The Importance of ILB

Posted: May 2nd, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 70 Comments »

More than a few of you have questioned all the talk about the Eagles adding an ILB, especially when talking about the early rounds. Does the 3-4 need a 1st or 2nd round pick playing in there? And what about Mychal Kendricks?

The 3-4 defense is built on LBs. They are the playmakers that make the defense truly come to life. OLBs are the key, but do not overlook the impact that ILBs can have in the scheme. Think about some of the best 3-4 defenses of the last 25 years.

SF – the Niners 3-4 has Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, a pair of stud ILBs.

LT’s Giants – Pepper Johnson and Harry Carson manned the middle.

90’s Steelers – Hardy Nickerson, Chad Brown, Levon Kirkland amd Earl Holmes all played ILB

2005 Steelers – James Farrior, Larry Foote

early 90’s Saints – Sam Mills, Vaughn Johnson

Some of those guys were early picks. Some of them were players who developed into being top players. But all of them were outstanding players.

The 3-4 LB must be able to play the run, cover and blitz. The 3-4 involves a lot of deception and player movement. There might be a zone blitz where the LILB goes after the QB. The RILB then might have to slide to his left and occupy that zone in coverage. On the next snap, the ROLB might rush and the RILB might have to go his area. On the next play he might be taking on an OG on an inside run and then the RILB might be blitzing on the next play.

3-4 ILBs cannot just be tacklers. They must make plays. DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks last year combined for 8 sacks, 5 INTs and 2 FFs. Not bad for an inconsistent player and a guy who is losing a step. The scheme gave them chances and they made plays. Now imagine someone with the speed of Ryan Shazier or the skill set of Christian Jones playing in that defense. They could be even more productive.

If Kendricks had established himself as a consistent player, the Eagles would feel more comfortable about the ILB situation. But Kendricks is erratic. And Ryans is getting older. This would be an ideal time to add an ILB. The player could sit and learn for a year. You could mix him into the defense in some sub packages and give both Kendricks and Ryans some plays off. At the end of the year you re-visit the situation and figure out how to proceed.

The Eagles do have some interesting backups already on the roster. The coaches like Jake Knott quite a bit. They see him as an instinctive player who tackles well and has a nose for the ball. The question with him is speed. Is Knott fast enough to ever be a starter in the NFL?

Najee Goode impressed me quite a bit last year when he took over for Kendricks for a couple of games. He was a really good blitzer and did a good job of deflecting passes. Goode had a sack and 3 PDs in limited reps. The question with him is his ability to read plays, shed blocks and get to the ball. Goode has some Trotter to him. He loves to attack downhill and blow up OL. That is okay on some plays, but isn’t something you want to do every down in the 3-4.

We all fell in love with Emmanuel Acho last summer, but the coaches turned around and cut him, sending us the message that they didn’t feel the same way. I don’t know that there is one obvious area where he needs to improve. Acho must get better with his overall game.

The one thing the Eagles seem to be looking for the most is athletic ILBs.

Ryan Shazier – freak athlete

Telvin Smith – SS/LB tweener that can fly

Joran Tripp – very athletic workout

Christian Kirksey – good workout numbers

Nate Askew – former WR

The Eagles want speed in the middle of the defense. That was a problem last year and none of the current backup ILBs has very good speed.

Shazier should be a 1st round pick. I think Smith will go in the 3rd. I had Tripp as a mid-round guy, but Daniel Jeremiah recently said he didn’t think Tripp would make it to pick 86. That shocked me. Kirksey could go in the 3rd or 4th. Askew is a late rounder or priority free agent.

This isn’t a case where the Eagles 100 percent must get an ILB, but they clearly would like one, especially one that runs well and can play in space.

* * * * *

There was a recent discussion about ILB size. We don’t know anything for a fact at this point, but I do think Chip Kelly would prefer an ILB that is 6-2 or above. Kendricks is short and you can see that affecting his ability to cover TEs in some situations. If you can get an ILB that is 6-3 or so and has long arms, he’ll just help in those coverage situations where length/height is needed.

