Wake-Up Call: Dark Horses And Disappointments

Leodis McKelvin. (Jeff Fusco)

Leodis McKelvin. (Jeff Fusco)

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 »

Eagles Wake-Up Call: On the Wide-9 Fears

USA TODAY Sports

USA TODAY Sports

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.”

Read more »

Mychal Kendricks: Last Year’s Rotation Was ‘Odd’

Mychal Kendricks. (Jeff Fusco)

Mychal Kendricks. (Jeff Fusco)

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 »

Eagles Wake-Up Call: Linebacker Outlook

DeMeco Ryans and Jordan Hicks. (Jeff Fusco)

DeMeco Ryans and Jordan Hicks. (Jeff Fusco)

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 »

Joyner: Linebacker Is My Greatest Concern

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Back in the summer of 2011, a group of Eagles linebackers were gathered together on the sideline of a New Jersey community football field. With Jeremy Maclin‘s annual summer camp taking place a stone’s throw away, the trio enthusiastically discussed the ‘Wide 9’ attack that was on its way to Philly as they looked on.

There was excitement over what promised to be an aggressive, pin-your-ears back style of defense that allowed players — and the defensive linemen in particular — to just let it rip. But the celebration was short-lived. As they processed the thought, a potential design flaw struck one of the members of the group, who vocalized his concerns.

“If they’re living in the backfield, though, that means a lot of room between us and them, and a lot more linemen in our face,” one said. Read more »

Eagles Sign Najee Goode To One-Year Deal

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

The Eagles announced Wednesday the signing of linebacker Najee Goode to a one-year deal.

Details of the deal were not disclosed.

After missing the 2014 season with a pectoral injury, Goode was a special teams contributor during the 2015 season, including scoring a 24-yard touchdown on the Chris Maragos-blocked punt in the Eagles’ 35-28 win over the Patriots. It was the second-longest punt return touchdown in team history.

Read more »

Eagles Roster Analysis: Defense

Fletcher Cox. (Jeff Fusco)

Fletcher Cox. (Jeff Fusco)

As the Eagles begin their search for a new head coach, candidates will care about the franchise’s new power structure, what kind of owner Jeffrey Lurie is, and what the city of Philadelphia is like. But what they’ll really want to know about is the talent on the roster and the salary cap situation.

Adam broke down the offense, and I’m taking a look at the defense. The position guys play could change based off the scheme the new head coach implements, but we’ll categorize players by where they fit in Billy Davis’s 3-4.

(All contract information is via Spotrac, including the 2016 dead cap numbers.) Read more »

Eagles-Cardinals, The Day After

Photo by: Jeff Fusco

Photo by: Jeff Fusco

Billy Davis counted five from his perch up in the coaches box.

He didn’t point them out one by one, but the replay shows it all. There was Walter Thurmond at the point of attack; Jaylen Watkins and Malcolm Jenkins simultaneously bouncing off the ball-carrier a few yards upfield; Ed Reynolds along the sideline; and the final line of defense, E.J. Biggers, getting hit with a stiff arm before falling off the rookie and out of bounds.

“It was awful,” said Davis of the mishaps along the way during David Johnson‘s 47-yard touchdown scamper.
Read more »

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