Following last season's final cuts, the Eagles made a move to acquire linebacker Najee Goode. The West Virginia alum had played just three games with the Buccaneers, before being waived after his second preseason in Tampa Bay. However, the former Mountaineer soon proved that Tampa Bay's loss was Philadelphia's gain.
Despite not having an offseason to review the Eagles playbook, Goode became the third inside linebacker on the depth chart and was a standout on special teams (having an engineering degree and being a very smart guy always helps when it comes to the necessity for accelerated learning). He appeared in 14 games and made a start in place of Mychal Kendricks in Week 11. While his stats weren't eye-opening (21 tackles and a sack), the coaching staff showed a lot of confidence in Goode.
With a new season around the corner, Goode has had a year to absorb the playbook and get adjusted to living in Philadelphia. The son of former Eagles tight end John Goode, Najee has been able to acclimate himself to the city and the team. The anticipation is that Goode's role in the defense will only expand as he gets more comfortable, so he is remaining focused on his job and looking for an opportunity to make an impact.
BGN's Mike Kaye sat down with Goode prior to Thursday's preseason game against the Steelers. Goode discussed his offseason experience, his arrival in Philadelphia and his role this season.
Mike Kaye: What do you see your role being this season? Will it be similar to last season, or do you think the extra time in the defense will help you evolve a bit?
Najee Goode: I see my role as me stepping in and making more plays on defense. Eventually, my goal is to get in there and be a starter on our defense. This season, [I will have] the opportunity to make some more plays on the field on defense along with special teams, which I always continue to do. [I want to be] a bigger player on this team and a bigger leader in the near future.
MK: You had your first start last season and really impressed a lot of fans, media members and presumably coaches. Do you see yourself eventually taking over as a starter sooner rather than later?
NG: That's always [been] my vision. Just learning from guys like DeMeco [Ryans] and putting the confidence in my coaches that I can make the calls, and they give me the opportunity to do that. Even in the New England game, it's just something you've got to bounce back from, and we have to learn from our mistakes and keep on going. That's one thing I want to do. In the near future, yes, I do see myself being a starter.
MK: You are going through training camp and the preseason right now. This is your third NFL off-season. How did last year's experience with the Buccaneers and being part of final cuts help you prepare this year?
NG: It was huge. Some guys never have to feel that wrath of being released. Once I did, I was able to, thanks to my agents and the people around me, get the opportunity in Philly. I was able to keep working hard and show the coaches here that I can produce and play for them. Really, I've always been an underdog, going to a school like West Virginia. It was a good school and we put some pretty good players out there, but it always made me feel like an underdog and made me keep working.
Even when you're on top, you have to keep working. It puts an extra chip on my shoulder to do the things that I've got to do to play and once I do start to play, make bigger plays. [I want to] keep that same aggression out on the field.
MK: What was it like to be waived and then get picked up by the Eagles? Did your dad help prepare you for the fans and the city, having played in Philly himself for one season (1985)?
NG: That whole process was up-and-down. I thought I had a pretty good preseason when I was with the Bucs. I kind of went through some things, whether it be numbers, whether it be whatever the situation was. Once the situation came here, my dad, I think he's still smiling. It was a big thing for him to let me know that Philly is going to be a place that's exciting and you can feel the fans and the momentum in the city is like electricity. Once you get a certainty about it, it just gets you up and going.
I felt that [energy] last year, immediately as I got [to Philly], playing at Lincoln Financial Field. As a matter of fact, my first game [as an Eagle] was on Monday night [on the road] against the Redskins, [and] half of the fans were maroon and gold and the other half was all green and white. That was just a huge thing to see and once I got out there and made some plays, I got confidence and swagger behind my back, and it was easy to continue to [make plays]. Going into this season, it's even easier because I've been in the system longer and [have been] learning from coaches, learning from players and I want to continue to do that.
MK: How did sports science impact your training this offseason as oppose to last?
NG: That whole thing of sports science, we do things here with the Eagles that we didn't do with other teams, [so] it's just more ammo getting ready for the next team and preparing each week. That's really been the benefit of adding extra techniques and methods that we can do as players to keep our bodies in shape and do the best things we can do to perform at a maximum, high level.
MK: Prior to the two trades that the Eagles made this week, the team hadn't made a transaction since May 20. Continuity is a big deal to Chip Kelly. Can you talk about how that has helped the team as you guys have gone throughout the offseason?
NG: That was one of the things we talked about just player-to-player. That continuity thing is kind of hidden in the NFL. A lot of guys don't talk about it because guys see things happen every day. It is a business in one aspect, but it's even more team and relationships because the guys that you play with, you never forgot about them, no matter what they go through. I hear my dad tell stories from when he played in the NFL [1984-85], and he is still friends with guys in Philadelphia, even to this day.
That [continuity] is something big here because it builds confidence in players and it builds trust and it builds a strong team. The best teams are the teams that have trust in each other and when they get on each other, they are not trying to bad mouth anybody, it's constructive criticism. It's really like a brotherhood. It's one of the biggest [tight-knit groups] I've been a part of and it kind of reminds me of college. In college, it's not easy to walk away from the team that you're with, and Coach Kelly has done a great job with us.
Our linebacker group is special. It's special because I've been with these guys, I talk to them every day and I see them when I'm here and we go hangout. We do things together and stuff like that. That's just really a huge thing. Even offensive guys, defensive guys and specialists. Even Jon Dorenbos, [who] has been in the NFL for 10 or 11 years. It's really brought us together and that's a really huge help as far as once you get on the field. You know who you're working with and you can trust others guys and [they] can trust you to do a job. That makes you play harder for one another.
Make sure to check out this weekend's "Preseason Game Review" show on BGN Radio to hear the entire interview with Goode. The linebacker discusses the under-the-radar players to look out for this season, how the defense is working to improve and more.