I do not know if the Eagles have any interest in Chris Borland, who is 5114. That means 5-11 4/8. I round that up to 6–0 for simplicity, but the fact is that he’s short like Kendricks. The guy can play, but he’s not the fastest player in the world. Do you want an ILB that is just a shade under 6-0 and runs 4.78? It doesn’t seem like the Eagles do.


  • nickross23

    PSU middle backer Glenn Carson shocked me with his pro day numbers, I think he’s a guy who could be in play as a late rd to priority UDFA. could make the team as a core special teams player that down the line that might work his way to starter by yr 2

    • George

      i think that may be a bit of penn state bias there…

      • nickross23

        Maybe a little bit. But I’m just a college football fan and PSU was the local team to follow so I tend to keep a closer eye on those guys. He’s a guy that was 3 yr starter and played really well.

    • D3FB

      Not a bad UDFA target. Classic Big Ten LB. Does well against the run, chases well, decent in short zones, solid instincts. Probably more of a two down backer, but you could do worse as a fifth linebacker/special teams guy. Maxes out as a guy you can play if a starter gets injured but needs to come out on obvious passing downs if not blitzing. I prefer James Morris of Iowa, but Carson has better size.

  • Malcolm Jones

    I know that with Andy Reid, not only did we have undersized players as starters on defense, but we also had undersized and under developed guys as far as depth. I don’t know if that is the reason we do not look for our depth to grow and develop in the offseason, but I am looking for Acho and Goode, both of which over 6 feet, to step up and to get bigger during the year. They were also just learning the system and could not step right in. This year they should have the system down pack. Acho was a fan favorite and is 6-2…and Goode did some good things when he came in for that one game. Even looking at the upcoming draft we are looking at S, ILB, DE, OLB and NT, WR while we have Wolf, the two I meantioned earlier, Kruger, Travis Long, Graham, Square, Logan, Cunningham and Benn coming into camp with the system under their belts and with new trainers who will get their bodies right and get them to give the most that they can. Now in some cases not everyone will pan out, but before we go drafting for every position listed. What do we have that can work, so that we can go BPA and not reach?

  • austinfan

    The problem with Borland is not just is he short and slow, but he has T-rex arms, very instinctive, will be great against the run, but needs to be surrounded by athletic LBs who will allow him to focus on a run stopper role.

    Some of the outside LBs, if they have good instincts, might be candidates for ILB, like Bradford, who is only 6’1. These are guys who would be marginal pass rusher due to size or lack of great edge explosion, but good enough athletes to excel inside.

    • GEAGLE

      Think Boreland would be perfect to go play James Fariors spot in the steelers 34. Dude needs a huge NT in front of him to keep him clean. Beau Allen did a Great job and took great pride. No keeping him clean so he could run around and Torpedo dudes…Beau Allen was talking about his desire to play for Azzinaro, and was familiar with how we use a NT who is Mobil and can rush the passer and he thought he would fit in for us…I never really viewed that kid as agile. Sucks he didn’t run at pthe combine.l
      Think Beau Allen gets drafted? I wouldn’t spend a pick on him, but I wouldn’t mind giving him a camp invite if he goes Undrafted…..
      Ross Tucker was calling Boreland. A a mini Mini Kueachly which was a little crazy. Love that kids intensity tho…don’t view him as a great fit for us, even if I can’t see how lack of height hinders an ILB

  • mksp

    Tommy and/or D3FB – What do you guys think about Kevin Pierre-Louis? 6’0″ 232, 4.51, ridiculous measurables.

    I haven’t had a chance to watch tape on him yet, what is he lacking?

    • D3FB

      He’s a space player, run and chase backer. Subpar instincts. Got blocked by WR’s several times. Shorter, less adept in coverage version of Kirksey, played more in the box than Kirksey but doesn’t understand how opposing teams are trying to block him and gets outleveraged from a scheme standpoint. Probably best suited to play 43 Will. Would be a nickel backer and special teamer for us. Best comp I’ve seen is his ceiling is probably Malcolm Smith of the Seahawks. Played for McGovern. May be a late round target if McGovern likes him.

