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.

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