LB Review: Ryans Provides Bright Spot

Philadelphia Eagles LB DeMeco Ryans.If you’re looking for a positive to take out of Sunday’s loss to the Cardinals, DeMeco Ryans once again played at a high level.

Here’s the player-by-player breakdown of the Birds’ linebackers, after having re-watched the game.

DeMeco Ryans – He’s played every snap the past two games and has missed just two snaps all season. The coaches credited him with eight solo tackles, and Ryans was once again a playmaker. He’s put together an outstanding three-game stretch to start the season. Ryans brought running back Ryan Williams down after a 4-yard run. He shot through the hole and dropped LaRod Stephens-Howling for a 5-yard loss in the third. And he and Mychal Kendricks combined to stop Williams short of a first down on 3rd-and-1 in the third. Ryans now has six tackles for loss in three games. In coverage, Ryans nearly had an interception in the red zone, but the ball popped up in the air, and wide receiver Michael Floyd came down with it for the touchdown. The Eagles only blitzed three times all game, and Ryans was sent on two of those occasions.

Mychal Kendricks – Eagles coaches credited him with a season-high six solo tackles. Kendricks was not perfect, but he was active throughout. He tackled Beanie Wells after a 2-yard gain in the second and stopped Wells for no gain in the third. Kendricks chased Williams to the sideline on a 3-yard run in the third. And he shot through the hole, combining with Darryl Tapp to bring Williams down for a 4-yard loss in the third. One bad moment against the run was when he couldn’t get off the tight end’s block on the 25-yard draw to Williams in the fourth. In coverage, Kendricks got picked by the wide receiver on a 12-yard completion to Williams in the first. He missed a tackle on Larry Fitzgerald after Kevin Kolb flipped the ball to avoid a sack in the first. Kendricks beat by tight end Rob Housler for an 11-yard completion on 3rd-and-2 in the second. He and Ryans both went to cover the back on 3rd-and-7 in the second, leaving TE Jeff King wide open for a 15-yard gain. It looked like Kendricks pointed to himself after the play, acknowledging that he made a mistake. Kendricks blitzed once and got a hand on Kolb.

Akeem Jordan – He only played 14 snaps before injuring his hamstring. Jordan got off his block and tackled Williams after a 3-yard gain in the second. We’ll see if he can go Sunday vs. the Giants.

Brian Rolle – He filled in for Jordan and played 16 snaps. Rolle got beaten by Housler for a 7-yard completion in the fourth. And he was blocked by the tight end on the Williams run that went for 11 yards on 3rd-and-3.

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Eagles Snap Counts: Graham Jumps Ahead Of Hunt

Here’s a look at snap counts for the Eagles during their Week 3 loss against the Cardinals. We’ll go position-by-position.

Overall Snaps
Snap %
LeSean McCoy5180%
Bryce Brown1016%
Stanley Havili1219%

Brown spelled McCoy a little bit more than usual. McCoy finished with 16 touches, including 13 carries for 70 yards. Of course, only four of those carries came in the first half as the Eagles called 25 pass plays and five runs in the first two quarters.

Brown had four carries for 28 yards, including a 17-yarder, which was his best run of the season. Chris Polk was once again active but did not play any offensive snaps. It’s tough to figure why Dion Lewis is still on the roster. He appeared to be a healthy scratch. Perhaps the Eagles are holding on to him in the event that McCoy suffers a long-term injury? It seems clear now that they have pegged Brown as McCoy’s backup.

Overall Snaps
Snap %
DeSean Jackson6398%
Jason Avant5688%
Damaris Johnson5688%
Mardy Gilyard69%
Brent Celek5484%
Clay Harbor1117%

Considering that the Eagles were without Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper, the guess going in was that perhaps they’d play with more two tight-end sets. Brent Celek and Clay Harbor were off to good starts in the first two weeks. But that was not the case. As you can see, the Eagles played with three wide receivers or more on 88 percent of their snaps. We’ll get a better idea when the All-22 tape comes out, but it sure seemed like there were several occasions where Michael Vick couldn’t find anyone open.

Johnson finished with five catches for 84 yards. He was the team’s most targeted receiver (11). Jackson had three catches for 43 yards, but needed 10 targets to compile those numbers. Avant had three catches for 38 yards, and Gilyard was targeted once.

As for the tight ends, Brent Celek had two catches for 36 yards on six targets, including one 34-yard gain. Harbor saw his least playing time of the season and was not targeted.

