Eagles Wake-Up Call: Linebacker Mismanagement

Philadelphia Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans.DeMeco Ryans was sold as a three-down linebacker when he came to Philadelphia in a trade with Houston back in March. He would not only bring you Pro Bowl play every down, but also possessed wisdom and leadership qualities that would ensure the men surrounding him were in position as well.

Coming into this week it appeared that, despite some concerns with his unspectacular preseason, Ryans would be both in the base and the nickel packages. Then word began to leak out that Jamar Chaney was working in at nickel alongside Mychal Kendricks.

“Everybody’s going to have an opportunity to play,” said Andy Reid. “I saw where some guys wrote about the linebackers, they’re all going to play and they all have a role in one phase or the other of the game and we’ll go.”

The “they’re all going to play” philosophy is usually reserved for Pop Warner or teams with inadequate personnel. Reid insisted that he is very happy with the play of Ryans. It is more about a designed approach, he says.

“We had success with [using a linebacker rotation] last year; towards the end of last year. So, the guys know their role, they can focus in on it and they can go,” Reid explained. “They’re all interchangeable, which is a good thing, and they all know each other’s position and have gotten reps at all the positions so it works out well.”

Down the stretch last season Juan Castillo had a different personnel grouping at linebacker for every package. As Reid noted, the defense did improve during the four-game winning streak to finish the year. However, management also concluded after thorough offseason analysis that the linebacking corps was not up to snuff, and decided to pour significant resources into bolstering the position.

Yet the linebacker carousel has continued, particularly in the nickel: Brian Rolle and Ryans. Ryans and Chaney. Ryans and Kendricks. And now, Chaney and Kendricks. The Eagles haven’t even played a game yet.

There may be something to playing the matchup game and rolling out personnel accordingly. But there’s also something to going with the higher pedigree, and allowing the best players to learn how to play with one another. Is all of this worth getting Ryans  (the one you want to lead)  irritated? Because that is exactly what’s happening. Even if you are worried about his play, you couldn’t have possibly seen enough from Chaney — hobbled for much of the preseason with a hamstring injury — to be overwhelmingly convinced he is a better option over Ryans.

This seems like  a situation where Reid should step in and override Castillo’s decision to play musical chairs with the linebackers. But it sounds like the head coach is totally on board.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Upon further review, it is Michael Vick‘s game within the pocket that is reckless. An update on the progress of the QB’s evolution.

Our position-by-position preview rolls on with Sheil’s look at the tight ends and cornerbacks. For all the previews in one spot, click here.

Here is the injury report for Eagles-Browns.

And a collection of national predictions as the Eagles get set to kick off their season.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

It’s unanimous: All 12 of ESPN’s NFL experts have the Eagles downing the Browns.

Domo takes a look at life for LeSean McCoy without Jason Peters.

McCoy averaged 5.6 yards per carry on second down last season, 5.8 on third down. That’s pretty damn good. With Peters’ considerable help, he was the league’s best short-yardage runner. He converted 39 of 51 situations of 2 yards or less into first downs or touchdowns.

Can he be just as effective with Dunlap or even Bell at left tackle?

Probably not.

Bleeding Green Nation compares the Eagles 2012 roster to last year’s team to see which group is better off. The cornerback position, in their view, has taken a hit.

Judgment: Worse. Say what you want about Rodgers-Cromartie being out of position and Samuel not fitting Juan Castillo’s defensive scheme. Last year’s crew had more talent with Samuel on the roster.

COMING UP

Game day. The regular-season opener in Cleveland at 1 p.m. We’ll be holding a live chat during the game and will have you covered all day.

  • daggolden

    With 21 million under the cap and again leading the NFL in cap space the Eagles fail to be able to put 3 capable LBs on the field? How long has it been that this team cant find LB. That is unacceptable. Ryans cant play. The Eagles know it, the fans know it and the Texans knew it. This notion that he was taking it “easy” in the preseason is comical. On top of that every single ex-player analyst says the wide nine is “Terrible” for LBs. They have to fight off guards and centers on every running play an cant succeed. Why does everyone else know this but the coaches?

    • mothra

      it’s not about coaches not knowing. they just decided they’d sacrifice rushing yards for the ability to disrupt the passing game. rushing yards isn’t what hurt this team, it was the inability to hold a 4th qtr lead.

      • daggolden

        Cant we have both? I know Im asking alot but heres a novel idea lets stop the run and rush the passer.lol I mean if we stopped running the wide 9 all of the sudden Cole and Babin cant rush the passer? Im sorry but I would like to be one of the teams in the NFL that can do both.

        • mothra

          good point. hard to argue. i was just trying to play devil’s advocate with the statement i made.

        • Nick

          If we stopped running the wide 9 all of the sudden then Babin really can’t rush the passer. He failed in his first tour in Philly when they weren’t using the wide 9.

  • daggolden

    Ike Reese stated that Ray Lewis couldnt be successful in the Wide 9. He said the reason Lewis is a HOF is b/c the tackles in front of him would hold up the olineman allowing him to make plays. In this defense our tackles let the guard and centers who out weigh them by 50-70lbs get to our LBs and our LBs dont have a chance. If they do get off the block how long before they wear down? Sounds like no LB can flourish in this defense.

  • defeNEstrati

    OK, waiting to judge; but concerned about how rotating packages can be deployed against the Ravens’ no-huddle in week 2.

    • Tyler Phillips

      As someone who associates with a lot of Ravens fans, they have been talking no-huddle for 3 years now. They simply don’t use it that often.

  • borntosuffer

    What I don’t get in preseason when the other team’s 1st O and the Eagle’s 1st D were matched is how the D can look so good on 1st and 2nd down, downs where the O theoretically can take advantage of the Wide 9, and so bad on 3rd down. And, regarding Reid stepping in to override Castillo, I am not convinced it was Castillo’s decision.

  • http://twitter.com/BigMike317 BigMikeMcD

    @daggolden I agree 100%. Its just like all the rest of Reids mismatched schemes, small WRs w/ small QB or small fast guys in a cold weather city. Super Bowl or bust for Andy cause he’s a bad chess player acting like a football coach

  • wydok

    Did Ryans come off the field in 3rd downs during the game? I didn’t notice.