The Forgotten Man: Eagles Linebacker Akeem Jordan

This is the latest in a series we've be doing here on BGN written by John Breitenbach (@PFF_John), who is a big Eagles fan and best known for his work on Pro Football Focus. Check out the rest of the series here.

The Eagles have been seeking improved linebacker play for years and most of the blame has gone on the front office. While they haven't necessarily been able to bring in stud players I actually think they've done a better job than many think. I think a bigger problem has been mismanagement by the coaching staff, especially under Sean McDermott. Akeem Jordan represents one of the best examples of this in my opinion. It was shocking that someone thought the terrible Ernie Sims represented an improvement. What is perhaps even worse is that Sims went on to start every game in 2010, while Jordan rode the bench. Moise Fokou replaced Jordan on the strongside after just four games, despite decent play from the former UDFA. Time to take a closer look:

Good in coverage

All statistics courtesy of PFF

Targets

Receptions

Catch %

Yards

Yards/target

TDs

INTs

PDs

Jordan (09-11 combined)

56

39

69.6

281

5.0

1

2

2

NFL average * (2011 season)

50.1

38.5

76.8

353

7.0

1.9

0.7

2.1

* The 26 4-3 OLBs who played at least 50% of their team's 2011 snaps (Von Miller, Kamerion Wimbley, Jarrett

Johnson and Rob Ninkovich were excluded because they're predominantly pass rushers)

Jordan's only started sparingly over the past three years so I combined his 2009, 2010 and 2011 stats to make up about a season's worth of play. As you can see, he's actually been significantly above average in almost every category. Jordan's been targeted slightly more but he's also allowed an impressive 69.6% catch rate and allowed just five yards per target. Perhaps most interestingly, despite not being thought of as a playmaker, Jordan's two picks actually makes him above average. It's surprising 4-3 OLBs average just 0.7 interceptions a season.

An enlightening comparison

Targets

Receptions

Catch %

Yards

Yards/target

TDs

INTs

PDs

Jordan (09-11 combined)

56

39

69.6

281

5.0

1

2

2

Lance Briggs (11)

75

62

82.7

421

5.6

4

1

2

I'm not trying to suggest Jordan is a better player than Briggs, he's not, but sometimes our perception of a player is better than the reality.

Breaking it down

Jordan_1_medium

MJD is going to release for a screen while Jordan, blitzing on the play, shows great instincts in recognising it

MJD sets up like he's going to block.

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Jordan reacts quickly and almost end up with an INT.

Here is Jordan's interception of Drew Brees from 2009

Jordan_3_medium

Brees runs a bootleg right and Jordan settles into zone coverage underneath.

Jordan_4_medium

With the flat covered, Brees looks to the intermediate route.

Jordan_5_medium

Jordan makes a great play batting the ball into the air.

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He then locates it and comes down with the INT.

Another 2009 play, this time vs Dallas

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Jordan is in zone coverage in the endzone.

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Jordan drives on the ball as Romo steps up.

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He gets a hand on it and it falls incomplete.

Reliable against the run

Tackles

Missed tackles

Tackle %

Jordan (09-11)

89

9

90.8

NFL average

66.8

9.0

88.1

Again, Jordan's reliability as a tackler is one of his greatest strengths. He stood out in contrast to most of the other Eagle defenders last year, purely on his ability to bring down ball carriers. It's not simple tackles either as Jordan has made his fair share of plays around the line of scrimmage.

Making plays

Here's a play from the Cowboys-Eagles matchup from week 15.

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The Cowboys try and run a play off RG.

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Jordan is faced with two lineman at the second level.

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He makes a great play getting off a Doug Free block and breaking into the backfield.

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Jordan finishes the play making the tackle.

2009 vs KC

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The Chiefs run a play directly at Jordan.

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He gets the unenviable task of taking on Brian Waters.

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After driving him into the backfield, Jordan gets off the block and makes the tackle.

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One of the most impressive things about Jordan is he so easily adjusted to the Wide 9. While Chaney and Fokou were good players in the previous system, they struggled in 2011 when forced to read and react unlike the Madison product.

Pass rushing

Quietly Jordan is also probably the Eagles' best blitzing LB. That may have changed with the arrival of Demeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks but his numbers are surprisingly impressive.

Rushes

Sacks

Hits

Pressures

Batted passes

Plays per pressure

111

1

2

10

3

8.5

Final thoughts

I'm not trying to make Jordan out to be some sort of superstar but it's a shame he receives such little respect from Eagle fans. He was undrafted (and went to a tiny school) but he's worked his way to become at the very least a serviceable NFL starter. At just 26, who's to say he won't get better? If you're looking for someone to challenge Kendricks for the strongside spot, pay less attention to Jamar Chaney, and more to #56.

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