Eagles Release Kenny Phillips, Jamar Chaney

Kenny PhillipsAdd two more names to the list of roster cuts: Kenny Phillips and Jamar Chaney.

Pro Football Talk and Adam Caplan were first with the reports, respectively.

The 26-year-old Phillips just hasn’t been able to get healthy. He had major surgery on his left knee back in 2009 and hasn’t been the same player since. Phillips also dealt with a right knee injury that sidelined him for nine games last year, and he’s been dealing with a quad issue in recent weeks.

He played in the first preseason game against New England, but has sat out the last two.

The Eagles did not include any guaranteed money in Phillips’ contract when they signed him back in the spring. They knew this move was a possibility, but were hoping he could get healthy and help solidify what has been a problem position over the last several years.

Now, they’ll have to look elsewhere.

Patrick Chung appears to have one of the starting spots locked up, but the other one is still up for grabs. Nate Allen is the favorite, but rookie Earl Wolff rotated in with him on the first team vs. Jacksonville.

The Eagles also have Kurt Coleman, Colt Anderson and David Sims on the roster. Anderson seems like a good bet to make the roster. Coleman is on the bubble, and Sims is likely a longshot.

***

Chaney, a seventh-round pick in 2010, started 23 games in three seasons, including five in 2012. In his first career start, he notched 16 tackles against the Giants as a rookie, but was not able to sustain that success.

Tweeted Chaney:

The Eagles have some spots open at inside linebacker. DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks are the starters. Undrafted free agent Jake Knott has a good chance to make the squad. Casey Matthews and Emmanuel Acho are on the bubble.

This is another position the Eagles could address once other teams make cuts.

The roster currently stands at 76. The Eagles need to make one more cut by Tuesday at 4 p.m.

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Eagles Lose LB Jason Phillips, Add Travis Long

Eagles linebacker Jason Phillips went down today with a torn ACL in his right knee and will miss the 2013 season.

The 27-year-old was added as a free agent this offseason, in large part for his special-teams prowess. Phillips led the Carolina Panthers last year with 16 special-teams tackles. Today’s injury occurred during a kickoff coverage drill.

Phillips figured to add depth behind DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks, but the Eagles will now have to look elsewhere for that.

The options on the roster are: Jamar Chaney, Casey MatthewsEmmanuel Acho and Jake Knott.

Matthews had 14 special-teams tackles last year and played for Kelly at Oregon. Chaney has experience (23 starts), but he’s squarely on the roster bubble.

Acho was acquired from the Browns in the Dion Lewis trade. He’s mixed in with the twos a little bit this week.

And Knott is a sleeper to watch. An undrafted free agent out of Iowa State, he has a legitimate shot of making the team with a strong camp and preseason.

Update: The Eagles have placed Phillips on injured reserve and added outside linebacker Travis Long. Long (6-4, 245) is an undrafted free agent out of Washington State.

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Eagles Depth Chart Outlook: Inside Linebackers

Philadelphia Eagles LB Mychal KendricksThis is the third in a series. Throughout the next week or two, we’ll take a position-by-position look at the Eagles’ roster. Click here for yesterday’s piece on the cornerbacks and here for a breakdown of the safeties.

Mike Triplett of the New Orleans Times Picayune provided a league-wide breakdown earlier this offseason to see how many teams used a 3-4 in 2012.

He found there were a total of 14 that ran a 3-4 or some kind of hybrid.

With the Eagles making the switch in 2013, it’s worth looking at the way those 3-4 teams constructed their rosters. And in the case of today’s post, how many linebackers they kept.

I took a look at all 14 rosters after initial cuts last summer and found that, on average, 3-4 teams kept 8.1 linebackers. The numbers ranged from as few as six (more “hybrid” teams) to as many as 10.

Today, we’ll tackle the Eagles’ inside linebackers and we’ll examine the outside LBs in the next post.

DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks should hold down the starting jobs. But there are certainly depth spots up for grabs.

The team signed Jason Phillips in free agency. They also traded for Emmanuel Acho and have Jamar Chaney and Casey Matthews returning from last year’s squad. The Eagles didn’t use a draft pick on an inside linebacker, but they did sign undrafted free agent Jake Knott out of Iowa State.