Overall Snaps
Snap %
Derek Landri3963%
Jason Babin3353%
Trent Cole3252%
Fletcher Cox3150%
Cedric Thornton2845%
Cullen Jenkins2845%
Darryl Tapp2845%
Brandon Graham1727%
Phillip Hunt1219%

We had speculated last week about Graham seeing a bump in playing time, and he did, taking snaps away from Hunt. Graham played 17 snaps to Hunt’s 12. Graham’s snaps have gone up in each of the first three weeks – from four to nine to 17.

Landri saw the most snaps of any defensive lineman. Cox left the game for a period in the first half because of migraines. Jenkins started, but saw fewer snaps than Cox. It looks like that will probably be the case most weeks.

Babin had 1.5 sacks. Tapp, Cole and Graham each had 0.5.

Overall Snaps
Snap %
DeMeco Ryans62100%
Mychal Kendricks5589%
Brian Rolle1626%
Akeem Jordan1423%

Ryans was once again an every-down player, staying on the field for all 62 defensive snaps. As far as I could tell, Kendricks only came out in dime situations. Jordan started the game at WILL, but suffered a hamstring injury and was replaced by Rolle.

Overall Snaps
Snap %
Nnamdi Asomugha62100%
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie5995%
Brandon Boykin3252%
Brandon Hughes1016%
Nate Allen62100%
Kurt Coleman62100%

Asomugha, Allen and Coleman played all 62 snaps. For some reason, the Eagles seem to have a package where they replace Rodgers-Cromartie with Hughes for a handful of snaps. I’ve noticed that in each of the last two games. Hughes also played in dime, ahead of Curtis Marsh, who was active.

Boykin was on the field for 32 snaps in nickel and dime packages.

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LB Review: How the Eagles Used Ryans

Philadelphia Eagles LB DeMeco Ryans.Here’s a player-by-player review of how the Eagles linebackers performed Sunday against the Ravens, after having re-watched the game. Click here to find all of the game reviews.

The Eagles’ defense has played 132 snaps through two games. On 125 of those, DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks have been on the field together.

Linebacker rotation? Not as long as those two guys are healthy. Against the Ravens, they each played all 70 snaps. Akeem Jordan got the nod at WILL and played 37 snaps.

Here’s the breakdown:

DeMeco RyansJuan Castillo actually chose to blitz a decent amount in this one. By my count, he sent extra pressure on nine of 44 pass plays, or 20.5 percent of the time. And Ryans was the most frequent blitzer, going after Flacco on seven occasions. He broke through in the second, but Joe Flacco made a nice, subtle move to his right, giving him enough time to hit Jacoby Jones for the 21-yard touchdown. On a third down in the fourth, Ryans got there, blitzing off the left edge and picking up a sack. Overall, he played another great game, specifically in the second half. Ryans had nine tackles (eight solo). Through two games, he has five tackles for loss. In all of 2011, no Eagles linebacker had more than six. In addition to the sack, he had a third-quarter interception. When Kendricks and Cullen Jenkins missed tackles on Ray Rice in the second, Ryans was there to clean up, stopping the running back after a 3-yard gain. On the very next play, he had great coverage on tight end Dennis Pitta and tackled him after a 2-yard gain on third down, forcing a punt. Ryans dropped Rice for no gain in the third and again after a 1-yard pickup in the fourth. Later in the quarter, he stopped Rice after a 3-yard gain and dropped Pierce for a 2-yard loss. If you missed the NFL Films piece from the Eagles-Ravens game, click here. Some good Ryans footage in there.

Mychal Kendricks – Looking forward to watching the All-22 and focusing on him. Kendricks was really good in coverage. Examples: Tackled Pitta after a 4-yard completion in the second. Forced a Flacco incompletion to Rice on a third down in the second. Dropped Rice for a 5-yard loss after a completion. Broke up a pass for Pitta in the third. And another to Pitta in the fourth, where he nearly had an interception. Of course, the one we all remember is the break-up on the final play of the game where Flacco was looking for Rice. Against the run, Kendricks got blocked by Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda on Rice’s 16-yard run. And he hustled to eventually bring down Rice on the 43-yard run.

But here’s one thing that will make you like the rookie even more. After the game, he was at his locker, and a reporter asked him if he was happy with the way he performed in coverage against the Ravens’ running backs and tight ends.

“I’m pretty pleased with the way I played as far as that’s concerned,” Kendricks said at first. “I gave up one pass though, which was probably the most crucial moment, little stick route.”

Even though he ended the game with the break-up against Rice, Kendricks still had another play on his mind. It was the one where he got beat by Pitta for a 12-yard completion on third down on the final drive. Those plays are of course going to happen, but Kendricks has been impressive through two games.