      • GEAGLE

        Becoming harder and harder to play LB on 3rd down, going to be very interesting to see how these Nickle LBs who probably can’t play in Your base are valued in this draft….

    • Anders

      Look at how athletic Jamar Chaney was. Sad that he got destroyed by the wide 9.

      • Media Mike

        Jamar was a horrible pass defender (Falcons game anybody), had no concept on how to play in space, and LOVED to guess wrong when flying to the ball.

    • Tom W

      Too short. More of weakside lb in a 4 3. Tweeter. Nickel backer special teams career

    • TommyLawlor

      D3FB is right on the money with his description.

    • GEAGLE

      His spider graph is crazy

  • Paul Slack

    Telvin Smith might be one of the best players in the draft although his weight makes him a tweener. If the Eagles or any other organization really see’s the obvious talents this kid plays with, he should be a 2nd round pick. Being able to add him in the 3rd would be monumental. If he was 25-30lbs heavier, he’d be a top 20 pick by the way he performs on the field. In reviewing the Championship game vs. Auburn, Smith was standing up and shedding 305lb Guards consistently. Being able to do that with such a disparity in weight is off the charts. Then again in the Senior Bowl he jumped off the screen and was arguably the best defender on the field (him and Dee Ford). Although he might not fit the prerequisite (height/weight) proportions of the LB position…his talent suggest you take him, feed him and have him lift weights a la Trent Cole. Cole gained somewhere around 30lbs of muscle since his days at Cincy…Telvin should be able to do the same. All the sudden you added a potential Pro Bowl LB in the 3rd round.

    • Anders

      Really doubt Smith would be able to add more than 10 pounds max.

      Shedding a OL is more about technique than weight. London Fletcher was 240 but had no problem shedding 330 Jamaal Jackson in a game.

      If we got Smith in the 3rd I would be happy. Guy is the best ILB in the draft and as you said he would be a top pick if 15 pounds heavier.


    Wouldn’t safeties and OLBs be responsible for covering TEs? With ILBs covering backs at the backfield?

    Don’t recall Ray Lewis, Urlacher, Bowman or Patrick Willis touted for their ability to cover TEs…

    Kendrick will start for us at ILB for the next 5 years..

    • Anders

      Part of what made the tampa 2 go for the Bears was Urlachers ability to cover TEs down the seam.

      • Patrick

        And Patrick Willis is notorious for his ability to cover not only TEs but WRs. I haven’t watched a ton of the Bills, but apparently Kiko Alonso have spent plenty of time in coverage too.

        • Anders

          Yea kiko would be the perfect Kelly ilb. It’s funny how many ex-ducks fit Kelly’s vision right?

          • anon

            surprised we didnt take him — maybe we though mykal would be better than he’s been.

          • Anders

            We took Ertz, not like that was a bad pick

          • anon

            Did Kiko go 2nd I thought maybe later like 4th, but i don’t remember anymore.

          • Anders

            2nd round pick by the bills, I really wanted him in the 3rd

          • Weapon Y

            I think Chip just loved Ertz too much to take Kiko over him. If it’s me, I probably go the other way on that decision, but Ertz might make me eat my words this year.

      • GEAGLE

        Question: wouldn’t it be the,safeties and OLB primary responsibility to cover TEs?…Kendrick ability to defend,TE is a bonus, and it was one of the creative things Billy had,to do because our personel was so flawed….doubt we will see him on TE as much in the future

        • Stevo

          Believe it depends on where the TE lines up and man/zone concepts. If TEs are running into ILBs’ zones, you have to cover them.

          • GEAGLE

            Talking about man to man on a TE….I just honestly never heard so some judge ILBs by their ability to cover TEs so it confuses me….it’s not one of the main responsibilities of an ILB…when ii think of a WILB in our system, there are a few things I want that play to excel in:
            1) Flying sideline to sideline being that tackling machine in a 34. Once Mykal Kendricks shores up his tackling it looks like he can excel In this area

            2) Blitzing: Mykal has been a quality Blitzer since his days at Cal..We blitzed Mykal up the A gap often on 3rd down last year, often while Cox would twist outside and Cole crashed inside. Think Mykal has the potential to be a quality Blitzer

            3) man coverage against running backs coming out the backfield: swing passes, wheel routes…doubt we would ever want someone else matched up in man against Forte, Jamaal Charles or Reggie bush types..

