Eagles Wake-Up Call: ILB Training Camp Preview

Photo by Jeff Fusco.

Photo by Jeff Fusco.

Leading up to training camp on July 25, we’ll have a position-by-position preview of the Eagles’ roster. We have already covered the defensive linequarterbacksoutside linebackers and running backs. Now it’s on to the inside linebackers.

The pressing question: How will the Eagles spell DeMeco Ryans?

As you know by now, Ryans played more snaps than any other linebacker in the NFL last year. During the owners meetings in March, I asked Chip Kelly if he planned to spell Ryans more in 2014, and he said adding depth was a priority.

But free agency and the draft are unpredictable, and the Eagles were unable to add new talent to this position. Billy Davis was clear last month that he plans on subbing in more for Ryans. The problem? That’s not going to happen unless the Eagles like their backup options.

Having asked around, I don’t see the Eagles playing a lot of dime (six defensive backs). That means if they’re going to give Ryans a breather in sub packages, the help will have to come from one of his backups. The most likely option is Najee Goode. Goode saw time as a backup last year and had some good moments. Chances are he’ll get a shot to be a rotational player. If the Eagles don’t like what they see from him though, it’ll be a heavy workload once again for Ryans.

Roster battles

We know Ryans and Mychal Kendricks will be the starters. Overall, the guess here is the Eagles will keep four inside linebackers on their roster.

Goode has the inside track on one of the backup spots. The other one will likely come down to Jason Phillips, Jake Knott and Emmanuel Acho. Special teams will be the determining factor. Knott was an undrafted free agent last year and will miss the first four weeks of the season for violating the league’s PED policy. He may have a hard time sticking out of camp.

Phillips was signed last offseason to provide a special-teams boost, but tore his ACL during training camp. If he’s healthy, he could have the edge. If not, Acho could steal the spot.

One thing I think

The way I see it, there are three defensive players who have high enough ceilings where they could be serious difference-makers if they reach their potential in 2014: Fletcher Cox, Marcus Smith and Kendricks.

The third-year linebacker started to really come on during the second half of last season, even earning man-crush status from Cris Collinsworth.

Davis covets linebackers who can do multiple things, and Kendricks fits the bill. He can rush the passer and has the athleticism to be a really good cover guy, although he’s yet to reach his potential in that area. Given that he never comes off the field, Kendricks making the leap in 2014 would go a long way in helping the defense improve on last year’s performance.


An in-depth All-22 look at the inside zone, the foundation of the Eagles’ offense.

Our training camp preview examining LeSean McCoy and the running backs.


Rich Hofmann of the Daily News on what might be Chip Kelly‘s best attribute:

The reason for dunno is because Chip Kelly dunno. Oh, he is the smartest guy in most of the rooms that he enters. And he is as innovative and forward-thinking in the X-ing and the O-ing as anyone in his business. It is obvious that the man is very good at what he does, and the numbers last season suggest that he is better at it than most people. There are games, and portions of games, that the Eagles dominate because of that fact.

But the truth of it is that Kelly’s best skill on Sunday might be adaptation. It is the thing that Andy Reid might have been the worst at, you might remember. Reid was great during the offseason and, once the season started, Reid also was great from Monday to Wednesday. Sunday, though, well, you know.

CSNPhilly.com’s Geoff Mosher on whether Travis Long will be cut or aid the pass rush:

This is a strange case of a guy who either won’t make the team or will steadily carve out some kind of role in the pass rush. At the end of last year several Eagles, including DeMeco Ryans, touted Long as someone to watch out for in 2014. He’s got a high motor, has experience playing the 3-4 defense and was known in college as a legit pass rusher, which makes him less of a long shot than most guys who sign as rookie free agents. Problem is, Long could be a victim of numbers. The Eagles used a first-round pick on outside linebacker Marcus Smith, signed free agent Bryan Braman and bring back Trent Cole, Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham. Unless Chip Kelly wants to keep six outside linebackers, he’ll have to make a difficult release to clear room for Long on the 53-man roster.


