Comparing the Eagles LB Corps

Posted: August 31st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 47 Comments »

A question was raised yesterday – do the Eagles have the worst set of LBs in the league?  I’m as optimistic as it gets, but this is a fair question.

First thing to point out is that we can only compare the Eagles to 4-3 teams.  There is no way to judge our guys vs the pass rushers of the Steelers, Packers, or other 3-4 teams.  Our LBs have a different skill set and different set of responsibilities.

PHI – SAM Jamar Chaney, MLB Casey Matthews, WLB Moise Fokou

and here is the competition (listed by division)…

NYG – SAM Matthias Kiwanuka, MLB Jonathan Goff, WLB Michael Boley
CHI – SAM Nick Roach, MLB Brian Urlacher, WLB Lance Briggs
DET – SAM Justin Durant, MLB DeAndre Levy, WLB Stephen Tulloch
MIN – SAM Chad Greenway, MLB EJ Henderson, WLB Erin Henderson
ATL – SAM Stephen Nicholas, MLB Curtis Lofton, WLB Sean Weatherspoon
CAR – SAM Thomas Davis, MLB Jon Beason, WLB James Anderson
NO – SAM Will Herring, MLB Jonathan Vilma, WLB Scott Shanle
TB – SAM Quincy Black, MLB Mason Foster, WLB Geno Hayes
SEA – SAM Leroy Hill, MLB David Hawthorne, WLB Aaron Curry
STL – SAM Brady Poppinga, MLB James Laurinaitis, WLB Ben Leber

CIN – SAM Manny Lawson, MLB Rey Maualuga, WLB Thomas Howard
CLE – SAM Scott Fujita, MLB D’Qwell Jackson, WLB Chris Gocong
IND – SAM Pat Angerer, MLB Gary Brackett, WLB Ernie Sims
JAX – SAM Darryl Smith, MLB Paul Posluszny, WLB Clint Session
TEN – SAM Akeem Ayers, MLB Barrett Ruud, WLB Will Witherspoon
DEN – SAM Von Miller, MLB Joe Mays, WLB DJ Williams
OAK – SAM Kam Wimbley, MLB Rolando McClain, WLB Quentin Groves

The first thing that jumps out is how un-inspiring a lot of these groups are.  The Bears look head and shoulders above the rest of the league.  I like the Falcons and Panthers as well, assuming Thomas Davis can stay healthy.

What are the 5 weakest LB corps?  I’ll go with:


The Giants have moved Kiwi back to LB.  I’m just not a huge fan of him there.  I know they’re trying to get their best players on the field and that does make some sense, but he’s never impressed me at LB.  Goff is solid in the middle, but what you see is what you get.  Boley I liked a lot early in his career, but he’s no longer a playmaker.  None of these players is special in any way.

The Saints have older guys at all 3 spots.  Herring is getting his first chance to be a full time starter. I like him, but he’s got to show that he can be an effective starter.  Vilma is highly productive.  Shanle is a solid vet, but not much of a playmaker.

The Browns have one very good player in Jackson, but he must show he can stay healthy this year.  He missed all of 2010 and only played in 6 games the year before.  Fujita is a solid SAM, but is now 32 years old.  Gocong isn’t meant to be a WLB.  He’s dealing with neck stinger problems (remember that from 2006?) and has yet to play this preseason.  If he’s unable to go, Kaluka Maiava would start.  He’s unproven, but does have potential.

The Colts have an odd set of LBs.  Pat Angerer was 6’0, 235 when he entered the league.  That is a small SAM.  Okay athlete, but nothing special.  There were times at Iowa when Angerer would get engulfed as the MLB.  Having him at the point of attack seems highly questionable.  Brackett is a quality vet in the middle.  Sims…do we really need to even cover this?

The biggest thing with the Eagles is that our guys are unproven.  Matthews is a rookie.  Chaney is new to SAM.  Fokou has started and played WLB before so he’s simply adjusting to the new scheme.  I think Chaney will be a good LB for us.  I think Fokou will be solid (good at what he does, but not flashy or a playmaker).  Matthews is the mystery man.  I think he can be a solid MLB, but we need to see it to believe it.

