Fletcher Cox Fined; Rolle Gets A Workout

The good news is that Fletcher Cox has not been suspended as a result of his actions during the Lions game. The bad news — for him — is that the rookie is getting hit in the wallet.

After review of the incident last week, Cox has been fined $21,000 for throwing a punch in the fourth quarter against Detroit following a Lions extra point.

“I got caught,” Cox said last week. “He threw a few punches but I retaliated and was the one that got caught. I talked to my agent and he didn’t think it was bad enough to get suspended but I will get fined for it, we know that.”

He was right.

In other news, former Eagles linebacker Brian Rolle had a workout with the Panthers on Tuesday, according to a source.

Rolle was released on October 2 and was replaced by linebacker Adrian Moten, who is no longer with the team. A sixth-round pick in 2011, Rolle started 13 games in his rookie campaign and ended with 42 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble return for a touchdown. The decision to release him was in part motivated by the desire to improve special teams.

Former Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott is the DC for Carolina.

Howie Roseman Talks Rolle, Fletcher Cox

Howie Roseman explained the move to cut Brian Rolle and sign linebacker Adrian Moten during his hit on the Eagles website Tuesday.

“Well we’ve got to improve on special teams,” said Roseman. “Our backup players — Jamar Chaney right now is our backup WILL linebacker behind Akeem Jordan — so those other roster spots have to play well on special teams. We’re looking for an upgrade in that area. Adrian came in last year and played well on special teams, played well for us during the preseason for us on special teams, and we’re looking for improvement in that area.”

Roseman said that being good on special teams is all about a mentality, and has seen plenty of good players over the years who didn’t want to commit to that part of the game.

“You’re talking about guys that were stars in college, have always been starters, and now it’s a different mentality,” said Roseman, who was speaking in general terms. “When they are in college or even when they are in the early part of their careers they think of it almost as a punishment as opposed to a way they can make an impact on the football team.”

David Wilson averaged 36 yards per kick return against the Eagles Sunday night. Andy Reid has made it known multiple times already this week that the special teams’ performance was unacceptable. His actions prove just how serious he was about it.

Roseman also spoke about the impact that rookie defensive tackle Fletcher Cox has made in his first four games with the Eagles.

“He’s making a difference, both in the run and the pass game,” said Roseman. “He can push the pocket, he can get off the ball, he can win on the edges of the offensive alignment. The numbers may not always be there because quarterbacks are stepping up in terms of sacks, but he is making a huge difference.”

Cox has 18 tackles (one for a loss), a sack and seven QB hurries through four games.

LB Review: Kendricks An Unsung Hero

Philadelphia Eagles LB Mychal KendricksIt was an up-an-down day the for linebackers Sunday against the Giants. That is particularly true for DeMeco Ryans. 

Here’s the player-by-player breakdown of the ‘backers, after re-watching the game.

Jamar Chaney

Chaney got the start at weakside linebacker for the injured Akeem Jordan and was on the field for a total of 30 snaps, or 44 percent of the time. Overall he appeared to have a solid outing. On the Giants’ first offensive series Chaney got penetration and dropped Andre Brown for no gain. Later in the quarter he made a good read on a Henry Hynoski run and came up with the tackle after a four-yard advance. There were times when Chaney couldn’t get off his block. However, he didn’t give up any backbreaking plays, and acquitted himself fairly well in both run and pass defense.

Mychal Kendricks

Kendricks played all but three snaps against the Giants. He got beat by Martellus Bennett along the right side in the first quarter and then failed to bring the big tight end down, resulting in a long catch and run that was negated by a holding penalty. The rookie was left alone on Victor Cruz early in the second, and stood no chance. Cruz picked up 13 yards on the play. Kendricks had a nice one-on-one tackle on Hynoski in the flat on a third-quarter swing pass that went nowhere.