Here’s a look at the inside linebackers on the roster:

 
Height
Weight
Age
Years/Starts
Emmanuel Acho6-2240221/0
Jamar Chaney6-0242263/23
Mychal Kendricks6-0240221/14
Jake Knott6-2243220/0
Casey Matthews6-1240242/4
Jason Phillips6-1240274/2
DeMeco Ryans6-1247287/102

Pencil ‘em in: Ryans, Kendricks.

In 2012, the secondary was a mess, and the defensive line never got its act together. But Ryans quietly had a very productive year and brought stability to the middle of the Eagles’ defense. According to team stats, he finished with 115 solo tackles and 16 tackles for loss. No Eagles player under Andy Reid (14 years) had a higher total in either category.

Ryans wasn’t perfect. He had some issues in coverage, and even against the run later in the year. But overall, he was really good, playing 1,014 out of a possible 1,015 snaps in the Eagles’ final 15 games, according to Pro Football Focus. There are questions about how Ryans fits in a 3-4, but as I wrote earlier this offseason, I think he’s going to be just fine.

Kendricks isn’t the biggest guy and at times has trouble getting off blocks. But my guess is Chip Kelly and Billy Davis will appreciate what they have in him. The second-year player has a versatile skill set, with the ability to play the run and, more importantly, cover. In other words, he’s not someone you have to worry about taking off the field in sub packages, giving the Eagles an advantage when opposing offenses push tempo. The new scheme could play to Kendricks’ strength and allow him to run free and attack the ball-carrier.

Barring injury, it would be a slight upset if Ryans and Kendricks aren’t the team’s starting inside linebackers to start the season.

Fighting for spots: Phillips, Matthews, Chaney, Knott, Acho.

There are plenty of things to take into consideration here: depth, upside and special teams.

Phillips is a player the Eagles targeted and signed in free agency. He led the Panthers with 16 special-teams tackles last year. There’s still plenty of time between now and the start of the season, but he would seem to have a good shot of making the 53-man roster.

Matthews obviously has a history with Kelly from his days at Oregon, but more importantly, he showed some special-teams chops last year. Matthews finished fourth on the team in special-teams points, behind Colt Anderson, Alex Henery and Akeem Jordan. His 14 special-teams tackles were second to only Jordan. However, he hasn’t shown much as a backup linebacker on defense.

Chaney has the most experience on defense out of this group. He provides versatility, but has not been productive. He’ll have to find some way to impress the coaches this offseason to earn a spot.

Knott is a player to watch. He has good size (6-2, 243) and was a productive college player, earning All-Big 12 honors as a senior. He has dealt with a shoulder injury, but played special teams in college and has a chance to stick.

Not a lot to go by with Acho. He didn’t see any game action last year, and the Eagles acquired him from Cleveland in the Dion Lewis trade.

We don’t know how many inside linebackers the Eagles plan on keeping. If the number is four, the five players in this group will be fighting for two spots. And it’s not out of the question that the Eagles add a player or two in the coming months. Either way, there will be plenty of competition and jobs to be won or lost between now and the start of the season.

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All-22: What the ‘D’ Looked Like Without Washburn

From Mychal Kendricks to Fletcher Cox to Colt Anderson, here’s an All-22 look at what the Eagles’ defense looked like Sunday against the Bucs.

Play 1: Here’s what Jamar Chaney told Tim yesterday about the changes on the defensive line.

“It’s better for the linebackers. If you ask any linebacker what scheme or how they would want to do it, they would want the linemen to hold up the blocks and they go make the plays.”

And here, we see why Chaney said that. First, let’s take a look at the pre-snap alignment.


The Wide-9 lines the defensive end up outside the tight end. Here, you can see that’s not the case with Brandon Graham. Take a look at a photo of Jason Babin from a game earlier this season against the Giants to see the difference.


To be fair, the Eagles had not been lining up in the Wide-9 on every play, even with Jim Washburn still here. And it doesn’t appear to be completely dead, as you’ll see below.

On this play, you can see Chaney has no offensive linemen to deal with as he makes his way towards Doug Martin. Same for DeMeco Ryans.


Chaney does a good job finishing, as he and Nnamdi Asomugha tackle Martin after a 1-yard gain.