I’d love to have the Bears LB corps, but that’s just not an option.  As for the original question – do we have the worst LBs, we’re in the bottom 5.  Beyond that, you decide based on what criteria you use.  You can argue that we should be at the bottom of the list.

The thing to keep in mind is that we’re guessing right now.  Jamar Chaney played very well last week.  If he plays like that this season, we’ve got a stud LB and that makes the overall unit look better.  I like the fact that we have 3 guys that run well.  I also like the fact that all 3 guys are pure LBs.  I’m excited to see what the guys can do.  I’m not expecting greatness, but I think the LBs may surprise a few people this year.

47 Comments on “Comparing the Eagles LB Corps”

  1. 1 J.O said at 12:23 PM on August 31st, 2011:

    I agree 100% Tommy. I think these guys need some games to get themselves on the same page, (that is were the Dline and Secondary come into play protecting them). Once they do, these three can hit/run/and cover. Look out. If one does seem to be a weak point, then we have three high picks next year to address the issue.

  2. 2 GermanEagle said at 12:28 PM on August 31st, 2011:

    Given the overall lack of talent at LB it would be borderline insane to go with more than 5 LBs into the season and go light at one of our premier positions, e.g. CB or DT. Don’t you think?!

  3. 3 Chris said at 12:28 PM on August 31st, 2011:

    OFF TOPIC: Is there going to be a survivor pool like there was last year on Eagles Blitz? If so… I’m thinking the prize should be Tommy’s pudding collection.

  4. 4 americanfoot said at 12:31 PM on August 31st, 2011:

    As a plan B (I’m really hoping it doesn’t come to this…) I would expect Chaney to move back to the middle, but do you move Fokou back to the strong-side and put Clayton/”The Dream”/ Matthews on the weak-side? Or do you expect Castillo to keep Fokou in place and have Jordan or Clayton on the strong-side?

  5. 5 Tommy Lawlor said at 12:32 PM on August 31st, 2011:

    @ German Eagle…

    Going light at LB is possible, but not a certainty. You almost always want at least 6 LBs. Because we’re deep elsewhere, this will be a real test for Howie and Andy. Do you stick with conventional numbers or go with talent?

    They would need some LBs on the P-Squad that they like. Not sure if there are some LBs the team likes (non-Eagles, I mean).

  6. 6 Tommy Lawlor said at 12:33 PM on August 31st, 2011:

    @ Chris…

    I’ll send an email to bountybowl on the Survivor Pool and see about that.

  7. 7 Tommy Lawlor said at 12:36 PM on August 31st, 2011:

    @ americanfoot…

    Plan B? I think you’d shift Casey to SAM and leave Fokou alone. You’d rather do that than move all 3 guys around.

  8. 8 Iskar36 said at 12:44 PM on August 31st, 2011:

    I’m hoping we don’t have to go to a plan B, but in the case we do, do you really think the solution would be just to rotate two guys instead of at least bringing in someone else (Clayton, Rolle, Jordon)? If the Fokou, Matthews, Chaney combination doesn’t work, Fokou, Chaney, Matthews seems like a poor plan B. Again, hopefully we never have to see plan B, but still.

  9. 9 Kevin (RC) said at 12:47 PM on August 31st, 2011:

    When you see that list, how can LB not be a 1st day priority in the 2012 NFL Draft? Then again, we’ve said that before *Sigh*.

    This group lives and dies with Matthews/Rolle. If either steps up, we’re average…which is good enough given the rest of our defense. If not? Teams will run down our throats and throw TE/RB screens all day.

  10. 10 Eric said at 12:57 PM on August 31st, 2011:


    I think you make an excellent point that if Chaney plays very well then he helps everyone else around him.