Akeem Jordan – Don’t have a lot of notes on Jordan. As I mentioned above, he played quite a bit. Pitta knocked him over and then caught an 8-yard pass from Flacco in the third. But other than that, didn’t notice Jordan get beat in coverage. Didn’t notice him much in the run game either. The team credited him with two tackles.

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Eagles Snap Counts: Forget About the LB Rotation

Here’s a look at snap counts for the Eagles during their Week 2 win over the Ravens. We’ll go position-by-position.

Overall Snaps
Snap %
LeSean McCoy6986%
Bryce Brown810%
Stanley Havili1721%

Why these are so useful: During the game, I would have bet that the Eagles spelled LeSean McCoy quite a bit. It sure seemed that way, especially early. But really, he played the same percentage of snaps as always. Last year, McCoy was on the field for 86.1 percent of the snaps. Against the Ravens? Also 86 percent. When he came out, Bryce Brown replaced him, but Brown only played eight snaps. He had three carries for 7 yards and fumbled one exchange from Michael Vick.

Meanwhile, fullback Stanley Havili played 21 percent of the snaps. That’s slightly more than he played last week (19 percent) and more than Owen Schmitt played last year (15.8 percent).

Overall Snaps
Snap %
DeSean Jackson7290%
Jason Avant5670%
Jeremy Maclin4354%
Damaris Johnson2228%
Brent Celek7695%
Clay Harbor3645%

DeSean Jackson rarely came off the field, playing 72 snaps or 90 percent of the game. Jackson had seven catches for 114 yards. Vick only threw incomplete once when throwing in Jackson’s direction. Maclin, meanwhile, battled the hip pointer and played 54 percent of the snaps. He had just one catch, but it was a big one – the 23-yard touchdown in the third. Jason Avant filled in, playing 70 percent of the snaps. And Damaris Johnson played 22 snaps, or 28 percent of the game. That was an increase from last week (14 percent). He had one catch for 13 yards.

Brent Celek took some big hits, but they didn’t faze him, as the tight end played 76 snaps (95 percent). He was Vick’s go-to target, catching eight balls for 157 yards. The Eagles played with two tight ends quite a bit as Clay Harbor was on the field for 36 snaps (45 percent). Taking away Week 17 of the 2010 season when the Eagles sat their starters, this was the second-highest percentage of snaps for Harbor in his career. He had one catch on two targets for 19 yards.

On the offensive line, center Dallas Reynolds played 37 snaps (46 percent) after coming in for Jason Kelce. Demetress Bell played 35 snaps (44 percent) filling in for King Dunlap.

Overall Snaps
Snap %
Trent Cole4869%
Jason Babin4463%
Fletcher Cox5173%
Derek Landri3753%
Cullen Jenkins3246%
Cedric Thornton2231%
Darryl Tapp2231%
Phillip Hunt1521%
Brandon Graham913%

Fletcher Cox played more snaps than any other defensive lineman, although I believe Cullen Jenkins got banged-up in the second half, leaving the Eagles a bit thin at DT. Cox finished with five tackles, including one for loss. Cole and Babin (69 percent and 63 percent, respectively) played defensive end with the first group. As I’ll probably point out every week, while Juan Castillo says the team has eight starters, some defensive linemen will play more than others. Brandon Graham played nine snaps after playing just four in Week 1. To his credit, he looked very active when he got a chance. Phillip Hunt saw just six more snaps than Graham.

Overall Snaps
Snap %
DeMeco Ryans70100%
Mychal Kendricks70100%
Akeem Jordan3753%

Did someone say three-down linebackers? Forget about the rotation – for now. DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks are playing too well. Neither came off the field Sunday against the Ravens – at all. They both played all 70 snaps. Akeem Jordan, meanwhile, played 37 snaps (53 percent). The Eagles were in their base defense much more than Week 1 when Jordan played 32 percent of the snaps.

Overall Snaps
Snap %
Nnamdi Asomugha70100%
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie6491%
Brandon Boykin3347%
Brandon Hughes69%
Nate Allen70100%
Kurt Coleman70100%

Nnamdi Asomugha, Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman all played the entire game. I remember giving McManus a nudge when Rodgers-Cromartie came off the field. I’m not sure what the reason was, but Brandon Hughes replaced him on six snaps. Brandon Boykin came up big on the final drive. He played 33 snaps (47 percent), down from 63 percent in Week 1, as the Ravens used fewer three-receiver sets.

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Eagles LB Review: DeMeco Ryans, Difference-Maker

Here’s a player-by-player review of how the Eagles linebackers performed Sunday against the Browns, after having re-watched the game. Click here to find all of the game reviews.