            4) Dropping into zone coverage. This is where you typically will have to encounter TEs..

            after seeing this kids first year in a new scheme(sophmore season) I don’t see how you can look at last season and not be enraged by Kendricks ability in those 4 areas…,Thought we saw flashes of an absolute stud in all 4 of those areas,

          • Stevo

            Yeah, think it comes down to the skill set of the linebacker and how you use them in your scheme. There are 2-down and 3-down LBs. Of course, 3-down LBs are a lot more valuable/versatile.

            Kendricks definitely has flashed those traits you mentioned. Can’t wait to see him put it all together, think it will be a big year for him.

          • GEAGLE

            Oh yeah! I’m expecting a big time year out of him….

            Very curious to see,who they draft to eventually replace Meco and be Mykals running mate..

    • Stevo

      Yeah, I think all four guys you mentioned are known for their coverage skills. None are huge guys (no Levan Kirklands) and all are fast. They’re just really good at everything else, too, so I can understand why their coverage skills might not be the first thing you think about.

      • GEAGLE

        Always judged ILBs on being able to:
        1) have the range to run sideline to sideline making tackles(Kendrick has all the range, just needs to tighten up his tackling)

        2) Blitz.which Mykal does really well.
        3) Be able to play Man coverage on a RB out of the backfield.

        4) Drop into zone,..this is when you typically see a ILB having to cover a TE..

  • Tom W

    Eagles ilb board

    1) Mosley
    2) kvn
    3) Christian jones
    4) kirksey
    5) lamin barrow
    6) jtripp
    7) pbrown

    • GEAGLE

      in terms of big board, I would agree with you…but in terms of drafting an ILB to pair with Kendricks for all 3 downs, I would put KVN ahead of Mosley..Think KVNs size is a better compliment. Mosley is physical enough to pull off pairing with Mykal, but ideally he would play Mykals WILB spot…since I believe Mykal is our Longterm starter, I think our big board would be:
      1) KVN
      2) CJ Mos
      3) C Jones

      All 3 of those players should be ready to replace Meco by the beginning of their second year.
      If Meco, has more left in the tank than we think and we restructure to keep him thru the 2015 season, we can draft Kirksey..who can do all the subpackage things In coverage that Telvin can do, probably better than Telvin, while also having the size to transition to Meco’s ILB position. However I think Kirksey will need two years of work before he can start and takeover ILB full time.

      The league is changing. It’s becoming very difficult to play LB on 3rd down…heck just look at how different the TE position was then it was 7 years ago..3 down LB are going tp become more valuable than ever…..

      With the way the league is changing I’m really curious to see what kind of ILB the draft to pair with Kendrick. Traditionally guys like Mosley and Shayzler would have to play Mykals!WILB spot…with the way offenses are evolving, I wonder if the kid we draft to replace Jeceo

      • D3FB

        Size wouldn’t really be an advantage for KVN over Mosley. KVN is an inch taller, but Mosley’s arms are two inches longer than KVN’s. Mosley also has freakishly large 10 3/4″ hands compared to KVN’s average 9 5/8″, ILB’s play in the 240-245 range, KVN is there, Mosley is a steak dinner and smoothie away. I’ll give the size advantage to Mosley due to his arm length and hand size. Plus Mosley is a more physical player than KVN to begin with.

  • Media Mike

    “Has some Trotter in him……………….”

    He likes to overrun plays and lose vs. the Giants because of poor gap discipline and Tiki Barber getting 30+ yards on a cutback?

    • anon

      This team has hurt me too — let it out brotha.

    • Maggie

      No single play loses an entire game.

      • Media Mike

        Correct, but 4 or 5 incorrect guesses on run lanes per game wasn’t helpful.

  • GermanEagle

    Tommy, why the lack of talk about Mosley? Is it because a) you don’t think he will be there at #22 or b) you think the Eagles won’t be interested. If it’s b) please feel to elaborate as CJ is in my top 5 board the Eagles should be excited about to get at no. 22… Thanks!