    It’s something I thought of the other day when I was watching Mays play for the Broncos. We remember him all over the place in preseason games for the Eagles. We all thought he had great potential at MLB here and he fizzled out quickly. Is the reality of the situation that maybe guys like Mays are not stars, but can play much better with better talent around him? Meaning, look at the situation he’s in now. He has a good, quality player in DJ Williams and a potential All-Pro already in Von Miller. You can also throw in Dumervil in there.

    I believe Mays suffered because he just didn’t have other quality LBer talent around him. The same could be said for Matthews if he struggles.

    I understand the front office just doesn’t value the LBer position much so I’m not going to complain. They feel better investing in other areas. I just think if they invested a high draft pick on one stud LB, guys like Matthews and Chaney would become amazing players.

  11. 11 McG said at 1:10 PM on August 31st, 2011:

    Personally, I can live with the occasional 8-12 yrd draw vs. the occasional 30+ yrd touchdown pass. I think it’s unrealistic to expect to be strong everywhere. This isn’t Madden football, these are actual people we’re talking about here. Salary Cap has to be managed. Risks have to be taken.

    Is Matthew’s a risk? Yep. Juan Castillo seems to think he is a risk worth taking.

    If Chaney can shut down opposing TEs, and if Fokou can be solid covering the RBs then our LBers are already doing more than last year…

    Wide 9 defense is pretty much boom or bust vs. the run.

    I like our odds, with a solid (potentially great D-line), elite CBs, solid safetys, and a ? at LB.

  12. 12 Stan said at 1:13 PM on August 31st, 2011:

    The LB core doesn’t suck they are just unknown. Fokou is playing a new position. Chaney has only started 3 games as a rookie at MIKE and is now playing SAM.

    I won’t criticize them without seeing them play first, but I wont get excited about them or defend them either. I’ve been burned too many times before by thinking that guys like Gaither, Dhani, Jordan, McCoy, and Gocong would develop into good LBs.

    I just wished we would have kept Bradley. The guy played well in 08′, missed 09′, and looked solid in 10′ despite coming off knee injury.

  13. 13 izzylangfan said at 1:15 PM on August 31st, 2011:

    If the Eagles linebackers are so weak what are the odds that we find someone on the waiver wire after final cuts? Do you have any names?

    How do you see the odds of the linebacker corps to be really good after 5 games? After all Chaney is showing signs, Fokou has shown them in the past and Mathews is too new to know?

  14. 14 TSA said at 1:21 PM on August 31st, 2011:

    So Keith Rivers doesn’t start in Cincy anymore? Anyway we could give Marv Lewis promises of a quality control position after he gets fired in return for Rivers?

  15. 15 GermanEagle said at 1:34 PM on August 31st, 2011:


    I can see where you’re coming from with regards to carrying ‘almost always’ 6 LBs.

    However this year seems to be different: barring any future trade of a CB our nickel D(NA) will be on the field for more than 60% of the snaps. Paired with the fact that we might only have 2 quality LBs on the current roster I can easily see the Eagles going against the traditional keeping of 6 LBs.

    In fact I hope we will keep at least 10 d linemen and 10 defensive backs for the sake of going light at LB!

  16. 16 Stan said at 1:44 PM on August 31st, 2011:

    According to the depth chart on the Bengal’s website, Rivers is listed as the 4th string WILL.
    Then I did some digging and found out that Rivers had a major wrist injury and went through surgery. He’s on the PUP list.

  17. 17 Tommy Lawlor said at 2:09 PM on August 31st, 2011:

    @ GermanEagle…

    Normal projection is 24 on offense, 26 on defense, and a P/PK/LS.

    The D breakdown is:

    10 DL
    6 LB
    10 DB

    You adjust that according to your specific personnel that year.

    Why more on D than O? Because you play everyone on defense. That side is rotational. On offense you stick with starters and then mix in some role players.

  18. 18 Tommy Lawlor said at 2:12 PM on August 31st, 2011:

    @ izzy…

    I want to see our LBs play. I didn’t understand Chaney at SAM initially, but last week’s game sold me on that idea. I’ve been getting used to Matthews at MLB for a while.