DeMeco Ryans – Not sure his debut could have gone any better. According to stats kept by the team, Ryans led the Eagles with nine tackles (eight solo). Perhaps more impressive is that three of those were for loss. In other words, he wasn’t just solid. He was a play-maker. Ryans made a great tackle on tight end Benjamin Watson, stopping him 1 yard short of a first down on 3rd-and-4 in the first. He got behind the line of scrimmage and dropped Trent Richardson for a loss on 3rd-and-1 in the second. He again dropped Richardson for a loss on the next possession. In the third, Ryans stopped Richardson after a 1-yard gain. He was not fooled by play-action and got in Brandon Weeden’s face as the QB threw incomplete in the third. Ryans helped Cullen Jenkins drop Richardson for a 3-yard loss in the red zone in the third. And he stuffed Richardson for a 1-yard loss in the fourth. In coverage, Ryans got blocked on a screen to Brandon Jackson that went for 14 yards in the fourth. He had a tough matchup against Josh Gordon in the slot in the third and got beat for a 12-yard completion. But overall, he was outstanding. Andy Reid said he wasn’t sure if Ryans would be ready to stay on the field in the opener after being primarily a two-down player last season with Texans, but that wasn’t an issue. He played 60 of 62 snaps and was on the field in base, nickel and dime packages. Ryans went after the quarterback twice.

Mychal Kendricks – Strong debut for the rookie. He finished with five tackles (four solo) and one for loss. Kendricks got off a block and tackled Richardson after a 2-yard gain in the first. He made a nice tackle on Mohamed Massaquoi in coverage short of the first down in the second. He got away from an offensive lineman and brought Richardson down after a 5-yard gain on a screen in the third. In coverage, Kendricks got lucky on one play in the red zone. The tight end beat him to the corner, but Weeden missed the throw, or it would have been a touchdown. The refs called holding on the play, but didn’t announce a number. It could have been on Kendricks. Later on that possession, he broke up a pass for Watson, but it popped up in the air and the tight end came down with it. Kendricks blitzed once in the first. He played 55 of 62 snaps, only coming out in dime (one LB, six DBs).

Akeem Jordan – The Eagles were only in base with three linebackers on 20 plays, or 32 percent of the time. Jordan started at WILL and was fine. He was in on a tackle on Richardson for no gain in the second. And he assisted Ryans in bringing down Richardson after a gain of 1 in the third. He was a beast on special teams with four tackles in coverage.

Brian Rolle – He played a couple snaps in dime in the first half. The guess here is that Reid didn’t want to wear Ryans out early on and thought giving him a breather in the first half was a good idea. As I mentioned above, Ryans replaced Rolle in dime later on. Rolle had a special-teams tackle and was the first man down in coverage three times.

Jamar Chaney – The gamebook credited him with one snap, but I missed it.

Casey Matthews – Played exclusively on special teams.

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Eagles Snapshot: LB Preview

Throughout the course of the week, we’ll be providing position-by-position previews of the entire Eagles roster. Click here to get to all of them. Today, we cover the linebackers.

The roster: DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks, Akeem Jordan, Jamar Chaney, Casey Matthews, Brian Rolle.

No real surprises on the roster. Keenan Clayton, a fourth-round pick in 2010, never met expectations and was let go. The starters are Ryans in the middle, Kendricks at SAM and Jordan at WILL.

Player in the spotlight: DeMeco Ryans

The Eagles swapped third-round picks and gave up an additional fourth rounder to acquire Ryans from the Texans back in March, and the move made a lot of sense. After last year’s struggles, go out and get a veteran middle linebacker who will command respect from his peers, help reduce confusion and play behind the wide-nine.

The only problem? We’re two days from the opener, and it’s unclear whether Ryans is a three-down player. He stayed on the field in nickel during OTAs, mini-camps, training camp and the preseason. But on Thursday, players said Chaney was joining Kendricks in certain nickel packages. As we’ve mentioned several times, the Eagles were in nickel about 47 percent of the time last season. If Ryans is on the sidelines for those snaps, he won’t be able to provide the leadership and direction we’ve heard about all summer.

Ryans was a step behind in the first preseason game, but played better against New England. He played limited snaps against Cleveland.

We’ll see how things play out Sunday, but the fact that the Eagles are considering shaking things up so close to the opener raises some questions.

You should also know that…

* Kendricks is the smart bet to be the Eagles’ best linebacker this season. He had an outstanding preseason and looked good at training camp. Kendricks had a very strong combine, but that was just one line on his resume. He was a very productive linebacker at Cal, earning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year honors last season.

* Rolle had been playing at WILL until a couple weeks ago when Jordan took over. We’ll see if he holds on to that spot. Chaney could get a chance to replace him, Rolle could get back in the mix, or Matthews could be given an opportunity.

