Since 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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