    Fokou is the one guy I’m not sure about. Is he enough of a playmaker? Obviously I like his toughness and physicality. Moise is a bulldog between the tackles.

    I’d love to sign a veteran MLB to backup up Matthews and give us more stability. Akeem Jordan is okay, but I’d prefer to upgrade.

  19. 19 americanfoot said at 2:20 PM on August 31st, 2011:

    Every time I read about Moise Fokou I think about Dwight Schrute’s cousin Mose.

    I think one of the main reasons you keep 6 LB is because of special teams, assuming all 6 dress on game day. If the 6th LB won’t be in the games regularly, then I guess going thin at that position may be a risk worth taking.

  20. 20 Steve D. said at 2:24 PM on August 31st, 2011:

    @Kevin, re: “When you see that list, how can LB not be a 1st day priority in the 2012 NFL Draft?”

    When you look at the list above, it does not seem like there is a great correlation between good linebackers and good teams. Out of the five teams Tommy said were worst (and he would know better than me), philly, NO, NYG, and Indy are all perrenial playoff contenders. Maybe, the front office is right to devalue linebackers in the 4-3?

    That being said, it would be sweet to get a first round stud (that pans out) at a linebacker position.

  21. 21 J.O said at 2:26 PM on August 31st, 2011:

    I want to see Clayton and Rolle on S/T….those two will outrun the ball!!

  22. 22 Austinfan said at 3:01 PM on August 31st, 2011:

    A better question is what 4-3 teams have LBs that are clearly superior? Our LBs are more “unknowns” than anything else, five athletic but inexperienced LBs.


    St Louis looks impressive until you realize the OLBs are big physical but slow, which would have been great a decade ago but if you can’t hold fast RBs at TEs, well, a group that’s vulnerable in the passing game on 1st down.

    Same with Oakland, who have two 3-4 OLB types with a traditional 4-3 MLB, could be great group, could be a disaster.

    Tenn has two discards in Rudd (dumped by TB) and Witherspoon and a question in Ayers.

    And so on, sometimes you’re better off with young athletic LBs than veterans who are a step slow or who have coverage deficiencies. And it often depends on your scheme.

  23. 23 Tommy Lawlor said at 3:11 PM on August 31st, 2011:

    To build on what A-fan said, our guys are young and run well, but also have good instincts. This isn’t just speed. We’ve got guys that were star LBs in college. They aren’t converted from S or DE. They aren’t just athletes.

    I really do want to see what the guys can do. And don’t judge them on Game 1. Let’s see how they look after a month on the field. You have to give young players some time to get going.

  24. 24 DanJ said at 3:17 PM on August 31st, 2011:

    If we only keep 5 LBs who is the extra player? The 6th WR/RS?

    Are there enough good ST players to not require a 6th LB?

    Off topic – 3 mates and me are making a trip to Philli and will be over there for the Cards game. What’s the best way to get hold of tickets?

  25. 25 Noah said at 3:17 PM on August 31st, 2011:

    @Steve D.

    Next year’s draft class is potentially – supposing all the names come out after their junior seasons – packed with LB talent. These are just some of my notes on guys that I love or see going very high.

    Luke Kuechly (6’3″, 235) ILB for Boston College
    – great instincts, beautiful form tackler, wraps up, plays with solid awarness of his body in space, gets of blocks fairly well – good hand/arm extension and seperation, keeps his face clean and shoulders square, but does avoid OLinemen if he can. Nice cover guy, not a super athlete, but a good one

    Vontaze Burfict (6’4″, 250) MLB from Arizona State
    -essence of Ray Lewis. Viciously competitive, hot-head. There are some human beings that lose control of themselves, and he is constantly on the edge of doing so. (I could see him murdering someone – ala Ray-Ray). But daaaaammmnnn can he play ball. Destroys blockers. Ruthless pursuit to the ball. Blitzes well, has great speed for such a big kid.
    The fear is that he’s a dirty player and will injure himself because of the passion he plays with. The upside is tremendous.