* Right now, in the base defense, Chaney is practicing as the second-team SAM, and Matthews is the second-team middle linebacker, behind Ryans. Matthews had been dealing with a high ankle sprain, but has been a full participant in practice this week.

* According to Football Outsiders, the Eagles were good at covering opposing tight ends last year (fourth in the league), but poor against running backs (29th).

* Special teams is always a factor with linebackers. Jordan and Matthews (14 tackles and 11 tackles, respectively) were both good special-teams players last season.

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Eagles Wake-Up Call: Linebacker Shuffle Lives On

Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Juan CastilloIf it’s football season, there’s a linebacker shuffle going on in Philadelphia. Death, taxes, and so on. Even an offseason dedicated in part to shoring up the position couldn’t totally shut down the dance. In the latest shift, Brian Rolle lost his job at WILL in favor of Akeem Jordan. Defensive coordinator Juan Castillo explained the move on Monday.

“Akeem Jordan has probably had one of the better training camps since I’ve been around. He made a lot of plays. He was very productive.  We grade our players every day, and Akeem has been making plays. He just deserved a chance,” said Castillo.

“Really, he’s playing at a top level and better than he ever has as an Eagle. He’s been rewarded.”

Fair enough. May the best man play. But there always seems to be a change in opinion as to who the best man is.

Per Reuben Frank, the Eagles have used 19 different starting linebacker combinations since the start of the 2009 season alone. That is not exactly a sign of health. Isn’t there a longing to settle on a group and let them form an identity?

“Really, the thing we’d like to is like last year, where we had different [groups],” said Castillo. “First, we had base. Then, we had first and second-down buffalo, we called it. We had third-down nickel and third-down dime. We had a lot of different positions where we had some good athletes there and good competition. We’d like to be able to use as many of those guys who have earned an opportunity to play [as we can].”

At one point last season, Castillo had a different linebacker combination for every package. If memory serves, that position was an issue last year.

Maybe Jordan steps in, locks down the weakside and solidifies the group. But if history is an indicator, we’ll see Jamar Chaney in there, then Rolle again, maybe a little Casey Matthews. And on and on and on…


Sheil has a quality breakdown on Nick Foles. Did you know he hasn’t misfired on a pass in the red zone yet? Yup.

To ensure he keeps his starting job, Michael Vick told Birds 24/7 that he is being fitted for a thicker rib protector and will have the extra padding for the opener.

The Eagles trimmed their roster down to 75 by placing Mike Patterson and Jason Peters on injury/illness lists.

As the competition heats up at quarterback, Marty Mornhinweg sings the praises of Trent Edwards.


ESPN’s NFC East blogger Dan Graziano continues his countdown of the top 20 players in the division. Coming in at No. 9, Eagles defensive end Jason Babin.

Babin is a lethal pass-rusher at a time when rushing the passer is perhaps more important than it’s ever been in NFL history. He’s a lethal pass-rusher in a defense that can’t function unless its ends are wreaking havoc on the backfield. He’s a man for his time and his team, and because he’s as great as he is at what he does, he deserves this spot on this particular list.

Evan Mathis (19), DeSean Jackson (17) and Michael Vick (12) are also represented on the list.

Some bizarre stories coming out of Dallas.

If you haven’t heard, receiver Dez Bryant has agreed to abide by a strict set of rules laid down by the Cowboys. He has a 12 o’clock curfew, isn’t allowed to drink, can’t go to strip clubs and must be accompanied by a member of security at all times.

Meanwhile, Jerry Jones is now a rapper.


How does the last preseason practice sound? The players take the field at 11:45 AM for its final tune-up before the Jets game.  Andy Reid will address the media afterwards.

Jordan Replaces Rolle At LB With First Team

Philadelphia Eagles LB Akeem JordanSince the Eagles returned to the Novacare Complex 10 days ago, Akeem Jordan hasn’t had much company at his locker.

The sixth-year linebacker has gone largely unnoticed. Many (present company included) figured he was battling for a roster spot with Keenan Clayton, looking to continue his strong play on special teams.

But things changed today. The last question for Andy Reid during his media session, which lasted about 15 minutes, was about Brian Rolle, and whether the second-year player was still the team’s starting WILL linebacker.

“Right now, no,” Reid said. “Akeem is going to work in there as a starter.”

And so, when Jordan walked to his locker, reporters followed to ask him about his new gig.

“There’s a lot of competition in the linebacker [corps],” Jordan said. “We are all just trying to go out there and make plays. We’re trying to beat out each other, and everyone knows that there is a lot of competition. We were just going out there every day and trying to perform.”

