Philadelphia Eagles training camp 2015 is fast approaching. Coaches and players report as soon as Saturday, August 1. The Eagles training camp schedule, including information on practices open to the public, can be found by clicking here.
As we count down the days together, Bleeding Green Nation will be previewing every position on the Eagles roster. Today we look at the inside linebackers.
Kiko Alonso, Mychal Kendricks, DeMeco Ryans, Jordan Hicks, Najee Goode, Brad Jones, Emmanuel Acho, Brandon Hepburn
Who starts at inside linebacker for the Eagles remains to be seen. Kiko Alonso and Mychal Kendricks are clearly Philadelphia's two most talented inside linebackers. They're both young, athletic players with serious playmaking ability. They could combine to form one of the NFL's most beastly inside linebacker duos.
But it doesn't seem that simple. The Eagles gave DeMeco Ryans a one-year contract extension this offseason for a reason: the team still values his leadership his ability. Players rave about Ryans in the locker room. The veteran's ability to organize the defense can be seen on the field. The main issue with Ryans, however, is the fact he's coming off an Achilles injury suffered last season. It's the second of his career. That's not a good look for any player, let alone one who is turning 31 years old.
Eagles coaches have said they can get Alonso, Kendricks, and Ryans on the field together all at once, but obviously that won't be happening on a regular basis. There are only two full-time spots to fill and three players to fill them. Someone will be coming off the bench at some point. While it would seem like Ryans is best suited for the bench role, the Eagles seem to be less high on Kendricks than most. The team was reportedly shopping him prior to the NFL Draft. The Eagles have not yet approached Kendricks about a contract extension despite being able to do so.
Despite this seeming lack of favor, Kendricks took first team repetitions during spring practice. Maybe the fact that Ryans wasn't 100% factored in there. In any case, it'll be interested to see how this rotation works.
No matter how the Eagles linebacker situation plays out, one thing is for sure: this year's depth is way better than last year's. Philadelphia was absolutely ravaged by injuries on the inside last season. The Eagles have done their best to make sure that won't happen again. The team drafted Texas linebacker Jordan Hicks in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft. He isn't likely to make any immediate contributions, save for special teams, but he's an athletic player with good leadership skills. He will serve as a depth player in the short term while being groomed to be an eventual starter.
Other players competing for spots on the inside including Najee Goode, Brad Jones, Emmanuel Acho, and Brandon Hepburn. Goode looked like a capable backup in 2013 while filling in for an injured Kendricks. Goode also played well on special teams. Former Packers linebacker Jones is also a good special teams player. Jones also has the versatility to play outside linebacker, which could help him earn a roster spot. Acho also spent some time during the spring working at outside linebacker. It won't help him make the team, but it absolutely needs to be noted that Acho is easily one of the best tweeters on the Eagles. Hepburn spent most of the 2014 season on Philadelphia's practice squad. He's likely a camp body.
How will it play out?
I saw a recent suggestion that Alonso and Ryans could be the "starters" while Kendricks ultimately ends up with more playing time than Ryans. Maybe that's the case. There has to be some kind of rotation going on here.
Behind those three, Hicks is obviously a lock to make the team. Goode and Jones could be competing against each other for one depth spot.
Who could be a surprise cut?
It wouldn't be a total shock to see the Eagles trade Kendricks. At this point, however, I think there's a better chance he plays out the season with Philadelphia.
Seeing Goode get cut would be a little surprising. The team has been high on him in the past, but Jones could steal his job.