Jordan Matthews is “a couple weeks away” from returning to the field because of his left knee soreness, Doug Pederson said Monday morning after practice. Matthews was hit in the knee by rookie Jalen Mills on Friday, which is when Zach Ertz was also hit low, which prompted the tight end to speak out about low hits delivered by young players. Read more »
The Eagles made plenty of changes during the offseason, especially on the defensive side. Gone are defensive coordinator Billy Davis, inside linebackers coach Rick Minter, and outside linebackers coach Bill McGovern. Along with new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz comes linebackers coach Ken Flajole, who arrives after three years as Cleveland’s inside linebackers coach.
Flajole, who decided to stay in the NFL after originally accepting the defensive coordinator position at UTEP in mid January, enters his 17th season as a coach in the league. He comes to an Eagles team which has gone through a big overhaul after firing Chip Kelly before the end of the 2015 season.
Between now and training camp, we’ll examine some of the key positions for the Eagles. Let’s start by looking at the linebacking corps:
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Mychal Kendricks‘ “Welcome To Philadelphia” moment came in the aftermath of a home loss a couple seasons back. He heard his name being howled from above the tunnel and against his better judgment, looked up as he was heading off the field.
“Some dude got my attention and he’s like, ‘Kendricks!’ — he was crying — ‘Kendricks! You ruined my liiiife!’ I mean bawling. He was drunk. ‘You ruined my life!’ I’m like, ‘Sh*t, I’m the sad one. We just lost a game.’ That was fairly intense.”
For Najee Goode, it was an attention-grabber of an entirely different variety.
“Man, going up to an autograph signing in 2013 and seeing a chick with body paint on her top half — Eagles body paint. I’m like, ‘These motherf*&%ers crazy,'” he said with a laugh. “I liked it though, but I was like, ‘Damn.'”
Dennis Kelly‘s came in the form of advice via the always civil world of social media.
“Somebody told me to jump off the Ben Franklin onto a bed of spikes through Twitter after a game,” he said. “That was a nice little [piece] of critical feedback.”
None of the dozen or so Eagles players polled by Birds 24/7 have had a similar experience to the one Ryan Howard went through at Citizens Bank Park last weekend when the slumping slugger had a beer bottle thrown at him on his way back to the dugout (though there are members of this coaching staff who would tell you that J.D. Drew isn’t the only one to have Duracells flung in his direction). Such incidents, though, can trigger an examination of the relationship between professional athletes in Philadelphia and the fans. Read more »
After a torn left pectoral tendon ended Jordan Hicks’ season last year, the second-year linebacker has been limited during offseason activities recently in OTAs and mandatory minicamp. This time, it’s a quad spasm bothering the 23-year-old who also suffered two season-ending injuries in college, but he says it’s nothing to worry about.
“It’s nothing serious, man. I’ve been through so much worse. We’re talking about a quad,” Hicks said. “I think, mainly, it happened from rehabbing (the torn pec) and really being a little light [in my preparation]. It limited me on what I did in the offseason. … I think just jumping right back into it full speed ahead was what kind of what (did it).” Read more »
For your mailbag question to be considered, complete the form at the bottom of this post.
Any dark horse players you see having a big year? Any front runners having a down year? -Frank H.
I’m very curious to see how Jordan Hicks plays this season. I don’t think he’ll play poorly, but I could see him disappointing people after his impressive six-game stretch last season when he started after Kiko Alonso went down during Week 2. I expect him to be a good linebacker for the Eagles long term, but he has very little experience and will have more on his shoulders as the guy who will register a huge number of snaps as the MIKE in Jim Schwartz’s 4-3. Read more »
Today’s question comes from reader Nilesh via email:
Why will the new wide 9 be better than previous wide 9?
The change in Mychal Kendricks is noticeable. He added 15 pounds of muscle to his frame this offseason, bumping up from his 2015 playing weight of 235 pounds to 250.
“I feel strong. I feel fast still. I’m a lot more stout than I was. I think you can tell — I’m pretty big right now,” said Kendricks. “I don’t know how I’ll feel hitting someone yet — I’m assuming I’ll feel realllly good.”
The decision to bulk up was his own, Kendricks told reporters last week. A big part of the motivation was tied to the different demands that will be presented in Jim Schwartz‘s scheme — which yes, has a fairly heavy Wide-9 element to it. A combination of how the defensive front lines up and (more importantly) how they are instructed to behave means Kendricks and the linebackers will be dealing with a number of unencumbered offensive linemen steamrolling to the second level.
“Initially [the d-linemen] are up the field so it’s not the same as it was last year — reading as opposed to the linemen getting upfield,” said Kendricks. “We may see more people in our face, which means we would have to be more physical, and I’m all for it.”
Mychal Kendricks has thought about whether signing his four-year, $29 million contract extension during the preseason last year had any impact on the decline in his performance. While he isn’t sure if it did, he has identified one reason he didn’t play as well.
“I just feel like it was too much hot and cold with all the players rotating in and out,” Kendricks said. “No one was able to get in the flow. It was odd. I didn’t feel like I played as good or as much. For the time I was in, I feel like my numbers were okay. But it’s hard to be a force or something to reckon with when you’re not on the field.”
The linebacker, who said it was difficult to sit back and play part-time last season, emphasized the importance of playing more to get into a rhythm. Read more »
We’ll wrap up our position-by-position look at where the Eagles stand going into the offseason this week. In the first seven installments, we covered the quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, offensive linemen, defensive linemen and safeties. Now, it’s on to the linebackers.
STATE OF THE ROSTER
The Eagles’ linebacking corps was one the team’s most disappointing position groups in 2015. Despite Jordan Hick’s impressive — albeit short — rookie season, Kiko Alonso and Mychal Kendricks both fell short of expectations. Read more »