Jordan has started 27 games for the Eagles in his career at all three linebacker spots. However, this summer, he had been working exclusively with the second team at the SAM position. That’s where all seven of his starts came in 2011.

But back in 2009, Jordan turned in perhaps his most productive stretch as a pro, starting the first eight games at WILL before suffering a hyper-extended knee against the Cowboys. He came back for the final four games, but didn’t play as well and got mixed in at middle linebacker.

In 2010, Jordan was moved to the SAM spot, after the Eagles acquired Ernie Sims in the offseason. He beat Moise Fokou out at training camp, but only started three games there, and then Fokou took over.

Last summer, it looked like Jordan would not be back with the team, but the Eagles re-signed him in late July. He made the roster (which was no given at the time) and then ended up starting seven games, producing average results along the way.

If you notice a pattern, well, that’s the point. Pretty much every summer, Jordan is either fighting for a roster spot or playing time. And every summer, he makes the team and ends up starting some games.

This year, the Eagles appear to be set with DeMeco Ryans in the middle and Mychal Kendricks at SAM. But the WILL spot is up for grabs. Brian Rolle started 13 games there last year and was probably the team’s most active linebacker, leading the group with six tackles for loss. But he had his share of issues. According to Football Outsiders, Rolle missed 10 tackles and 18.5 percent of his tackling attempts. The former seventh-round pick flashed potential, but suffered some miscues as well.

Jamar Chaney is someone who could definitely compete for a starting job once he’s healthy. Chaney has been battling a hamstring injury, but has been the second-team WILL all summer. He played in the last preseason game, but was not fully healthy.

“That was kind of a knock the rust off game for him, kind of getting back to the speed of the game,” Reid said. “I don’t think he was 100 percent out there, speed-wise, so I ended up taking him out. But we know that he’s a good football player, and that’s the main thing. He can play a lot of positions for us, play in the nickel, everything that we need done. He’s going to play for us. That’s the bottom line. I just want to make sure that we don’t hurt that leg.”

Chaney started 16 games last year – two at SAM and the rest in the middle.

The other player who could get a shot at some point is Casey Matthews. Matthews is recovering from a high ankle sprain, and Reid said today it’ll be a “struggle” for him to be ready for Week 1. Matthews has been playing the middle with the second team, but he could get an opportunity at WILL at some point during the season.

It wouldn’t be summer for the Eagles without a game of linebacker musical chairs. Jordan replaces Rolle as the starter for now, but chances are, we could be talking about another shuffle in the next month or two.

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LB Review: Competition For Rolle?

Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Jamar ChaneyHere’s a review of how the Eagles linebackers performed against the Browns after having re-watched Friday night’s game.

DeMeco Ryans – Like the rest of the starters in the back seven, he only played a couple series, and Ryans didn’t have much of an impact. He got blocked on Montario Hardesty’s 6-yard run. In coverage, Greg Little got behind him in zone on third down, but Brandon Weeden misfired badly. I don’t think the preseason was enough to accurately judge Ryans one way or another. We’ll see how much of an upgrade he provides in the middle when Week 1 rolls around.

Mychal Kendricks – I think it’s fair to say he’s been their best linebacker this preseason. Kendricks was in on a couple plays against Cleveland, tackling Hardesty after a 3-yard run and knocking him out of bounds after a 2-yard gain. Expect him to be a three-down linebacker right out of the gate.

Brian Rolle – Let’s start with the two offsides penalties on the first drive. One was completely bogus. Rolle was nowhere near the line of scrimmage before the ball was snapped. The broadcast said it was him, but it had to be a defensive lineman. In coverage, (while it’s difficult to tell off of TV), it looked like Rolle might have been responsible for tight end Alex Smith, who ran free for a 20-yard gain in the first. And Rolle was a little slow picking up Hardesty out of the backfield on a 7-yard completion in the second. Against the run, he stopped Hardesty for no gain in the first. Overall, credited with four tackles (three solo). Rolle also played nickel with the second team.

Jamar Chaney – He played WILL with the second team and also stayed on the field in nickel. Chaney was in on a tackle, but Andy Reid said his hamstring was tightening up during the game. Reid also said that Chaney is still competing with Rolle for the starting job. That may be the case, but I still think Rolle is the favorite to line up at WILL when the regular season starts. Chaney’s been battling the injury and could get a shot down the road.

Ryan Rau – With Casey Matthews out, he played middle linebacker with the second group and forced a Hardesty fumble. Rau and Vinny Curry stopped running back Adonis Thomas for no gain in the third. Not going to make the roster, but got some good plays on tape.

