I'm finally starting to get back into the thick of things now after I just had a brand new baby boy. His name is Caylim Jarrell Echols. Remember that name because in 21 years he's gonna be a 1st round draft pick for Philadelphia Eagles to man the MLB spot. (I kid....but I digress).
I'm kind of here to pretty much preach my thoughts on the LBs since everyone knows that's one of my prime best positions and my favorite at that. Also, I promised wild_eagle I would give him my thoughts on the LBs for this year so here we go after the jump.As of right now, it appears that our starting LB group is going to consist of Moise Fokou at WILL, Jamar Chaney at SAM, and Casey Matthews at MIKE. Its been pretty vivid over the last few years that the Eagles don't put much stock into the LB position. I think they consider the NFL a passing league and if you can create pressure with the front four and cover space with the CBs and safeties, then who mans the middle doesn't matter. I don't mind the group we have starting now since we have Washburn and a number of players up front who's specialties are creating pressure and an All-Madden secondary so its not like they have to do anything major, just don't screw up. However, I do have my reserves about the position in particular the MIKE spot (no diss to Casey). So let me hop right into the LBs one-by-one.
Moise Fokou-WILL LB (starter)
The one stable part of our LB group last year. I mentioned in years past that I think Fokou was going to be at least solid, I just think he needed time on the bench (mainly because Maryland was becoming quite the LB U). Last year, Fokou had a decent, but could be improved year. Just like Chaney, he played very well in the final Giants game and that was the player that I thought he could be. The tough part for him is he is making a switch other side. While it may not sound like much of a turn, it could be since he was learning the SLB spot in previous years and now he is switching to WILL and has only few months to learn it. I don't know how long he has known that he was going to be WILL, but if just figured out as we did, then it could be tough for him to make the adjustment with only so much time before the NFL season. I think he can do it, but believe it or not, these preseason games may be just as important to him as they are to UDFA since he has so little time on his hands
Impression: I think Fokou will struggle slightly this year and then become to come into his own as a decent starter to maybe quality starter for the Eagles. Nothing sticks out about him. He'll probably never be much more than a fringe starter, but as long as he is somewhat productive this year, then the no problems exist.
Casey Matthews-MIKE LB (starter)
(Let me start off by saying, what I'm about to say has nothing to with his brother Clay or his bloodline. I'm impartial when it comes to that. I'm grading Casey against Casey. From what I saw at Oregon.)
One of the newbies to the Philadelphia Eagles, Casey Matthews, was drafted in the 4th round of this years draft. I watched quite a few Oregon games this year and while I can say Matthews was good, not really great. He is was a great leader and could make impact players, but was very inconsistent. He has great instincts for a LB, but doesn't really stand out in any particular category (wasn't really big, strong, or fast). I figured one day he may be a starter depending on how things work. However, I have my reservations about him being the starting MLB from day one just based on having an that "It."
Impression: Its too early to pass judgement right now because he has yet to really play an NFL snap. The Eagles fan in me hopes nothing, but the best, but their is still that little bit of pessimism in me that thinks its a long shot. The Eagles may think though that with an All-World front four and an All-Universe secondary behind him that their is no way he could screw up. However, if he manages to, look for them to slide Chaney back over.
Jamar Chaney--SAM LB (starter)
The LB on the team I most have faith in as of right now. Its not that I'm a Jamar Chaney homer or anything, but when you have a team that cycles LBs, you have to find one that you trust the most. Last year he played sparingly till Stewart Bradley (now with the Cards) was injured in the late second quarter against the Cowboys, Chaney entered in his place, then burst onto the scene with a 16 tackle performance against the Giants. Unfortunately, he did still show his flaws in being a rookie and was exposed in coverage. But no one really could have expected such a well put together set of games for a 7th round draft pick. Based off his twitter feeds it seems like he has been doing all he could to make himself better during the lockout and came back ready to play. From what I saw last year in him, I would have to say sky is the limit for Chaney because his speed is one of his biggest assets and he will continue to get bigger and stronger as years go by.
