The Eagles announced today that Akeem Jordan has taken over the starting job at weakside LB. The next article in our series from John Breitenbach was scheduled for Monday and happened to be about the WILL position. But with this news, it seems like now is the time run with John's article. As you'll see here, it's pretty clear why the Eagles made the move. Check out his previous piece on why Akeem Jordan may very well be a strong choice here.
After being such a problem early last year, Brian Rolle looked to have seized control of the weakside linebacker spot by year's end. He wasn't a world beater by any means, but he was a solid and reliable player who made more positive plays than negative ones. The coaches wanted Jamar Chaney to compete with him this offseason but he missed the first pair of preseason games with an injury. Keenan Clayton meanwhile didn't stand out in either game. Let's take a look at how each fared against the Browns.
The main thing that will stick in everyone's mind is the 20 yard completion he gave up on 2-19. The Eagles' defensive backs all dropped deep, leaving the linebackers responsible underneath. Rolle didn't get wide enough on his drop as the Browns ran a natural pick, leaving the tightend wide open with room to pick up significant yards after the catch.
Here's another poor play for Rolle and one of the more concerning plays of the preseason:
He's initially in good position here:
With help to the inside, Rolle needs to force the runner back that way:
Instead Alex Mack keeps pushing him inside and eventually over. Notice the block is initiated at the 29 yard line:
It wasn't all bad for Rolle however as he did make a nice play against the run on this play:
He's able to scrape off the block of the interior lineman:
And go find the runner and make the tackle after a short gain:
Rolle was also called for two false start penalties, although only one was actually on him. He also saw time in the nickel where he gave up an eight yard completion on 1-20. Although he didn't bring the runner down cleanly, he did a decent job on a run early in the second quarter. He was able to get off the block of the lineman and contact the runner after a one yard gain but he was able to keep his feet to make it a six yard run.
Chaney played weakside linebacker in the base and middle linebacker in nickel with the 2s. He was also the only linebacker on the field in dime. While the individual Rolle play was troubling, Chaney failed to show he'd got any better at shedding blocks. Other plays not highlighted include an iso run where the fullback won his battle against him and a five yard completion from Weeden to his tightend.
Here's a redzone play the Browns ran right at him.
Joe Thomas gets him inside and that's it for Chaney:
Here's a delay run over left guard:
The OL gets to the second level:
Nice gain for the back:
Here's a stretch play late in the second quarter:
Once again Mack gets up to him and he's dead in the water:
Clayton played weakside linebacker with the 3s, as well as on short yardage plays with the 2s. He aggressively look on the FB in the hole on a 3-1 play but Marecic was able do enough to keep the hole open. Clayton later made a nice play against the run by his goaline, standing up an offensive lineman.
Clayton generally seemed a bit hesitant but when he trusted his eyes, he made plays:
He beats the OL with his quickness:
He gets into the backfield and makes the sure tackle:
Clayton's in his element in coverage, as this pair of plays shows:
He shows good discipline, staying with the receiver even as McCoy scrambles:
And then gets his hand on it and knocks it away:
And he created an interception by deflecting another pass:
Clayton's used to making plays on the ball:
But he made a lazy tackle attempt allowing a conversion on 3-12:
The Eagles should easily be able to prevent the first down with four guys converging:
Terrible tackle attempt by Clayton who fails to wrap:
None of the three weakside linebackers have distinguished themselves this offseason. Rolle was below average against Cleveland but then those who think he should be replaced by Chaney ignore his poor play also. Clayton played the best but then he was facing second and third stringers while the other two went up against starters. The most disappointing thing is Rolle doesn't look improved from 2011 when he played very well for a rookie. The Eagles need Ryans and Kendricks to produce because, at the moment, it doesn't look like they're going to get good weakside play.