    • TommyLawlor

      Don’t think he makes it to 22. Terrific player.

      • GermanEagle

        Thanks, T.
        On that note let me ask you this: if one of those ‘terrific’ players are still there at #22, whom you’re gonna pick:
        – Mosley
        – Barr
        – Evans

        • GEAGLE

          Id go with the ???? Dude…he sounds mysterious

          • GermanEagle

            That’s your sweetest nightmare. Dude. Have you decided to come up for the draft yet?

          • GEAGLE

            Buds are insisting on going to round 1..i def won’t go to round 1. If I find someone to ride up with fir or sat, I’ll def go, but so far, no good….what game your coming up for this year?

          • GermanEagle

            What game?! Probable quite a few. I might go to the 2nd of the draft on Friday. Just give me a shout!

          • GEAGLE

            Let me know if you go Friday,,,I might drive down alone if you are going and I can get anyone to go. I always wanted to go to a draft, and Goodell might move the draft location…Also have a feeling this will be our MONEY Draft under Chip and we could see a whole lot of wheelin and dealiin on day two

          • Jamie Parker

            You mispelled his name. It’s ???!

          • Malcolm Jones

            i cant even read anymore after that comment lol

        • Insomniac


          • GEAGLE

            Yeah think it’s a no BRAINER. OLB is much more bivalued as a postion..then you get into how weak this draft is at pass rusher and how it’s our biggest need and it’s really a no BRAINER…..Only positions as valuable would be QB and a LT like Lewan…

            I’d draft Lewan,in an instant if he fell, because I bet Miami considers giving up Dion for a LT like Lewan

          • Insomniac

            Lewan is going to be nowhere near our draft board. If a proven dirtbag like Lewan is going to be drafted by us, I’m going to call for Chip’s head for cutting Djax.

          • GEAGLE

            We wouldn’t keep him…that’s all I need, wasting one of only 6 picks on a OT lol…just threw his name out as someone Miami would give up Dion for :)…
            They need DTs, OL, RB

            Right now all the GMs are working out all the trades we see during,the draft..what I’d give to bug Howies office today lol

    • GEAGLE

      Guys like Cossell see him as one of the best 12 players in this draft


    What round is appropriate to draft a subpackage LB, who you don’t believe can play in your base but will be an important 3rd down player for you?
    A guy like Telvin smith who I adore, but I’m not sold on being able to pair with Mykal in our Base?


    We should do a blitz round 1 mock
    Or choose 15 names, most likely to be drafted by eagles..

    • SteveH

      I volunteer to be the Texans.

      • GEAGLE

        See how many people we get and divide the teams up between between participants

  • Scott J

    Anybody read the article “Best, worst picks for first 32 draft slots over last 10 years” on the NFL site? Two Eagles made it on the “worst” list. Watkins and Graham.

    • SteveH

      Really on Graham? That’s surprising. Watkins not so much. That might be a worst pick of the last 100 years type deal.

    • Baloophi

      If the heightened expectations for Danny Watkins as the 23rd overall pick hasten his exit from the NFL, and he returns to Canada where he rescues a child from a burning home, then – in a way – isn’t that one of the best picks in the draft in the last ten years?

      I’ll exit slowly to the crescendo of your appreciative applause…

  • Sifter

    Is ILB worth an early pick? Looking at the potential demand for ILBs/4-3 OLBs in this draft, then I would argue it has to be pretty early just from a supply/demand POV. I’ve been looking through the rosters and the positions that are going to be emptied out quickly on draft day are TE, LB and S, maybe OG as well (although quite a few OTs would project inside and help the shortfall). So if the Eagles want an ILB and S, they can’t rely on a value pick since so many teams want help at those positions, and the draft isn’t deep enough to supply all teams the help they need there.

    • Media Mike

      If you’re talking “early” as in last year @ #4, I totally agree. @ #22 we’re dealing with secondary level of talent in this year’s draft, so I don’t mind ILB there.