Akeem Jordan – He played SAM with the second team and brought Hardesty down after a 4-yard gain in the first. Jordan’s had a solid preseason, and I think he’ll make the team.

Keenan Clayton – He made his case Friday night, but the feeling here is that the coaches know what Clayton brings to the table at this point. One preseason game is not going to dramatically change their opinion of him. Clayton came up with a punt block in the first. He played WILL and stayed on the field in nickel with the second team. In coverage, Clayton broke up a pass, nearly coming up with an interception in the third. He deflected a Seneca Wallace pass in the fourth, leading to a Cliff Harris interception. Poor tackling attempt on a 3rd-and-16 completion, allowing the Browns to pick up the first down and extend their drive. Against the run, Clayton tackled Thomas for a 2-yard loss in the third. He sits squarely on the roster bubble. Clayton could beat Jordan out for a spot, or if they wanted to, the Eagles could keep a seventh linebacker. That seems like a longshot though.

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Take 3: Projecting the Eagles’ 53-Man Roster

Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Darryl TappEight days from now, the Eagles will have to trim their roster to 53 players.

The official date and time is Friday, Aug. 31 at 9 p.m.

That means this is the final trial run for me and McManus. Next week, we’ll have to submit our final projections. Here’s what I’ve got as of Thursday morning. T-Mac will reveal his projections on Friday.

And to switch things up. I’ve provided my confidence level for each group. Nothing scientific here – just a 1-10 ranking, with 1 signifying I am completely guessing here and 10 meaning Mark it down. These are locks.

Quarterbacks (3): Michael Vick, Mike Kafka, Nick Foles.
Confidence level: 9

This one is pretty much set in stone. While quarterback is a question mark – with Vick suffering injuries in each of the Eagles’ first two preseason games – these will be the three guys on the 53-man roster. If Trent Edwards was going to be given a real shot, I think it would have happened by now.

The question is: Can Foles beat out Kafka for the backup job? As I wrote yesterday, it seems quite possible. But as Paul Domowitch of the Daily News pointed out today, the Eagles could keep all three quarterbacks active on gamedays and not designate a backup. I can just see it now: Andy Reid answering a hypothetical question about who would potentially go in for an injured Vick with, “Well, we’ll just see there.”

I took a look, and last year, the Eagles had three quarterbacks active in eight of 16 games. Some of that had to do with injuries to Vick and Vince Young though.

Running backs (4): LeSean McCoy, Dion Lewis, Bryce Brown, Stanley Havili.
Confidence level: 9

Havili made a move in the last preseason game with a nice 14-yard run, a decent lead block on McCoy’s touchdown and an outstanding special-teams tackle. The Eagles could still add a fullback once teams cut down their rosters, but Havili has the edge for now.

Brown flashed big-time vs. the Patriots with a 27-yard run up the middle. He’s shown upside, and the Eagles won’t be willing to let other teams have a shot at him. Brown can play special teams as a rookie, hone his skills and work to be a contributor down the road.

Lewis is still the favorite to spell McCoy or fill in if he gets injured. He knows the offense and has looked capable in blitz pick-up during the preseason.

I’m not seeing a spot for Polk. Brown has a clear edge over him as a runner at this point. The Eagles have some roster flexibility, and if they really like Polk, they could probably find a way to keep him. He could land on IR or the practice squad (only if another team doesn’t sign him).

Wide receivers (6): DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper, Damaris Johnson, Marvin McNutt.
Confidence level: 6

The first four names above are locks. After that, there’s some indecision.

I still am confident that Johnson makes it, but he’s dropped passes in each of the first two preseason games and fumbled a punt against New England. The Eagles need him to be reliable on special teams.

McNutt is a bit of a wild card. He’s shown nothing as a receiver in the first two preseason games, and it doesn’t look like he’d be able to contribute if the Eagles needed him offensively.

Then again, that sixth wide receiver is likely to be inactive on gamedays. If the Eagles saw enough potential in McNutt to draft him in April, the guess here is that they’ll hold on to him for now.

As for Chad Hall, friend of the blog Sam Lynch pointed out over at Iggles Blitz that he’s still practice-squad eligible. If Cooper isn’t ready to go in Week 1 (recovering from surgery for a fractured collarbone), perhaps Hall would get the nod over McNutt. But I don’t think he gives you enough as a fourth wide receiver to justify that spot.

Tight ends (2): Brent Celek, Clay Harbor.
Confidence level: 10

I don’t see it going any other way. The Eagles have no need for a third tight end, and neither Brett Brackett nor Chase Ford has stood out this summer.

Harbor, on the other hand, had a great camp, caught all six balls thrown his way Monday night and got in the end zone twice. He could see a bump in playing time in the regular season.