It should be noted that the Eagles were not getting gashed against the run this year. They were 13th in the league, allowing 4.1 yards per carry, going into this game. Martin ran for 128 yards in this game, averaging 4.6 yards per carry, although I thought the run defense held up pretty well.

The effect goes beyond the numbers though. The Eagles had been horrible in coverage the previous six games. Blown assignments, safeties with run responsibilities biting on play-action, etc. We’ll see if the change up front improves the pass defense in the final few games.

Play 2: Nice job here by the Eagles’ two second-round picks. Mychal Kendricks was moved to the WILL spot, and Vinny Curry got reps at right defensive end.


Kendricks blows up the play and helps force Martin back inside, while Curry hustles from the back side.


Curry finishes, dropping Martin for a 1-yard loss on 3rd-and-1.


Play 3: A couple things to note on this third-down play in the second. One, the Wide-9 is not completely dead. Look at where Trent Cole is lined up.


And two, there’s been a lot of discussion about what the Eagles’ secondary is going to look like in 2013. One question that needs to be answered: Can Brandon Boykin play outside? The rookie’s been mostly used inside this season. But against Tampa, the Eagles kept Asomugha (and Curtis Marsh when Asomugha was injured) on Vincent Jackson when Jackson moved to the slot.


Boykin fared well on this play (and in this game). A lot of teams are moving their No. 1 receivers inside at times to gain an advantage. We saw it with Calvin Johnson earlier this season. In the offseason, the Eagles have to decide whether Boykin is an every-down player who can play outside, or just a nickel corner.

Overall, the Eagles were much better in coverage, limiting Josh Freeman to 41.2 completions. In the previous six games, opposing quarterbacks were completing 76.3 percent of their passes against the Birds.

Play 4: Fletcher Cox can thank Marsh, Kendricks and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie for his second-quarter sack. Cox and Cole ran a stunt up front.


It didn’t result in immediate pressure on Freeman. Here you can see he’s got a pretty nice pocket actually.

But the Eagles’ coverage on the back end was outstanding.


And Cox did away with left tackle Donald Penn.

Play 5: Many of you have asked about Colt Anderson. In coverage, the Eagles parked him deep on many passing plays and didn’t ask him to do too much. Against the run, when he avoided blockers, he showed could make plays at or behind the line of scrimmage. But if an offensive player gets a hand on him, he has to prove he can still be effective.

For example, in the fourth, Anderson made a nice read on a Martin run.


Cullen Jenkins did a nice job disrupting the play, and you’ll notice Graham is not caught upfield. Anderson flies in and stops Martin for no gain.


But later in the game, on Martin’s touchdown run, Jackson gets to Anderson and provides a key block for the score.


Kurt Coleman is unlikely to play Thursday night so Anderson should get another shot.

Other notes:

* Kendricks really played well. He was active throughout, totaling seven tackles (according to team stats) and playing well in coverage too.

* Rodgers-Cromartie played one of his best games in a long time.

* Credit to Asomugha for fighting through the injury, but he gave up too many plays in coverage.

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Linebackers Not Mourning Death Of the Wide-9

 Mychal Kendricks was asked how the change up front from Jim Washburn‘s Wide-9 to Tommy Brasher‘s more traditional scheme impacted what he was doing on Sunday.

The rookie linebacker paused a beat, gave a quick laugh, then turned to Jamar Chaney and said, “Should I answer that?”

He already had.

The linebackers (minus DeMeco Ryans, who always has his poker face on) couldn’t hide their relief. Their jobs had just gotten a good deal easier.

“It’s better for the linebackers,” Chaney admitted. “If you ask any linebacker what scheme or how they would want to do it, they would want the linemen to hold up the blocks and they go make the plays.”

Chaney explained that the defensive linemen are now maintaining their position in their gaps — thereby occupying offensive linemen longer — and reading the play before reacting. In Washburn’s design?

“There is no read. With this right now, they read the blocks. It’s probably harder for the d-line but it’s easier for the linebackers. It’s harder for them because they have been playing the Wide-9 and they have to make the adjustment, but it’s probably easier for the linebackers because everything will get more clear. Not saying that linemen aren’t going to get up on us, but they probably aren’t going to get up on us as fast. It just clears out everything.”

Members of the defensive front did not seem to be too put off by the switch, though it will certainly take some getting used to after having the old methods drilled into their heads day after day for months.

