pressure directly leads to McCoy throwing off his back foot to Asante Samuel, and then he later pressures McCoy into scrambling and throwing an incompletion, and then he later cleans up for Hargrove and notches a sack.

    The key to this season may actually be whether the Eagles decide to keep Hunt on the roster or whether they cut him in favor of less effective players such as Parker, Babin, Tapp, or Teo-Nesheim. This is going to be an important test for the coaches and the front office, imho.

  17. 17 Frank said at 2:50 PM on September 1st, 2011:


    While I agree with most of what you say, I think saying “The linebackers aren’t even the issue” is inaccurate. Sure it would be nice if the DL was getting pressure every passing down, but when that doesn’t happen there need to be players on the back end covering those guys.

    What was killing us on 3rd down in the Pittsburgh game? Passes to the running backs and TEs. Who was supposed to be covering those guys? Most of the time, the linebackers.

    They did a much better job of it in the Browns game, so hopefully some of that was improvement and not just the Browns being a worse team.

  18. 18 RogerPodacter said at 2:54 PM on September 1st, 2011:


    am i the only one who thought Tapp actually looked pretty good this preseason?

  19. 19 Kevin (RC) said at 3:16 PM on September 1st, 2011:

    We were awesome in 2 of 3 pre-season games on 3rd down.
    In the other, we were bad, but fluke things happened to us (no time on the field by the offense, facemask penalties, Cromartie missing an easy tackle, Allen getting turned around).

    Of course, people who think 3rd downs are the problem haven’t really been paying attention.

  20. 20 Austinfan said at 3:29 PM on September 1st, 2011:

    The LBs aren’t the issue, people are jumping to conclusions after three preseason games without OTAs with a very young LB group. However, they’re not asking these LBs to do a lot in this system. They stopped the run against the Steelers (fans focus on one drive, coaches focus on the entire first half) and the pass against Cleveland. It’s coming together.

    Chaney has a learning curve, but SLB is actually simpler for him than MLB, and he has the physical tools to be exceptional, he can handle the run responsibilities, and I’m not sure there’s a LB who can get deeper against the pass, his technique and awareness may need work, but geez, you can’t teach 6’0 240 with 4.5 speed.

    Matthews really doesn’t have to do a lot, just “take out the trash,” he’ll be off the field for close to 50% of snaps (when they go nickel and dime), he just has to read and react and hit the right gap and make tackles, and cover the underneath zone. He doesn’t have to dominate, just be competent.

    Fokou we know is competent, we’d like more out of him at WLB, but the playmakers are going to be the DL and the CBs, so anything he gives is a bonus. At least he won’t be running himself out of plays on a regular basis like a certain land shark we knew and loved.

    Rolle/Clayton just have to provide good coverage in the nickel/dime packages, they prefer Rolle because he’ll come up quickly to make tackles on draws and screens. Again, you don’t have to be a superstar in this role, just competent.

    I don’t see them ever taking a LB in this defense in the first 100 picks unless a great value falls to them, because you can mix and match athletic LBs with limitations just fine. As long as your 2 down MLB can cover on run downs (i.e. no big strong stiffs), and you have nickel LBs who can tackle, with Chaney and Fokou (or Clayton if he grows a set of LB cojones) at OLB you’re fine for years.

    I’d point out that Tennessee handled the run just fine with McGrath – Tulloch – Witherspoon, not exactly three allpro LBs. Notice there was no market for Tulloch, which tells you the media knows less than the league.

  21. 21 frankfurtler said at 4:02 PM on September 1st, 2011:

    I was a big fan of disco Stew in the 2008 season, but he was not able recover his 08 form last year. A concussion week one, then pretzel twisting his elbow, he did not have much of a chance to anyway.
    When he did get back on the field, it seemed like he was zombie style chasing his oppenents from two steps back with his arms out in front of him. uugh
    I’m excited to see the new blood, but I think any judgement is better saved for after the first 3 or 4 games and hopefully no injuries!

  22. 22 eagles nut said at 5:26 PM on September 1st, 2011:

    Focusing on the waiver claim put in on Felton, I for one think it indicates they’re not sold on Schmitt at FB. I don’t think it’s simply looking for a camp body to help in the final preseason game. It’s highly unlikely Felton would have enough time to learn enough of the playbook to play at all tonight. If we were awarded him, he’d be a de facto replacement for Schmitt. With the drafting of Havili, it definitely seems like they’re looking for a FB capable of running the ball like they had with Weaver. Unfortunately, Havili hasn’t impressed at all this preseason IMO.

    I’m not sure what else is out there now and could be out there after final cuts with regards to a possible upgrade from Schmitt. I would not be shocked if the Eagles didn’t keep a true FB on the roster and instead use Harbor and Lee in H-B roles. They could keep a true FB or FB/RB hybrid on the PS. They could also conceivably use one of the backup linemen in short-yardage situations or insert Jackson at center and let Kelce lead block.

  23. 23 Tommy Lawlor said at 5:36 PM on September 1st, 2011:

    I’m not so sure.

    Havili has been disappointing. We might have wanted Felton here for just tonight. You teach him 4 or 5 basic plays and use him in a selective way. His lead blocks give the backup RBs a better chance to show what they can do.

    It could be that the coaches aren’t happy with Schmitt, but I’ve not heard a bad word about him. If they really wanted an upgrade, why not deal some late round pick in 2013 or something like that.

  24. 24 eagles nut said at 5:56 PM on September 1st, 2011:

    I think if they were just looking for an alternative to Havili for the last preseason game then they would have signed some street free agent earlier in the week. Claiming Felton at this specific time tells me that they view him as an upgrade from Schmitt. That doesn’t necesarily mean they’re dissatisfied with Schmitt. They should always try to get better if they can. Maybe they just like Felton a lot.