Some of his best work came late in the game. With the Giants facing a 2nd-and-10 on their own 35 on the their final drive of the game, Eli Manning got a low snap from center David Baas and had trouble pulling it in. Kendricks recognized this and left his defender to rush the quarterback. Manning was forced to throw it away.

His biggest play of the night went largely unnoticed. On the Giants’ last play before attempting the 54-yard field goal, Manning rolled right and threw into double-coverage deep along the sideline. That’s because his closer option, Bennett, was blanketed by Kendricks. Bennett actually stayed in to chip before breaking out on the route, and Kendricks read it perfectly.

DeMeco Ryans

Ryans played all 68 snaps Sunday night. The veteran middle linebacker was strong against the run. He bottled up Ahmad Bradshaw for a short gain early in the second and was routinely around the ball.  On a 3rd-and-4 midway through second, Ryans came unblocked on a blitz and  forced Manning to throw it away.

It was not Ryans’ finest night in pass defense. He was in the area for Cruz’s 14-yard TD reception in the third.  As Cris Collinsworth pointed out, the scheme was designed to trick Manning into thinking he had a one-on-one matchup between Cruz and Brandon Boykin, when in reality Ryans was setting a trap. He did not get to the proper space in time, however, and Manning fired a quick pass between the two defenders for the score.

He was also the closest defender to Bear Pascoe on the tight end’s six-yard touchdown. Ryans vacated the middle to go to Bennett, who was already covered by Nate Allen. Manning found the open receiver once again.

 Brian Rolle

Rolle was one of several Eagles to have a rough night on kick return coverage, as he got swallowed up by New York blockers on a couple occasions. He was released on Tuesday.

Eagles Release Brian Rolle

Brian Rolle got a call from an unknown “215″  number this morning, and immediately took it as a bad sign.

“I thought, I guess I’m getting released. If its a ’215′ number and I don’t have it, that can’t be good,” Rolle told Birds 24/7.

The call was from head coach Andy Reid, telling Rolle that he had in fact  been cut.

“I’m surprised to say the least,” said Rolle. “I felt like there’s been tension the last couple weeks there anyway. I’m at a loss for words. It’s crazy but I know I’ll get an opportunity somewhere else. I know I did everything in my power and played hard, and obviously it was not enough. Wherever I end up, there’s going to be hell.”

Taking Rolle’s place on the roster is linebacker Adrian Moten, the 24-year-old out of Maryland who was with the team during training camp. The Eagles also signed offensive lineman Julian Vandervelde back to the practice squad and released longsnapper Kyle Nelson.

Rolle, a sixth-round pick in 2011, started 13 games in his rookie campaign and ended with 42 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble return for a touchdown. The linebacker position got bolstered in the offseason with the additions of  DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks. Rolle was in the mix for the starting weakside linebacker spot but that job ultimately went to Akeem Jordan. With Jordan sidelined against the Giants because of a hamstring injury, Jamar Chaney got the call at WILL.

Rolle said he felt under-appreciated this season.

“I felt like I didn’t get the chance. People saw how productive I was last year. Why I am I not in there this year?” he said.

“I was one of the most productive guys last year. Wherever I get an opportunity I’m going to prove to them that I should have stayed there. I’m not going to bad talk the organization, it is a wonderful organization. At the end of the day it’s football and I can’t let it get to me.”

According to a source, special teams play was a big factor in this decision. Reid was clearly irked by the shoddy kick return coverage against New York.

“Special teams-wise, we’ve got some work to do on the kickoff coverage and kickoff return units. There’s no reason we should be playing like we are in those spots,” said Reid. “Had an opportunity to go through that with [special teams coordinator] Bobby [April] [Monday] morning and we’ve just got to straighten a few things up there. So, we’ll go about working on that this week.”

 

 

Chaney Gets Nod Over Rolle At LB

Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Jamar ChaneyWith Akeem Jordan nursing a hamstring injury, Jamar Chaney will get the start at WILL linebacker Sunday night, according to Reuben Frank of CSNPhilly.com.

