The Philadelphia Eagles' linebacking corps took a hit on Monday, as outside linebacker Travis Long tore his ACL during the second day of training camp. The team was high on Long, who also missed all of the 2014 season with the same injury. Now, the Eagles will need to replace Long's expected production.
While losing a talented player like Long is never ideal, the good news is that there are replacement options. And, as Chip Kelly mentioned Tuesday in his press conference, the team does have options.
If the Eagles are looking to replace Long from the outside, there might not be a ton to choose from. The free agent market, as one might expect, is fairly bare as all 32 teams head into training camp. Aging veterans like Lance Briggs and Dwight Freeney are among the most notable names, though neither would really make sense for players likely looking for their last hurrah.
If the Eagles wanted to go the under-30 route, there are a few journeyman types who could come to camp for competition purposes. The most interesting name is Andy Studebaker, who was the Eagles' sixth round pick in the 2006 draft. He made a name for himself with the Chiefs, and played last season with the Colts. Though he played sparingly last year, PFF was a fan of his run blocking.
The more likely route, though, is to replace Long's potential production with a player in-house. And given the sheer number of quality linebackers currently on the roster, it's probably the smartest move. In his press conference Tuesday, Kelly indicated free agent signee Brad Jones and former practice squad player Brandon Hepburn would be Long's replacements on the outside.
Jones signed with the Eagles this offseason after five seasons in Green Bay. Per Kelly, part of Jones' value comes from the fact that he has played both inside and outside in the NFL already. Hepburn, meanwhile, was a seventh round pick by the Lions in 2013 and was on the Eagles' practice squad last season.
The Eagles could also choose to get creative with their packages. Mychal Kendricks could slide to the outside in certain packages, where he could use his skills as a pass rusher, even if he's not starting on the inside. And while Kiko Alonso could make some sense on the outside, Kelly indicated Tuesday that he'd prefer to keep Alonso on the inside for now, since he is still learning the Eagles' system.
Tuesday marks only the third day of training camp, which means there is still plenty of time for players to separate themselves and earn the backup outside spot.