    Manti Te’o (6’2″, 240) ILB for Notre Dame
    – just an old-fashioned LB. Solid athleticism, makes plays on the ball. Plays in a 3-4, so has experience getting off blocks. Tackles well. No spectacular talents, just all around good player.

    Lavonte David (6’1″, 225) WILL for Nebraska
    -He is a man with his pants on fire. A small guy, no doubt, but he plays big. Flys around the field and can blitz well. Not unlike Ernie Sims in that sense. But the comparison stops there. He has very refined LB instincts and is excellent in diagnosing plays. Love him love him love him. Plays hard, covers well, probably going to run a very nice 40.

    Zach Brown (6’2″, 230) WILL for UNC
    -Freak athlete. Ran a reported 4.3 in highschool. Played DE and was transitioned to LB. Plays like a freak athlete, doesn’t play like a refined linebacker. I don’t love him, but I can see some team cancelling their blue-pill perscription after watching his highlights. Uses elite speed and quickness to catch up to players after he makes bad decisions. Reads the QBs eyes pretty well and will get some picks, but he isn’t very good at diagnosing the play in front of or behind him. Smells like an Al Davis pick.

    Tank Carder (6’2, 240) – ILB/SLB, TCU
    Travis Lewis (6’2, 235) – WLB, Oklahoma
    James-Michael Johnson (6’2, 240) – ILB/WLB, Nevada
    Dont’a Hightower (6’4″, 255) – 3-4 ILB/SLB, Alabama
    Nigel Bradham (6’3″, 245) – SLB, Florida State
    Sean Spence (6’0″, 230) – WLB, Miami

  26. 26 Steve D. said at 4:03 PM on August 31st, 2011:


    Great info. I don’t know anything about college players. Burfict sounds intriguing. Do you have any information on what his dinner conversations growing up were like? (From what I understand of scouting, this is very important.)

  27. 27 Toby said at 4:14 PM on August 31st, 2011:

    Linebacker is a position where I’ve never understood their moves, especially recently.

    I thought Gocong was a solid starter. He wasn’t popular with the fans, and he wasn’t a star, but he was pretty good.

    I thought we gave up too fast on Witherspoon and Spikes. Spikes may not have been enough of a playmaker, but he was consistent and disciplined. Witherspoon wasn’t consistent enough, but could make plays. Both of them were given one year and then we cut ties.

    In general, I think the eagles have given up too fast on a number of players over the last five years. I know I’m in the minority on this issue, but I actually think the old way (developing our own players with minimal FA moves) was better.

  28. 28 Tommy Lawlor said at 5:01 PM on August 31st, 2011:

    @ Toby…

    We did give up on Spikes too soon.

    Initially I thought that of Witherspoon as well, but after the move I went back and re-read my game notes. Suddenly I understood their thinking. He seemed like a better player than he actually was. Plus, he cost $5M.

  29. 29 Tommy Lawlor said at 5:02 PM on August 31st, 2011:

    RE: college LBs

    I am posting notes more regularly at ScoutsNotebook now. Just wrote about Vontaze Burfict today.

  30. 30 James said at 6:41 PM on August 31st, 2011:


    I’d like your thoughts on Kentucky LB Danny Trevathan. He seems like a perfect fit for the new scheme. 6’1″, 232. He is extremely fast and productive in a tough SEC conference (Led SEC in tackles)

  31. 31 Toby said at 7:02 PM on August 31st, 2011:

    @ Tommy

    I suspect that it comes down to cost. They’d like a good, continuous linebacking corps, but they aren’t going to pay for one. Perhaps they’d pay for just the right stud (like all the stars aligning kind of opportunity) but they won’t pay well just to have a good starter and continuity.

    It just seems like a position where they don’t mind having a rotating door. I thought maybe they changed their outlook when we started drafting more linebackers, but then they moved on from them so quickly.