“Firing off every single play like it’s a passing down, Coach Tommy really doesn’t like that,” said rookie defensive end Vinny Curry. “So we just had to change a little bit here and tweak things a little bit there.”

Meanwhile, the positive effects seem to have extended into the secondary.

Colt Anderson, subbing at safety for the injured Kurt Coleman, said that the safeties benefit much in the same way as the linebackers when it comes to defensing the run, and that there is “a little less stress” when it comes to defending the pass.

One of the keys to the Eagles’ win Sunday was their ability to limit the big play. As you know, this defense has been suffering major breakdowns on a regular basis that have resulted in momentum-changing sequences . Against the Bucs they allowed three plays of 20 or more yards (all at the hands of Vincent Jackson), none of which went for touchdowns. The first Tampa TD came after a muffed punt that set them up at the five. The other two scoring drives took a combined 20 plays and almost 10 minutes of game clock to execute.

Things were tighter, and the change up front could be part of the reason why.

“Yeah, it helps,” said Chaney. “You know exactly where the D-lineman are going to be at all times, put it like that.”

Or, as Kendricks put it: “I didn’t have as many linemen in my face, so that’s always good.”

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Instant Observations: Eagles 23, Bucs 21

Here are my instant observations from the Eagles’ 23-21 win over the Bucs.

OFFENSE

* Nick Foles is going to win some people over with this performance. With 2:44 left in the fourth quarter, Foles drove the Eagles 64 yards and threw the game-winning score to Jeremy Maclin from 1 yard out. It was the Birds’ first win in nine games. The Eagles faced a 4th-and-5 on the drive, and Foles hit Jason Avant for 22 yards. The offense rushed to the line of scrimmage and spiked the ball with two seconds left before the touchdown. Foles also hit Maclin for 23 yards on a 3rd-and-14 on the drive.

* Overall, Foles went 32-for-51 for 381 yards and three touchdowns (one rushing). Avant had seven catches for 133 yards. Maclin had nine receptions for 104 yards.

* Foles was sacked six times. He had only been sacked twice in the previous two games. The offensive line had trouble with Tampa’s stunts up front. King Dunlap struggled. It looked like he was responsible for two of the sacks. Dennis Kelly gave up a sack to Michael Bennett on the Eagles’ final drive.

* Foles made a beautiful throw to Maclin for 22 yards in the fourth. And he did a great job of escaping pressure and finding Avant for 39 yards down the right sideline late in the first half. On his first touchdown pass in the fourth, Foles scrambled to his right and threw on-target to Clay Harbor from 11 yards out.

* Bryce Brown couldn’t get anything going on the ground. He tried to get outside all game long and had no success, finishing with 6 yards on 12 carries. Brown had averaged 8.1 yards per carry in the previous two games.

* Avant made one of the best catches you’ll see all year, leaping into the air and coming down with a one-handed grab near the sideline to beat the blitz in the second.

* Foles appeared to have Marvin McNutt open deep in the first quarter, but he overthrew him. Former Eagles third-round pick Daniel Te’o-Nesheim pressured Foles on the play. Te’o-Nesheim later had a sack.

* Brent Celek was knocked out of the game with a concussion on the Eagles’ first offensive play from scrimmage.

* Alex Henery crushed a 58-yard field goal at the end of the first half, but it hit the left post and was no good. In the second half, he missed a 31-yarder.

* Special teams was unkind to the Eagles once again. Damaris Johnson muffed a third-quarter punt, leading to the Bucs’ first touchdown. They also gave up a 30-yard punt return.

* Maclin fumbled a WR screen in the third, but the refs blew the whistle early and ruled it incomplete.

DEFENSE

* It was a tale of two halves for the defense. In the first, the Eagles shut the Bucs out and limited Josh Freeman to 5-for-16 on 61 yards. The defense gave up just 79 yards through two quarters. They were handed horrible field position (the 5-yard-line) in the third, but then allowed touchdown drives of 77 and 75 yards, respectively. Freeman finished 14-for-34 for 189 yards and a pair of scores. Opposing quarterbacks had been completing 76.3 percent of their passes against the Eagles in the previous six games, but Freeman completed just 41.2 percent of his attempts.