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    Its sounding like WR Justin Blackmon might not be reinstated by the NFL this season, and,that the Jaguars might release him since they aren’t counting on him. The kid is a serious WR talent, and I would not mind taking a flier on nigh risk, high reward talent like Blackmon, who would be awesome in this offense.

    Character is important to us, but I have never heard anything negative about this kid other than substance abuse which happens to be a flaw that Chip has put up with in the past(long. Lyerla).. This isn’t a bad team mate or. Problem child, he is a kid struggling with personal daemons….Of course “the best ability is availability”,,

    This kid has paid a very steep pice for his mistake, missing most of last season and possibly missing this upcoming season. He also has run out of 2nd chances. Next time he succumbs to his daemons may be the end of his NFL career….wouldn’t mind seeng where this kids head is at after paying such a steep price, and take a flier on a Tremendous WR talent…don’t see what we have to lose, the kid is going to be cheap, and probably can’t afford to make another mistake… I’d ATleast look into him if he is released..

    • kevinlied

      Good post. I agree, especially if he can be had for little guaranteed money, which I assume is the case.

      • GEAGLE

        Thanks….the kid would be an opportunity to add a serious talent with minimal investment. If the Jags cut him, doubt the market would be in a,frenzy over his services. Has no leverage, and no one is going to pay any real money to a kid who is a mistake away from Longterm suspensions…so the kid would have to sign a cheap deal with little guaremtees

        And if you are a talented WR who needs to build his value backup, id assume Joining the Eagles offense would be near the very top of his wish list….kid is close to losing everything..I’d take a gamble on someone of his talent who will probably be desperate to rebuild his career…
        Add Blackmon cheap, Colt Lyerla with a late pick,and find 3 other talented knuckleheads….if just one straightens himself out and rehabs his life and career it will have been worth it


    How do people view UNCs Kareem Martin?..

    These last 5 days will be torture


    WOW!!!!! I usually despise Walterfootball. I do have to admit that I ripped him and laughed at him,for months last year because he was Mocking Logan to us in round 3’for months(never changing that pick even if he updates every week) and with us switching to a 3-4 I never thought we would draft Logan, expecting a big traditional NT like Jon Jenkins. I have no idea how the hell he knew we would draft Logan in the 3rd but I gotta tip my hat. this year his weekly Mocks of the eagles have been horrible. Don’t think I liked a single one of the drafts he mocked for us…5’days away from the Draft, and he has my DREAM DRAFT up for the Eagles:
    #22) Cody Latimer WR

    #54) Jeremiah Attaucho OLB
    #86) Christian Kirksey LOLB/ILB

    #122) Dontae Johnson S/CB
    #162) Taylor hart DE

    Few draft scenarios could make me happier than a draft like this(he didn’t have the Eagles trading back at all).. It would be awesome if the Eagles could trade back to 30 and still get Cody while adding an extra 3rd we could use on someone like Moncreif, Tre Mason! Sefarian Jenkins……if we,could pull off that trade and take Tre Mason with the extra 3rd, I would assume they trade Bryce for a 6th…according to his mock, he had the Bucs taking Antone Exum at #185 in round 6, and I would love to see us trade Lovie BG for that pick that nets us Exum…with a few somewhat realistic tweets, his mock could be my absolute Dream,scenario:

    #22 traded to San Fran for #30 and #77

    #30) Cody Latimer WR
    #54) Jerremiah,Attaucho ROLB
    #77) Tre Mason RB

    #86) Christian Kirksey ILB/LOLB
    #122) Dontae Johnson S

    #162) Taylor Hart DE

    Trade BG to the Bucs for #185
    #185) Antone Exum CB

    Trade Bryce Brown to Dolphins for #191

    #191) Colt Lyerla TE
    #222) Deandre Coleman NT

    UDFA signings:
    Biseko Lokombo OLB/ILB Oregon
    Avery Patterson Safety Oregon
    Jonathon Dowling Safety Western Kentucky
    Beau Allen NT Wisconsin
    L’Demian Washington WR Missouri
    Kevin Pamphile OT Purdue: Basketball player, freak athleticism
    Demetri Goodson CB Baylor
    Josh Walker OL Tennessee St.

    My official realistic dream scenario lol