The Eagles didn’t draft an OLB or ILB. The team did sign UDFA Jake Knott. Does this mean that Howie Roseman, Chip Kelly, and Bill Davis are happy with the LB corps?
I think the first thing you need to understand is that the LBs are a mystery right now. The lack of moves doesn’t show satisfaction. The coaches need to see the players in action before evaluating them. There has been a major schematic change. Mystery doesn’t mean good or bad, simply unknown.
We might find out that Brandon Graham is perfect as the Predator in the new defense. Connor Barwin has played SAM in a similar system so there is less schematic change for him, but there is dealing with a new team, new coaches, and the pressure of knowing Sheil Kapadia will be doing All-22 breakdowns of his game tape. That’s enough to overwhelm any normal human being. Trent Cole is going to have a better year than he did in 2012. I just can’t see a proud man like him playing like that again. Still, I don’t know if he’ll get anywhere close to the old days of 11 and 12 sacks.
Beyond the big 3, I don’t know what’s going on. I think Chris McCoy is the backup at SAM. Both Phillip Hunt and Everette Brown are more likely to be backups at the Preadator spot. McCoy is a longshot to make the roster, but we’ll see how that goes. Hunt lacks the size that Kelly prefers, but might be acceptable for 2013. Brown is a longshot, but I did like him a lot coming out of college.
The x-factor here could be Vinny Curry. The Eagles loaded up on DEs. You have Fletcher Cox, Ced Thornton, Joe Kruger, Ronnie Cameron, David King, Clifton Geathers, and a couple of UDFAs. Will Curry stay at DE or possibly shift out to backup SAM? It is early enough in the offseason that he could still shed a few pounds and make the switch. Curry would want to be in the 270 range at SAM so that’s not a huge change.
Or maybe the Eagles will make a sign a free agent. I don’t know who is available. The Eagles could trade for someone. Having Barwin as the starter is the key. You can figure out what to do for his backup. There is time to solve that issue.
What about ILB? DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks are the starters. Ryans is a short term player, but could play another 2 or 3 years. Kendricks is too small for Kelly to be comfortable, but if Kendricks plays well, Kelly will gladly make an exception. I do think Kendricks can play well in this scheme. I expect him to have a good year.
The backup ILBs are a total mystery. Jason Phillips was signed as a UFA and Jake Knott as a UDFA. These are players specifically chosen for the scheme. That gives them a leg up. Jamar Chaney and Casey Matthews clearly are not in good standing. They can win jobs, but will need to play well to make the coaches trust them. The team traded for Emmanuel Acho a few weeks back. He is in the mix for a spot as well.
Adam Caplan has talked about the Eagles adding a veteran ILB for a few weeks. You wonder if that will happen or if the team wants to see the current group in a mini-camp or two before making a move. The lack of tackling will limit just how much the coaches could learn, but seeing players on the move can give you an idea of what to expect from some guys.
Next January we’ll know if Graham and Barwin are the future at OLB or if we need help. We’ll know if Ryans and Kendricks are the answer at ILB. We’ll know which backups have a chance and which don’t.
Until then, don’t over-think this. Let’s see the players in action and judge them based on performance rather than projection. Moves can, and probably will be made, as the team tries to find the right mix with the backup LBs/ILBs. This 3-4 thing is new to us and trying to figure out what good depth is will be a learning experience for us.
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A few of you have asked about Fresno State LB Tristan Okpalaugo. He has a tryout deal with the Dolphins for their mini-camp.
There are some rumors about Maryland’s Kenny Tate coming to Philly. His Twitter account says nothing. The Eagles have said nothing. He would be an odd fit. The former SS moved to OLB a couple of years back, but at 6-3, 221 would need to play SS or ILB in the NFL. He isn’t a pass rusher and would be an odd fit with the Eagles at OLB. SS is the spot where he would have the best chance and would make the most sense. We’ll see what happens there.