Eagles Make First LB Shuffle

Jamar Chaney didn’t find out until he got to the practice field Thursday morning for the Eagles’ walk-through.

But when Juan Castillo asked for the first-team nickel defense, Chaney was the man called on to go in alongside DeMeco Ryans.

Up until today, Brian Rolle had been occupying that spot at Lehigh. And in the spring, it was rookie Mychal Kendricks.

“I don’t know what’s going on,” Chaney said, when I asked him if he expected to be part of that package for the next few days. “I just do what they tell me to do. Whether I’m out there with the twos or the ones, I just go out there and do my best. My job is just to make the decision hard on them.”

While a lot of the focus is often on the starters, the Eagles were in nickel for nearly half their defensive snaps in 2011. And for much of last season (the first 13 weeks), Chaney was a three-down linebacker. But he only played about 47 percent of the defensive snaps in Weeks 14-16, according to Pro Football Focus.

One area where the Eagles struggled was in coverage against opposing running backs, where they ranked 29th, according to Football Outsiders.

“We’re going against LeSean McCoy and Dion Lewis. There ain’t too many receiving running backs that can get out in routes and can move like they can when they know it’s man-to-man coverage out there on a linebacker,” Chaney said. “So getting that work against those two guys right there is really good for us at training camp.”

Right now, Ryans appears to be the only linebacker staying on the field for all three downs. The Eagles’ base defense has Ryans in the middle, Rolle on the weak side and Kendricks at the SAM. Of course, there could very well be more shake-ups in the coming weeks.

And there’s also the possibility that Castillo will choose to play four or five linebackers during the course of a game in specific packages.

“As a linebacker, you don’t like that, but you just do what you can to help the team win,” Chaney said. “You’d rather be out there if you can stay in that groove and stay in the flow of the game.”

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

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