  32. 32 Cliff said at 7:12 PM on August 31st, 2011:

    Hate to be “that guy,” but this is driving me nuts… it’s “corps” not “core.”



  33. 33 kyle said at 8:31 PM on August 31st, 2011:

    lol ^^

  34. 34 Midnight Greenville said at 8:48 PM on August 31st, 2011:

    I’m trying to look at the LB situation (and the whole team, for that matter) a little differently. Rather than ranking them against the league, I am trying to compare them to our LB’s last year. From that perspective, I don’t really think they’re worse. I think they’re probably going to be better when it’s all said and done. Likewise, I think our O-line will be better than last year’s. No question our DB’s are better. I expect our D-line to be better. I think our receivers are slightly better. I expect our QB to be just as good. If I’m right, then we have taken a team that was arguably one of the top 2 or 3 in the conference last year (certainly played the eventually champs the closest in the playoffs), and improved them in several areas. Yes, we have holes, but really all the teams do. GB had lots of holes last year but pulled it together at the right time. NO was far from a perfect team the year before, but was dominant most of the year and played good enough in the playoffs to win it all. I’m not saying we’re the best. I’m not saying we’re a dream team. But, we had a very good team last year, we filled many of our important holes, and I don’t think any of our liabilities are all that bad. We just need a few breaks to go our way and we should be very much in the mix all the way through the year.

  35. 35 ATG said at 10:11 PM on August 31st, 2011:

    Thoughts above rang true with me. First, that this is not Madden. How good do our LBs need to be relative to the opponents when you consider who is in front of and behind each group. How about when you add in the offenses each will be facing?

    Second, the issue is not that our guys aren’t good. That issue would have been valid if we were still hoping a shark could learn to swim on grass. Our issue is that we don’t yet know. It is doubtful they will be the strength of the team in November, but that brings us back to the first point.

    Third, we didn’t lose because of the LBs last year, and this year I believe they will be better. I don ‘t think teams can beat us by attacking our LBs alone. Again, we are back to the first point.

    Finally, we need to draft that LB from Notre Dame, regardless of how this year turns out. Two Te’os on one team? Unprecidented!

  36. 36 theguyotc said at 11:28 PM on August 31st, 2011:


    Not just two guys named Te’o, but two guys who the following applied to coming into the NFL: “No spectacular talents, just all around good player.”

  37. 37 Austinfan said at 12:09 AM on September 1st, 2011:

    Actually, Tommy, Spikes is a great example of “fit”, he was too slow for WLB when we got him, and we had Bradley at MLB, and Spikes was already slowing for that spot, SF put him next to Willis, the tough sure tackling vet against the athletic freak, perfect combination.

    Dhani Jones was put at SLB, really not a good fit, he did a decent job, 7 stuffs two years in a row, before he fell off, then went to Cincy and was a better MLB for a couple years than almost anyone we’ve had the past decade.

    System matter, Trotter was a monster playing MLB like a NG on a five man line, when Washington asked him to play off the LOS and read and react, he was exposed as a mediocre athlete in space with average instincts, came back to JJ and his old role and shined until his knee gave out. Bradley took on the Trotter role in 2008 and looked like a comer, played read and react in Sean’s defense in 2010 and looked lost, the contract with Chaney, for all his lack of experience, was glaring, Chaney saw running plays develop and attacked like a rabid dog.

    So before you go gaga over a LB on another team, ask what’s his role, run free behind two big two gap DTs? Have a ILB clean out the trash for him? Have plays funneled to him (Brooks on TB)?

    Matthews and Rolle to me could be a great combination, most two down MLBs can’t cover at all, Matthews is a great cover LB in a short area, on run downs with only two WRs and maybe one TE who can catch he can focus on the run and a shallow zone near the LOS. Matthew’s problem in coverage isn’t skill but speed, as the field opens up on passing downs with spread formations, his lack of speed is exposed, that’s when replacing him with Rolle plays dividends because Rolle has safety speed with MLB tackling skills. Rolle’s problem is he gets lost in the trash on run downs because of his size, but in nickel situations he has more room to run and his size limitations don’t matter as much.

