Here is my player-by-player review of the Eagles linebackers after having re-watched Thursday night’s preseason game against the Steelers. I will provide breakdowns on the other positions on Friday and Saturday.
DeMeco Ryans – The new Eagles middle linebacker stayed on the field for all three downs, as expected. The results were mixed. Ryans was not credited with a tackle, but was around the football on several plays. He was one of many defenders, who helped bring Isaac Redman down on a 2-yard run in the first. Ryans also assisted on a Redman 5-yard gain. And he helped Joselio Hanson bring down Redman for a 1-yard loss on third down in the first. On a different play, he plugged a hole on a Jonathan Dwyer run, forcing him to bounce it outside, but missed the tackle. And Ryans got blocked by the center on the 3rd-and-13 draw that went for 14 yards. Overall, an OK performance. Obviously, plenty of time to go until the season starts, and we need to see more.
Mychal Kendricks – If you were expecting Kendricks to look like a Pro Bowler in his first game action in the NFL, you were disappointed. If you wanted to see him show flashes of the player the Eagles hope he eventually becomes, well, you got that. Kendricks showed off his speed, chasing Redman to the sidelines and slowing him down before a teammate arrived on a 2-yard run. He forced Chris Rainey out of bounds for a 2-yard loss on a toss to the right. Kendricks sniffed out a screen to Dwyer, and maybe more importantly, made the tackle for a 2-yard loss. And finally, he dropped Baron Batch after a 2-yard run in the first. Did Kendricks make mistakes? Absolutely. He was slow to pick up David Johnson out of the backfield on 3rd-and-3, and Ben Roethlisberger connected on a 7-yard gain. Andy Reid actually talked about that play after the game. On another play, Kendricks had to make a decision between sticking with Rainey and going after Roethlisberger, who escaped the pocket. Kendricks chose to chase the QB, who found Rainey for an 8-yard completion. Note that Kendricks stayed on the field in nickel situations.
Brian Rolle – He got the start at WILL, but didn’t play particularly well. As analyst Brian Baldinger pointed out, Rolle leaped wildly on Redman’s 3-yard carry on 4th-and-1. He was blocked by the fullback on a 4-yard Redman run and by an offensive lineman on Dwyer’s 33-yard run. Rolle got credit for half-a-sack with Darryl Tapp after Derek Landri caused pressure up the middle. And he played some nickel alongside Casey Matthews in the third. The competition at the WILL spot is very much on. Jamar Chaney will have a chance to compete with Rolle once he gets healthy.
Casey Matthews – It’s difficult to figure out what exactly the Eagles’ plans are for him in his second season. Matthews played middle linebacker with the second group and dropped Batch for a 1-yard loss in the third. I thought he’d get a chance to compete for the first-team nickel spot or even the first-team WILL spot, but that hasn’t happened yet.
Akeem Jordan – He played SAM with the second group. Jordan stopped John Clay a 2-yard gain in the third and finished the game with three tackles. The Eagles coaches know what they have in Jordan at this point. It’s just a matter of whether they find him valuable enough to keep on the roster.
Keenan Clayton – He played WILL with the second group and also stayed on the field in some nickel situations. Want to know why Clayton hasn’t been given more of a look as a three-down player? Check out the running play in the red zone where Steelers seventh-round pick Kelvin Beachum shoved him to the ground. On Rainey’s 57-yard touchdown, Clayton couldn’t make a play near the line of scrimmage, although he was blocked in the back. If he makes the team, Clayton’s role will almost certainly be specific to playing in coverage – in dime or other specific packages.