* Doug Martin ran 28 times for 128 yards, averaging 4.6 yards per carry.

* The Eagles switched up their starting linebackers. Jamar Chaney got the start at SAM, and Mychal Kendricks moved over to WILL, replacing Akeem Jordan. Kendricks had a tackle for loss after a completion behind the line of scrimmage in the first. And he nearly had a couple interceptions. Chaney had an early tackle against the run and broke up a pass intended for the tight end.

* The Eagles gave up a 13-yard touchdown to Vincent Jackson in the fourth. Horrible tackling attempt by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on the play. Rodgers-Cromartie otherwise played one of his best games of the season.

* Nnamdi Asomugha did not play well. He got beaten by Mike Williams for a 1-yard touchdown in the first and later gave up a completions of 28 and 40 yards, respectively. Asomugha made a nice play breaking up a pass intended for Dallas Clark in the first half, but landed hard and was slow to get up. He went to the locker room and was replaced by Curtis Marsh before returning.

* Did you notice Dick Stockton twice saying that Gangnam Style had taken the world by storm as the camera showed a kid doing the Dougie? That was my favorite part of the first half – by far.

* Fletcher Cox dropped Martin for a 6-yard loss on a screen in the second quarter. Cox sacked Freeman late in the first half. He also had another tackle for loss and a QB hit.

* Nice play by Marsh, breaking up a deep ball for Williams down the far sideline late in the first half.

* John Lynch called out Rodgers-Cromartie and Asomugha for their lack of effort last week against the Cowboys.

* Ryan Rau was active and made a tackle in kickoff coverage in the second.

* Cullen Jenkins had a sack late in the first half after Brandon Graham pressured Freeman.

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Making Sense Of the Eagles’ Inactives

Philadelphia Eagles right guard Danny Watkins.The following Eagles are inactive for today’s 1 p.m. game against the Falcons: Trent Edwards, Damaris Johnson, Dion Lewis, Jamar Chaney, Danny Watkins, Nate Menkin and Vinny Curry.

The inactives are the same as a couple weeks ago against the Lions, except for Watkins (Steve Vallos didn’t dress in that game).

Starting in Watkins’ place is 6-8 rookie Dennis Kelly. Watkins missed practice on Thursday and Friday with an ankle injury that Andy Reid described as “chronic.”

“Danny has kind of a chronic ankle and he has had it for years,” Reid said after Friday’s practice. “He disturbed it in the last game and he thought it would be fine, and it didn’t work out. He came back Monday and practiced, Wednesday he practiced and he just didn’t feel right. So back him up and let the thing settle down.”

The backups on the offensive line are also worth mentioning. Demetress Bell, who started the previous four games, is your swing tackle. King Dunlap gets the start at LT. And Matt Tennant, whom the team just signed last week, is the backup guard/center.

Elsewhere offensively, Lewis continues to be an inactive. He’s only dressed for one game this season. Johnson is inactive for the second straight game. Riley Cooper will be the team’s fourth wide receiver. Mardy Gilyard and DeSean Jackson will handle punt-return duties.

On the defensive side of the ball, Phillip Hunt was questionable, but he’ll play. There was a chance that rookie second-round pick Vinny Curry would dress for the first time this season, but that won’t happen.

Be sure to join me and Tim for a live chat during the game at 1 p.m.

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Linebacker Watch: ‘Change Can Be Good’

Philadelphia Eagles LB DeMeco Ryans.Mychal Kendricks may be a rookie, but he has dealt with a coordinator switch before. Following his sophomore year at Cal, Clancy Pendergst came from the NFL ranks and replaced Bob Gregory as defensive coordinator.

The result?

“We balled out,” said Kendricks. “I think we were first in the Pac 12 as far as defense. We were first in sacks, and might have been second or third in picks.

“Change can be good.”

That seems to be the sentiment in the Eagles’ locker room overall, and within the linebacker corps in particular. There remains a sense that this defense will not be overhauled now that Todd Bowles has replaced Juan Castillo, but there will definitely be some differences. Jamar Chaney echoed what Casey Matthews said a couple days ago: that Bowles believes this ‘D’ had become far too predictable. Expect some more exotic looks and yes, some more blitzing.