Impression: After how he played at the end of last year, there was no way the Eagles could keep him off the field for this year. He has played all 3 LB spots in college, but may find it a little more difficult in the NFL as he quoted in college that he preferred to play MLB. However, he has the tools to play the SAM spot and I think will emerge as our best LB if he is not already. If Casey were to struggle look for him to possibly slide back over to the MIKE spot.
Keenan Clayton--Reserve WILL LB
If you were to ask me before this season, I would have said the Clayton had a chance to make a push for a starting spot. I really didn't think much of him coming out of college since I was so focused on Travis Lewis. But, Clayton showed last preseason that he had a knack for play-making. Into the season, he found his spot on the Eagles special teams and made his contributions. From the looks of it, the Eagles don't see him as a starter, but that doesn't mean he can't make an impact off the bench. He has speed working for him and could find himself into steady rotation based on how he shows up during this camp. No matter what, he will find himself on the special teams trying to make plays and should earn some kudos from the Fat Man.
Impression: A steady contributor. A long shot to be a starter unless he suddenly turns on a switch and Moise starts to stink it up (Gocong). He will find himself in packages and in sub situations, likely, because of his athletic ability. Steady special teams contributions is where he'll make his biggest impact most likely.
Rashad Jeanty-Reserve SAM LB
Hands down the most experience LB on the roster. Formerly a Cincinnati Bengal, Jeanty had a steady career there primarily making contributions on special teams until the 2008 season where he became a starter and went on to come up just short of the century mark in tackles. However, in the early January 2010 season he fractured his left fibula and was forced to miss the 2010 NFL season after not clearing physicals. I don't know how far he has come back from his injury, but I only hope for the best for him. The only way I can see him becoming a starter is if Matthews starters to struggle and they move Chaney to MLB and maybe line him up as the SLB or if Chaney struggles altogether and they replace him. Still though, he needs to be the veteran voice for a young LB crew where he is the 'old guy' for them to go to. As mentioned, he made his impact mostly on the special teams as a Bengal so I expect that trend to continue. So April, this guy is for you. Since he does have starting experience, their is little doubt in my mind that he will find sometime with the defense on the field.
Impression: Fringe starter and heavy contributor because of his starting experience and being the most battle tested of our LBs. Probably won't start, but look for him to make a Colt Anderson like impact on our special teams maybe sooner than later (hopefully soon). He's only on a 1 year guaranteed contract though, so its no given that he makes it through camp unless he does these things for the team.
Akeem Jordan--Reserve Multiple Position LB (Primarily WILL)
Raise your hand if you were surprised to see Akeem be the one LB resigned by the Eagles.....
I'll be honest, I thought if any of our LBs would have been resigned it would have been Bradley. But apparently Akeem did enough for the Eagles to find him as a need be to bring back. I'm guessing for special teams mainly. Someone check me if I'm wrong...but I think in the last decade, Akeem is the only Philadelphia Eagles LB who was resigned other than Jeremiah Trotter (not including the one year tenders and price tags that they put on other players). If Akeem can ever get back to the form he was at prior to his injury in 2009 against the Cowboys, then I don't mind him back. He's going to have to go back to being a special teams ace to maybe work his way back up the Eagles LB food chain. Hopefully he can turn into a second Tracy White and make a major impact on special teams.
Impression: Special Teams contributor overall. If he makes it through camp could take some snaps away from Moise since he was a WILL LB before him. But the chances he wins the starting spot are nil because it was Moise who unseated him at SAM 4 games into last season.
Greg Lloyd--Reserve LB
Honestly, I can't say I know much about Greg other than a little about his father. His father was a stud during time being named All-Pro 3 times and picked for the Pro Bowl 5 times and earning UPI AFC Defensive Player of the Year in '94. However, I never use bloodlines to gauge players. I just judge the players.