Offensive linemen (9): King Dunlap, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Danny Watkins, Todd Herremans, Demetress Bell, Julian Vandervelde, Dennis Kelly, Steve Vallos.
Confidence level: 4

Pretty much every day at training camp, Bo Wulf of would come up to me and make some type of Steve Vallos reference. “Look at that snap!” or “Great block by Vallos!” he’d say. Why? Because Wulf and Vallos share a bond as Wake Forest Demon Deacons, and apparently Bo has a lot of school pride.

Dallas Reynolds is still listed as the second-team center, but Vallos played there on Monday night and has started eight NFL games in his career. Right now, he gets the nod.

Given everything else that’s happened this preseason, the issue of offensive line depth has been largely ignored. I’m convinced the Eagles are going to make some moves here after teams cut their rosters to 53. We’ll get a look at Kelly Friday night, but if Bell isn’t good enough to start, chances are he’s not going to be reliable as a backup either.

Depth at guard and center is a major concern, especially considering that Kelce is taking on more responsibility this year with line calls. Reynolds and Mike Gibson are still in the mix, but my guess is those spots get filled with guys not currently on the roster.

By the way, if I had to wager right now on who the left tackle would be Week 1, my money’s on Dunlap.

Defensive linemen (11): Trent Cole, Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins, Fletcher Cox, Derek Landri, Brandon Graham, Darryl Tapp, Phillip Hunt, Vinny Curry, Cedric Thornton, Antonio Dixon.
Confidence level: 6

I strongly considered bumping Tapp and Dixon this week. Hunt is really coming on, and with Jenkins seeing snaps outside, Tapp is probably expendable. Dixon, meanwhile, just looks like a bad fit for Jim Washburn’s style and is showing very little as a pass rusher.

The problem? I didn’t really see anyone else on the roster worth keeping over either one of those guys. If the Eagles can get some kind of conditional pick in a trade for either Tapp or Dixon, I think they pull the trigger. If not, beef up the defensive line and cover yourself in case of injury. What are the odds all the defensive linemen in the rotation stay healthy from until Week 3 or 4? Not high.

Mike Patterson on PUP looks likely at this point. Reuben Frank of CSN Philly is reporting that Patterson’s already been ruled out for Week 1.

As for the rotation, the way things are currently constructed, Curry and either Dixon or Thornton would likely be inactive on gameday to start the season.

Linebackers (6): DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks, Brian Rolle, Jamar Chaney, Casey Matthews, Akeem Jordan.
Confidence level: 7

Good sign for the Eagles linebackers: The way Kendricks is playing, it seems likely that he and Ryans will stay on the field in nickel situations to start the season. That should lead to less shuffling of personnel and less confusion, specifically when opposing offenses go no-huddle.

As we’ve discussed, Jordan and Keenan Clayton are battling for the final spot. Jordan gets the nod because of special teams. If the Eagles really like Clayton (and there’s not a lot of evidence to suggest they do), he could make the team as a seventh linebacker, and they could keep one fewer defensive lineman.

Cornerbacks (5): Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Curtis Marsh, Brandon Boykin, Joselio Hanson.
Confidence level: 5

This is a tough one. Boykin is pushing Hanson for that nickel job. But can he do enough in the next eight days to snatch it away? Important game for him coming up on Friday.

If Boykin wins the job, I see no need to keep Hanson, considering he’s not a factor on the outside.

Brandon Hughes has a shot to sneak on if the Eagles want experience on the outside. As for Cliff Harris, not sure if he’s healthy. Don’t think he played at all vs. the Patriots. Unless the Eagles want to give him the 53rd spot and concede that he won’t play as a rookie, but could contribute down the line, I think he’ll be cut.

Safeties (4): Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman, Oshiomogho Atogwe, Jaiquawn Jarrett.
Confidence level: 5

This is another area where the Eagles very well could add a player off another team’s roster before the season starts.

I kept Jarrett off last week, but now Tom Nelson has a high ankle sprain, so the former second-round pick gets back on by default. Atogwe, meanwhile, didn’t play in Monday’s preseason game because of a hamstring injury. I have no clue at this point how effective he’d be if he had to go into a game. But again, not seeing other options here right now. Colt Anderson is not practicing yet and is still recovering from a torn ACL.

At the end of last season, I thought Coleman would have to hold off competition to remain a starter, but that hasn’t been the case. He and Allen, who played well vs. the Patriots, are clearly the first-team safeties.

Specialists (3): Alex Henery, Mat McBriar, Jon Dorenbos.
Confidence level: 8

Both McBriar and Chas Henry punted better Monday night. Still think it’s McBriar’s job to lose though.

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