“He is going to bring it all,” said Chaney. “The main thing is he doesn’t want the offense to know exactly what we’re going to do. If they make plays, he doesn’t want it to be because they know what we’re doing. He wants it to be so when it’s fourth quarter time, the Eagles still have a lot of stuff they can still throw at you so you still don’t know what we’re doing.

“It’s hard to beat teams, especially the Steelers — they’ve got Ben Roethlisberger — and the Falcons with Matt Ryan, you can’t beat quarterbacks like that if they know what you’re doing. This is a quarterback-driven league and you have to change it up on those guys. The good defenses do a good job of disguising things, and that’s something that we have to do better on defense.”

The model will also be tweaked to ensure each individual’s strengths are being properly utilized, according to DeMeco Ryans.

“That’s what you do: As a coach, you put your players in the best position to make plays,” said Ryans. “With Todd taking over, I can see his mindset and what he’s doing, that’s the approach he’s taking. And I feel like that will be a good approach for us.”

Bowles is laid-back by all accounts so you won’t see, for instance, him head-butting one of his linebackers like Castillo did. But that doesn’t mean he won’t challenge the players.

“He’ll tell you, ‘You can either be satisfied just being paid, or you can go out here and try and win a Super Bowl. It’s up to you. I’m not going to get up here and try to motivate you to do that. That’s something you’ve got to do”” said Chaney. “That’s the kind of guy he is.”

 

‘Shocked’ Players React To Castillo Firing

Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Jamar Chaney.Jamar Chaney said the news trickled in through the media. Since it’s the bye week, there was no phone call placed or text sent from the team brass. Just a headline on SportsCenter announcing that Juan Castillo had been fired as defensive coordinator and had been replaced by Todd Bowles.

“I was shocked,” Chaney told Birds 24/7. “Our defense was playing better than it was last year.

“We had some really good games – against the Browns, the Ravens and Giants. The Ravens and Giant are considered some of the best teams in the league.”

The defense had yielded two fourth-quarter leads in as many weeks, however, and Andy Reid deemed the unit was not playing up to its abilities.

“We’re six games into the season and average isn’t good enough,” said Reid. “I know the potential of our team and insist on maximizing it.”

Bowles is highly-regarded among the defensive backs and has the respect of the defense as a whole. The other position players haven’t interacted with Bowles as much as the cornerbacks and safeties have, but the general sense is that he is well thought of in the locker room.

“I talk to him every now and then. I know he is a good defensive mind,” said Chaney. “He has a good background and knows what he’s talking about based on my interactions with him.”

Chaney said that Reid delivered a similar message to the players that he did to the media on Monday: that everyone was being evaluated and changes could be coming. The players were told to spend the bye week evaluating themselves as well.

Here are some players, past and present, reacting to the move.

Making Sense Of the Eagles’ Inactives

The following Eagles are inactive for today’s 1 p.m. game against the Lions: Trent Edwards, Damaris Johnson, Dion Lewis, Jamar Chaney, Steve Vallos, Nate Menkin and Vinny Curry.

Johnson’s out, and Riley Cooper will be active for the first time all season. Cooper suffered a fractured collarbone during training camp. He’ll be the team’s fourth wide receiver and contribute on special teams.

The other notable part about Johnson sitting is that it opens up the punt returner spot. It seems likely that DeSean Jackson would be back there, something that Bobby April talked about earlier this weekMardy Gilard could get a shot too. Johnson had fielded nine fair catches and failed to notch a return longer than 13 yards in the first five games.

At running back, Lewis is inactive after dressing for the first time all year against the Steelers. Taking his place on the gameday roster will be Chris Polk, who was active for the first four games before sitting against Pittsburgh.

On the offensive line, Vallos is once again inactive, meaning Evan Mathis is your backup center should Dallas Reynolds go down. Dennis Kelly and King Dunlap are the team’s backup linemen. Both are tackles, but each has played guard in the past.

On the defensive side of the ball, Chaney is inactive for the first time in two seasons. Chaney started the last two games for Akeem Jordan, but Jordan returns today at the WILL spot. Jason Williams, whom the team signed during the week to play special teams, is active.

No other surprises on the defensive side of the ball. Curry, a second-round pick, has yet to dress this season.

As for the Lions, they’ll get safety Louis Delmas back for the first time all season. Defensive end Cliff Avril, who was listed as questionable, will also dress.

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