When Jordan went out last week against the Cardinals, Brian Rolle replaced him. But Chaney will get the nod against the Giants.

The Eagles have been in their base defense about 45 percent of the time through the first three weeks. Before the season started, Juan Castillo speculated that we could see the linebackers rotate quite a bit, but that hasn’t been the case. DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks have been three-down players, and that will continue as long as they’re healthy.

The Giants, meanwhile, have gone with at least three wide receivers on 58.9 percent of their offensive snaps. Those are the plays where Brandon Boykin will come in and Chaney will head to the sidelines.

A 16-game starter in 2011, Chaney has played just one defensive snap through three games. Jordan has been OK so far, but the truth is, if Chaney plays particularly well, he has a chance to hold on to the job.

INJURY REPORT

The following players did not practice today: safety Colt Anderson (knee); long-snapper Jon Dorenbos (ankle); left tackle King Dunlap (hamstring); and Jordan (hamstring).

Everyone else, including Jeremy Maclin , Riley Cooper and Fletcher Cox, was listed as a full participant.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.

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.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.

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.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.

Eagles Wake-Up Call: A Look At the 2011 Draft Class

General consensus seems to be that you should wait at least three years before evaluating a draft class.

But considering the Eagles released their 2011 second-round pick, Jaiquawn Jarrett, yesterday, now seems like a good time to at least assess how each of the team’s 11 picks is doing.

Danny Watkins (1st round, 23rd overall): It took him awhile to get on the field as a rookie. The Eagles started journeyman Kyle DeVan over Watkins for four games last season. When he did get on the field, Watkins produced mixed results and probably had more struggles in pass protection than any of the four other linemen. The offseason was supposed to really help him, but Watkins had issues in the opener. It was only one game, but the expectation is for him to at least develop into a reliable, above-average starter in 2012.

Jaiquawn Jarrett (2nd round, 54th overall): As I mentioned yesterday, most draft analysts thought Jarrett was a good prospect coming out of Temple. Last year, at one point, the Eagles thought Jarrad Page was a better option at safety. Jarrett didn’t get onto the field until the starters ahead of him went down with injuries. This offseason, the coaches never publicly voiced that Jarrett was showing great improvement. At no point was he in contention for a starting job, and Jarrett had a terrible first preseason game, filling in for Nate Allen. Think about this: The team has decided that David Sims – someone whom the Browns were ready to release, and someone who has never played an NFL snap – is a better option right now than Jarrett, who has been working with Eagles coaches for the past 14 months. In other words, if they saw any signs that Jarrett was getting it, they would have kept him. Instead, he is gone.

Curtis Marsh (3rd round, 90th overall): He’s largely an unknown, but the potential appears to be there with Marsh. When healthy, he’ll be the team’s primary backup at left and right cornerback. Marsh had a strong preseason, and if either Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie or Nnamdi Asomugha isn’t back with the team in 2013, he’ll get a chance to start. If both guys are back, Marsh will continue to get a chance to be the first backup.

Casey Matthews (4th round, 116th overall): Given that the Eagles didn’t feel like Watkins or Jarrett were ready to start last season, I’m not sure why they decided Matthews would be just fine as the team’s middle linebacker. We all know how that experiment turned out. On the flip side, Matthews kept working, and by the end of the season, he was flashing his potential in sub packages. He’s battled injuries this summer and was only used on special teams in Week 1, but Matthews could see a more prominent role at some point in 2012.

Alex Henery (4th round, 120th overall): Not sure exactly what to make of Henery at this point. Let’s just see how this season shakes out.

Dion Lewis (5th round, 149th overall): Didn’t get much of a chance to play as a rookie. And now when he gets healthy, he’ll have to hold off Bryce Brown as LeSean McCoy’s backup. Chris Polk is on the roster too. Lewis had a good summer and looked like he could be a playmaker in the screen game. If the coaches are serious about getting McCoy some rest this season, Lewis will get a shot to prove himself.

