The 2016 NFL offseason has begun for the Philadelphia Eagles, which means Howie Roseman and new head coach Doug Pederson will spend the next couple of weeks evaluating the 2015 roster. The team went 7-9 last season and improvement is clearly needed. By the time NFL free agency starts on March 9, the Eagles will have a good idea of which players they'll want to bring back for the 2016 season. Today we'll continue this offseason review series by looking at the inside linebacker position.
Numbers: 640 snaps, 61 tackles, 3 sacks, 5 hits, 6 hurries, 1 forced fumble, 3 passes defensed, 12 missed tackles
Review: After the Eagles traded for Kiko Alonso and gave an extension to DeMeco Ryans, it was thought Kendricks might not return to the Eagles for the 2015 season. Rumors of Kendricks being traded were squashed when the Birds awarded him with a long term deal. Kendricks then ended up playing the most snaps of any Eagles inside linebacker in 2015.
Kendricks was really good in 2014 but he didn't seem to play at that same level last season. Whereas Kendricks was consistently good in his third year, his fourth year was a reversion back to his erratic play. He got off to a bad start when he suffered a hamstring injury in Week 2 and missed three games. Kendricks was too often abused in coverage. Opposing quarterbacks had a 144.4 rating when targeting him. That ranks as the second worst mark for any inside linebacker. According to Pro Football Focus, Kendricks was targeted 39 times and allowed 32 receptions for 357 yards and five touchdowns.
It wasn't all bad with Kendricks. He still provides impact as a pass rusher. There was more bad than good in 2015, however.
Numbers: 620 snaps, 32 tackles, 1 hit, 3 hurries, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 5 passes defensed, 11 missed tackles
Review: Mufasa looked surprisingly spry early in the season, especially after coming off his second career Achilles injury. Believe it or not, the Eagles actually had the NFL's top ranked run defense early in the season. Ryans' run-stuffing ability was part of the team's success. Then Ryans suffered a hamstring injury and missed a few games. He didn't play well when he returned to action. Ryans' 11 missed tackles are a high number for someone who only made 32 tackles. His tackling efficiency ranks 40th out of 45 inside linebackers, which is bad. Age, injury, and workload has caught up with Ryans.
Numbers: 481 snaps, 30 tackles, 4 hurries, 1 interception, 1 pass defensed, 6 missed tackles
Review: Everyone was so excited to see Alonso finally play after he missed most of the preseason due to a concussion. He made an awesome one-handed interception in Week 1 when the Eagles played the Falcons. Alonso followed that great play up with ... well, nothing, really. Nothing good, at least. He peaked really early. Alonso got hurt in Week 2 and missed five games before returning. He never really looked healthy once he got back. He was out of position too often. He missed tackles. Quite simply, he was bad. He certainly didn't look like the player the Eagles envisioned they'd be getting when they traded LeSean McCoy to Buffalo in order to get him. It's strange because Alonso showed so much promise as a rookie. Injuries may have robbed him of what he once was.
Numbers: 459 snaps, 42 tackles, 1 sack, 5 hurries, 2 interceptions, 1 defensive TD, 1 forced fumble, 3 fumbles recovered, 3 passes defensed, 6 missed tackles
Review: To this point you've only read about how much the Eagles' inside linebackers struggled in 2015. Now you get to read about a player who defied the odds and had more success than any of his teammates combined. Ladies and gentleman, I present you to the legend that is Jordan Hicks.
It's crazy to think how much of an impact Hicks had as a rookie. It wasn't supposed to happen. He was the fourth linebacker behind Alonso, Kendricks, and Ryans. He was only meant to play special teams. But injuries forced Hicks into action and he exceeded expectations. Hicks made a ton of big plays, and some of the biggest were at the expense of the Dallas Cowboys. He injured Tony Romo on a strip fumble in Week 2. The Eagles lost the game but the Cowboys pretty much lost their season because of that hit. Then Hicks nabbed a pick-six off Matt Cassel in Week 9 to help the Eagles essentially bury the Cowboys' season.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, Hicks also got hurt in the second Dallas game. He suffered a pectoral injury and was placed on the season-ending injured reserve list. The Eagles' defense noticably suffered down the stretch with Hicks missing.
The good news for the Eagles is that Hicks showed tremendous promise at only age 23. He's incredibly talented and smart. Eagles players already call Hicks "Simba" in relation to Ryans' "Mufasa" nickname. The bad news for the Cowboys is that Hicks will potentially terrorize them for years to come.
Numbers: 37 snaps, 5 tackles, 1 hurry, 2 missed tackles
Review: The Eagles tried to trade Goode before waiving him in final cuts. Chip Kelly say Goode was the final cut and the toughest decision the Eagles had to make. Luckily for the Eagles, Goode was available when the team suffered a slew of linebacker injuries and needed more depth in the middle of the season. Goode only played a few snaps on defense. He mostly contributed on special teams. The Eagles saw enough good film of Goode to give him a one-year contract extension.
Review: Skinner had a nice preseason and stuck around on the practice squad all year.
Review: Hepburn got hurt last summer and missed the entire 2015 season but the Eagles brought him back on a futures contract. He'll serve as depth for the 2016 offseason.
Who Could Leave
Hicks will obviously be back and Kendricks just received a contract extension last year. Will Alonso return? He really struggled in 2015. Maybe he'll be better when he's healthy. Would Chip Kelly be willing to trade for Alonso for the second year in a row?
Ryans turns 32 in July. He's due $4.5 million and can be cut for a savings of $3.5 million. It's hard to envision Ryans as a starter moving forward and that's a lot of money for a veteran backup.
Who Could Sign
The Eagles don't really need another starter assuming Hicks, Kendricks, and Alonso in the fold. Maybe a veteran depth guy if anything.
NFL Draft Options
Mike Mayock has Jaylon Smith, Myles Jack, Reggie Ragland, Darron Lee, and Deion Jones as his top five linebackers (in that order). I don't know if the Eagles will be chasing after a top linebacker but it couldn't hurt to add more depth at some point in the draft.