  38. 38 theguyotc said at 3:06 AM on September 1st, 2011:

    Look out in week 1 Mike Vick, the Rams signed my Favorite player.

  39. 39 cvd said at 8:21 AM on September 1st, 2011:

    I think the eagles like having lbs on their rookie contract so they have $ to spend elswhere. If they cone accros and absolute stud they would sign him longterm but other than that I think they feel a young guy on his rook cont can b good enough.

  40. 40 Eric said at 9:02 AM on September 1st, 2011:

    Welcome, September! Quintin Mikell is the featured player on my Eagles calendar.

  41. 41 Kevin (RC) said at 9:21 AM on September 1st, 2011:

    AF, Spikes would be perfect for us at WLB in our new 4-3 scheme. He wouldn’t have to run sideline to sideline. He’d just be asked to eat up blocks and take on Guards/FBs, which he excels at.

  42. 42 Austinfan said at 10:05 AM on September 1st, 2011:

    Maybe the Spikes of 3 years ago, but even then, would you want to see him matched up on Steven Jackson on a dump pass? Much less Felix Jones or Ahmad Bradshaw? Top RBs might rush 200 times, but many catch 50-60 passes, mostly outside the OTs, so speed to the sideline is key to containing those plays.

    Fokou is pretty physical, he does a good job of using his long arms to fend off blockers, but has 4.65-4.70 speed as well, the question is does he have the instincts and the explosive first step to make big plays or is he just a guy who’ll take out the trash.

  43. 43 Kevin (RC) said at 10:34 AM on September 1st, 2011:

    With the wide 9, it’s really tough for RBs to run off-tackle. The space is between the OT and the OG. That means the LBs have to read the hole and hit it. There’s no sideline to sideline chasing because the front 4 is holding the POA.
    As for swing passes, again, timing gets disrupted outwide. What RBs should be able to do in the passing game is screen, screen, screen.

    We need big, strong LBs to play with this system. Or, at the very least, strong enough LBs with good instincts.

  44. 44 Mark said at 11:21 AM on September 1st, 2011:

    Agree that the LBs are pretty weak. I wish the team would be more creative and get out of the 4-3 more often to compensate. Specifically, they could put another DT over center instead of a MLB. That would be a 5-2 or a 3-4, treating the DEs as OLBs.

    Or, they could put Clayton or Rolle at WILL, move Fokou and Matthews as ILBs and keep Chaney as SAM and drop one of the safeties.

    I fear teams are going to run the ball down the D’s throat otherwise.

  45. 45 GB said at 11:38 AM on September 1st, 2011:

    I’ve always believed the Eagles were poised to grab Chad Greenway as a FA for the SAM position and would have likely kept Chaney at MIKE and then flipped Fokou over to WIL.

    MN tagged Greenway and my dream died on the vine…so the Eagles had to go to Plan B and since the draft came before FA this year due to the lockout, I believe they loaded up on LB to make sure they had talent there they could develop, but also because they knew they planned to be aggressive in FA on the DL and CB positions and might not have enough coin to drop on LB.

    The other reality that few seem to acknowledge is the rarity of stud SAM 4-3 LB today….other than Greenway, maybe Briggs and Cushing are the other standouts, but it is very hard to find a good SAM today and so teams like the Eagles feel the best approach is to develop one…

    WIL LB is the position I question the Eagles on…we’ve had like 13 WIL LB in 12 years or something similarly insane and we’ve never been able to develop one that could stick…hopefully Fokou does.

  46. 46 McG said at 11:38 AM on September 1st, 2011:

    @ Mark… if you look at the Titans run defense last year, you will get a good idea of how it will be for us this year. Some games we will be very disruptive and shut it down, other games it may be bad.

  47. 47 Morton said at 2:35 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.

    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.