Julian Vandervelde (5th round, 161st overall): He had a poor preseason, was let go and landed on the Bucs’ practice squad. The Eagles are thin at guard/center, and it says something that they went with perennial practice-squad guy Dallas Reynolds over Vandervelde. Reynolds’ comfort level at center clearly gave him the edge to be Jason Kelce’s backup.

Jason Kelce (6th round, 191st overall): Right now, you’d have to say he’s the best of this class. Kelce started from Week 1 last year and showed steady improvement as a rookie. He’s been given more responsibility in terms of pre-snap calls this season and was excellent as a run blocker against the Browns. He still needs to improve, but has flashed potential. The expectation is for Kelce to be the team’s center for years to come.

Brian Rolle (6th round, 193rd overall): He played WILL as a rookie, and while Rolle made mistakes and missed tackles, he also looked like a playmaker. But a couple weeks ago, he lost the starting job to Akeem Jordan and was a special-teams player in Week 1. Chances are the Eagles will shuffle up the linebacker situation at some point in the coming weeks and months, so look for Rolle to get another chance for playing time.

Greg Lloyd (7th round, 237th overall): He was dealt to the Colts during training camp.

Stanley Havili (7th round, 240th overall): He’s probably the sleeper of the group. Havili spent 2011 on the practice squad, but had a strong summer and won the fullback job. The question with Havili has been whether he can hold up as a lead blocker, but he looked pretty good in that aspect Sunday. His ceiling is definitely higher now than it was a month ago.

WHAT YOU MISSED

As I mentioned above, the Eagles let Jarrett go and signed wide receiver Mardy Gilyard. T-Mac’s got details.

Back when Jarrett was drafted, most analysts thought he was a good prospect.

I knocked out a series of game reviews. The first focused on how the Eagles used Nnamdi Asomugha and the defensive backs. The second detailed strong outings from DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks. And the third was about the defensive line, which was led by Jason Babin. For all the Eagles game reviews from Week 1, click here.

And finally, in case you missed the debut of Birds 24/7 Radio on 97.5 The Fanatic, it’s available for download on iTunes.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

The Ravens took care of the Bengals Monday night. Some interesting notes on their performance from Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun:

The Ravens went no-huddle on 21 of 58 snaps, an indicator it’s no passing fancy. They were in the shotgun 15 times. Tight end Dennis Pitta, who had a career-high 73 receiving yards, was on the field for 44 plays while Ed Dickson played 39 snaps. Often in double-tight-end formations and three-wide-receiver looks. Left guard Ramon Harewood and rookie right tackle Kelechi Osemele never left the field and held up solidly in starting debuts.

The no-huddle note is of particular interest, considering how the Eagles like to rotate defensive linemen in and out of the game.

Good job by DeSean Jackson spending 9/11 at Fort Dix and donating $50,000 to the Wounded Warrior Project. CSNPhilly.com has video detailing Jackson’s off day.

Tommy Lawlor’s detailed game review over on IgglesBlitz.com is always worth a read. On Michael Vick:

My biggest issue with him is that he made poor decisions and/or played slow. Guys would come open, Vick would see them, and then he’d throw the ball. By that time, defenders would either have the player covered or would be on the way. If this was 2009, I’d understand. Vick started 25 games over the last 2 years. He is a veteran QB. You must anticipate plays and throw the ball when the player is about to be open or is just coming open. You cannot wait until he is wide open and then throw. That’s too late.

And finally, Tim wrote yesterday about Vick being mic’d up Sunday. The footage he mentioned is now on YouTube so I embedded it below.

COMING UP

The Eagles are back at Novacare to get ready for Sunday’s home opener against the Ravens. Andy Reid meets with the media, and we’ll also hear from players. By the way, the Eagles are 3-point favorites in this matchup. The game will be broadcast on CBS at 1 p.m. Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf have the call.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.

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.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.

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.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.

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