We’ll take a trip down memory lane before you head off for the weekend.

Josh Paunil contributed to this article.

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  • DirtyWaters

    Casey Matthews is going to make $0 working from home this fall. No Kia Rio hatchback for him.

    • G_WallyHunter

      He still on the team eh? Jeeze I think its time to go, too much other actually unknown talents to sift through

    • myeaglescantwin

      well played, Sir.
      well played.

  • 3 Finger Lenny

    good lb

  • NickS FFLC/GM/DPP/Scout/HC/OC

    I feel like Mosher has some Graham attachment that makes him think that releasing Graham would be a difficult decision. Not sure most of the rest of us feel that way. Obviously you’d like your 2010 first round pick to show he was worth it, but at this point it’s hard to see the decision being really difficult.

    • aub32

      We cut the 2011 first round pick without a 2nd thought. So I definitely agree with you.

      • knighn

        There is a difference. The 2010 draft pick is good at creating some pass rush. The 2011 draft pick was good at creating A LOT of pass rush.

    • jabostick

      My guess is they suspect he’d be productive elsewhere and either want something in return or dont want to get bit by it later in the season

    • John E. Zang

      It’s not that cut and dry of a decision. He’s definitely fine at rushing the passer and I thought he did it more consistently than Cole when he had his chances. The jury is still out wether he can fulfill a more traditional 3-4 Olb role.

      • aub32

        It’s easier to be a more consistent pass rusher when you only come in on passing downs.

  • Addicted2MAmula

    Um why is Jordan Matthews name not mentioned once in this article?

    • 370HSSV 0773H

      Buzz Bissinger is pounding out a hit piece on him as we speak.

    • mtn_green

      Um why is Casey Matthews name not mentioned once in this article?

      • knighn

        Why is Casey Matthews ever mentioned?

  • Eagles1018…Please no more du

    But the truth of it is that Kelly’s best skill on Sunday might be adaptation. It is the thing that Andy Reid might have been the worst at, you might remember

    Boy, ain’t that the truth

  • myeaglescantwin

    The little things are what gives me hope about this team.

    Never once in the past 12 years have i been confident in our LB core.
    Now, we are returning 4 good LBs.
    We drafted an LB in rd-1!!! & he was over 6′ tall!!!
    & LB might be our most solid defensive position at the moment.

    • Andy Six Score and Four

      I think DL is our most solid defensive position by a pretty wide margin. LB may have the most upside though with Kendricks Kendriccs and Smith.

      • myeaglescantwin

        I’m with that.
        Lets shoot for a solid front 7.

        People over 6 feet tall. its great

  • Andy Six Score and Four

    Since we’re talking D, what I really want to find out is, does Davis prefer a 4-2-5 nickle or a 3-3-5 nickle? My theory is that the 4-2-5 was forced on them by personnel limitations and they’d prefer a 3-man front or even an ameoba defense. Anybody know what they did at Oregon?

    But the only way I’ll be confident in one answer or another is to see it play out on the field.

    • tommy_the_k

      You have to be real careful with the amoeba defense-can lead to horrible dysentery.

      • Andy Six Score and Four

        So what you’re saying is, nobody wanted to tackle Craig Heyward because they were afraid of contracting tetanus.

  • Amar, CB who bought in

    “It is the thing that Andy Reid might have been the worst at”
    You think ?? I thought that is the only 2 things standing between Andy and world domination. In game adjustments and clock management.

    Travis Long…ah, if he could only play on special teams.

  • Josh Jordan

    For what it’s worth….The Daily News article referenced was actually written by Marcus Hayes…If you want to attribute appropriate credit….

  • John Paine

    So I’ve got a question…Since we’re set on having “do it all” type OLBs, who can play the run, cover, and rush the QB, is there any chance that one of those guys gets some time at ILB? I mean the main difference is supposed to be that OLBs are more specialized pass rushers. So if ours aren’t so narrowly skilled, why not?

    • jmkrav

      I could see Barwin gettin some ILB time. He lined up over A gaps occasionally as the Jack I believe.