I'm a WVU fan, so when I watched UConn games I can honestly say, Greg Lloyd never really made a jump out of the games I never saw him play (that's not biased talking because I was a Lawrence Wilson fan). He did, however, earn Second Team All-Big East honors in 2009 when he had a stellar year with 91 tackles, 3 TFL, and a sack. He went quiet last year when they moved him to DE. Not being a pessimist, but anything he amasses is going to be a surprise as of right now because there really isn't too much to the guy. As an Eagles fan, I will root for him, but realistically, I don't expect the slightest from him expect from on ST. Then again, you never know.....
Impression: Because he was drafted him may find himself onto the roster. If so, his only impact will be on special teams. If he can't make it that far, look for him to end up on the practice squad or "IR". Good luck Lloyd.
Brian Rolle--Reserve LB
"because put on Von Miller (the draft's top-rated linebacker, from Texas A&M) and put me on film, and everything he does, I can do just as well."
Pretty strong words there my friend. I'll be honest. I hate Ohio State with a passion. They're on my s**t list along with USC and Notre Dame. But I won't put any of that onto the Rolle because he's an Eagle and that means I like him now.
To be quite frank, I didn't notice till I watched the draft this year that Rolle was a LB. Whenever I saw him play at Ohio State (always hoping to see them lose), he was so quick that I thought he was a safety. The play that sticks out the most to me is when he intercepted Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs on a 2pt conversion attempt and took it 100 yards the other direction. So if I had to make my guess, I think by this time next year, he will have dropped a few pounds and will be converted to safety. But as of right now he's a LB. I see him being a big time special teams contributor. I don't see any playing time for him mainly because of his short stature (5-9). But I'm keeping him on record for next year.
Impression: I think he becomes a special teams stud and will eventually be converted to safety in the next couple years. Too short for LB, but just barely quick enough to be a safety maybe if kept around long enough. But I look for him to make a big impact on special teams this year and into the future.
Brandon Peguese--Camp LB
Not really much to say here. Barring something amazing, look like a camp body at the most and a roster spot soon to be open.
Impresion: None. He'll be bagging groceries very likely in a month
Terence Thomas--Camp LB
See Brandon Peguese
Impression: Brandon Peguese
Overall Impression: I save grades for after the season because I think its premature to grade players before we've even really made contact. However, I will say this....this group leaves a lot to be desired in my eyes. Nothing really special sticks out about the group....but what else is knew? Our new NFC East blogger for ESPN, Dan Graziano, isn't fully convinced that the Eagles will go with the group we have at LB currently...
Stranger things have happened, I'm sure, but I can't say with any confidence that I believe the Eagles are sticking with what they have at that position.
As an all time Eagle fan Graz, let me tell you don't be surprised if/when it happens. The Eagles view the LB spot as a replaceable commodity because they see the NFL as a passing leave and I believe their theory is "if you can create pressure with the front 4 and cover with the secondary then it doesn't matter who you put at the LB spot." Not going to say I agree with that theory, but I can see how they want to do things. On the offset chance that they were to ever consider bringing in a LB, I would look for it to be a either a guy like Kirk Morrison or Lofa Tatupu. Yes, neither of them are really at the top of the barrel right now in picks among top LBs. But both would come at a very reasonable price and both are better than anything we have right now. Kirk has started 95 games out of 96 he's started. He would be my pick if I were to bring in someone since he is just dangling out there right now and would probably (like Nnamdi) look to a team where he could compete. Plus, he is head and shoulder better than any of our LBs and can play all 3 spots according the Raiders faithful.
Lofa would, of course, be the second option. Bad knees or not, I still would take him. He is more experienced and better than our current group. I of course would not over pay for him because of the knee surgeries and the torn pectoral muscle that we still don't know if is fully recovered. But, if he were willing to sign a 1 or 2 year deal at a good price (such as $2-3 million), I would at least look into it because he is still a great player and a great leader as well and add in the fact that he has deep playoff experience and you can see why he should at least get a look. However, I don't expect that to happen.
Well that's my take on the LBs. I guess we'll see what we got when we get to preseason and see them go live. Thoughts, comments, concerns welcomed......