My thoughts on our LB's next season.

I know this may be beating a dead horse to death here but I figured I'd share my thoughts. It was going to be a comment on another post however it was a long comment and I thought I could go into more detail in a fanpost.

So after the jump I'll start.

Strongside Line Backer (SAM for short):

Mychal Kendricks-

The Eagles drafted Kendricks and said almost immediately that he will play as a SAM LB for us, so it's safe to say that the Eagles see him as the SAM LB of the future for our team and he definitely has a shot to start day 1 for us at the position. The thing that I like about Kendricks is that he seems to have a knack for coverage, judging from what he did in college if he can translate that ability into the NFL then we are in great shape. The thing that makes him the ideal SAM for me is that we need our SAM to cover and set the edge, which is where his experience at MIKE his senior year comes into play, he has to be strong at the point of attack. When playing the run we essentially need him to do two things, at best we need him to make the tackle (which is pretty obvious) however if he cannot we need him to essentially take the role of a fullback and eat up a blocker or two in order to allow the MIKE to make the play. His job is rather simple, don't allow any catches on him and funnel what tackles he cannot make to the MIKE LB. I also like Kendrick's blitzing ability, I think it's very underrated and this may be what earns him the job at SAM LB early on.

Jamar Chaney-

Chaney has been a quality player for us, I know I'm down on him at times but he definitely has displayed the ability to be a good starter for us. I think he'll compete with Kendricks at SAM LB and while he may not win the spot he'll provide great depth if needed. Chaney displays the abilities I talked about above but he's not quite as talented at Kendricks. He has shown me that he has adequate cover skills to make an impact and he has the ability to set the edge and either make the tackle or give our MIKE a chance to make the play. As far as I'm concerned Chaney is a solid starter and a great backup at SAM.

Best Case Scenario: My honest opinion here would be that Kendricks starts day 1 with Chaney being his primary backup. We're not in bad shape at SAM if either starts the full year (assuming Kendricks plays at a solid level).

Worst Case Scenario: Chaney starts early on in the year then is eventually replaced once Kendricks is ready to step in, kind of like what the Eagles did with Watkins and DeVan last season at RG.

Middle Linebacker (MIKE for short):

DeMeco Ryans-

Ryans was a stud as a MIKE in the 4-3 for years, however he doesn't come without his tidbit of uncertainty going into the 2012 season. Ryans tore his Achilles in 2010 and went into 2011 having to work his way past the post-injury effects and play in a 3-4, and it's safe to say that early on he struggled, however late in the season he rounded back into form and produced and it looks like he's made it past that injury and is ready to play at a high level again for years to come. The next issue would be that he's never played in the Wide-9, the problems that arise is that it's not like the 2 gap he played behind, he has more responsibility on his shoulders this season than he has ever had and he will have to shed blocks and stop the run, which is something he seems to be good at in small doses but has he done it every single play of every single game before?

The questions asked above do have answers but they're not ones that can be answered until the season start, but that being said it's clear that Ryans has the ability to produce for us at MIKE whether we're running the Wide-9 or not. Ryans is a strong and sure tackler which is a need for us and he's a leader, the 2011 Eagles severely lacked leadership especially at Linebacker. The next thing is that Ryans is adequate in coverage however I don't think we'll be relying on him to much in that department, I have full faith that when he's called upon to cover a RB he can and will do so well enough to not be considered a weakness.

Jamar Chaney-

Yes I think that Chaney will be the primary backup at both SAM and MIKE, I do think that there can be a case made for Kendricks but I'd rather the rookie focus on one spot then as he gets that down eventually get some more responsibilities placed on him. As of right now the only viable option to backup up Ryans would be Chaney simply because he was the only one who was slightly effective at MIKE for us last season and he brings some experience in the Wide-9 even though the Eagles protected him a bit last season when there were struggles. I don't think I need to go to far in depth about what Chaney brings to the table at MIKE because we saw it last season.

Best Case Scenario: Ryans returns to pre-injury and pre-3-4 form and becomes the MIKE LB we've been waiting so long for.

Worst Case Scenario: Ryans becomes simply "adequate" for us in the MIKE position and is neither a weak spot or strong spot for us.

Weakside Linebacker (WILL for short):

Let me start here by saying that this position seems to be way up in the air, there will be a competition to see who starts and that's likely the only thing that I can guarantee here. I think Matthews, Rolle and Chaney will be the 3 guys competing for the spot and guys like Jordan and Fokou will have their opportunity to wow the coaches and take it.

Casey Matthews-

Matthews is likely the key to our entire LB core, his mistakes were well documented last season however I attribute his struggles to the coaches putting him in an impossible situation to succeed early on and his major mistakes were mental not physical. Casey is the prototypical WILL LB in my eyes, his strong suit is coverage which is what we need since we got murdered by TE's last season and I do think that we will ask our WILL to blitz more this season when they're not stuck in coverage, which is something that Casey was actually very good at in College (remember he forced a Cam Newton fumble in the National Championship game his senior year on a blitz). At 6'1 and 232lbs he has the size to be a good WILL LB for us he just needs to get stronger and make smarter decisions. As far as all the guys competing for WILL I do think that Casey is the most talented of the bunch and the best compliment to both Kendricks (SAM) and Ryans (MIKE) at Linebacker. Playing next to Ryans should take a ton of pressure off of him and allow him to play in space where he's most effective.

Brian Rolle-

I know people here love Rolle, I like the kid however I just see him as a quality backup. Rolle played well last season and everybody can point to whichever play they want but what really stuck out to me is that he lead the team in missed tackles. That being said the kid is physical, very physical and given his size I like that, I just wish he was a little bit bigger and stronger because he'd be the ideal WILL LB then. I don't think I have to go to far in depth about Rolle since we did get a very large dose of him at WILL LB last season.

Jamar Chaney-

I think he'll be in the thick of things at WILL LB, he was probably our best LB last season and I think the coaches will give him every opportunity to earn as starting job in Training Camp. Jamar's a well rounded LB and could likely provide us with a solid option for at WILL.

Best Case Scenario: Matthews comes back much stronger than he was last season and improves after having an entire offseason. If this happens he'll solidify our LB core with 3 young starters who can then grow together and turn a weakness into a strength.

Worst Case Scenario: Matthews flops and we have to continue on with Rolle or Chaney. Neither is a bad option.

Final Thoughts:

If we can have Kendricks, Ryans and Matthews start all 16 games together that would be great, we'd have an extremely well rounded and talented LB core which can then grow together and make our front 7 nasty as hell. I think we're in good shape at LB if either Rolle or Matthews takes the next step and Kendricks and solidify himself at SAM quickly.

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