Eagles Wake-Up Call: Alonso Or Kendricks At OLB?
Today’s question comes from reader Justin, via e-mail:
There’s been a lot of chatter about Mychal Kendricks being the most likely of the three current “starting-caliber” ILBs to depart in the near future. Is that a foregone conclusion? I hope not! I don’t see DeMeco Ryans playing anywhere except inside – but what about Kiko Alonso or Kendricks getting a look outside? Kendricks is faster, though everyone talks about Kiko having exceptional range (pre-injury at least).
Is there any chance one of them gets significant burn at OLB this year? Having no faith in Marcus Smith II and being skeptical of Brandon Graham’s ability to drop in coverage, I’d like to find a way to get the most talent on the field. Also, there are too many other huge roster holes at WR, S and OL to justify taking an LB in the first few rounds! Thoughts?
I’ve said it before, Justin, and I’ll say it again: The inside linebacker situation is one of the more confusing aspects of the current roster.
I really thought when the Eagles acquired Alonso that it meant the end for Ryans, but I was obviously mistaken. So let’s assume for a moment that all three are on the roster.
The Eagles are committed to stopping the run on early downs. Really, all three inside linebackers are good against the run (assuming health, of course). But in my opinion, it makes little sense to replace Graham with either Alonso or Kendricks in base looks. Neither has the size the Eagles are looking for at that spot. Alonso is 6-3, but only weighs 238 pounds.
The OLBs are charged with setting the edge and taking on blocks. It’s not a run-and-chase position, so why give up size there if you don’t have to?
Sub packages could be a different story. Kendricks was an excellent blitzer last year and has pass-rush ability. Alonso only rushed the passer 85 times as a rookie, per Pro Football Focus, but there was some talk about playing him outside in his second season.
Maybe one or both of them could rotate in at OLB in passing situations. Then again, why take Graham off the field in those spots when getting after the QB is his strength?
I remember before the 2013 season asking Billy Davis if there was a way to get Graham, Trent Cole and Connor Barwin on the field together. He smiled and said there’s always a way to get the best 11 out there. That’s fine in theory, but obviously no such package existed.
I see this situation in somewhat the same way. Kendricks is the best pass-rusher out of the three. If healthy, Alonso is probably the best all-around player. Ryans’ strength is providing leadership and playing the run.
If all three are still here when the Eagles open their season, my guess is we’ll see some kind of rotation. Davis has a pretty specific way he wants to play, and it involves players fitting into certain roles. I don’t see a scenario where all three will get on the field at the same time.
I do wonder, like everyone else, if there’s another shoe to drop with Kendricks. If he’s still here post-draft, we’ll get a chance to ask Davis and Chip Kelly what their plan is for divvying up roles and snaps.
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WHAT YOU MISSED
The Eagles signed DB E.J. Biggers and WR Seyi Ajirotutu to one-year deals. Some background and thoughts on how they fit in.
Draft Daily: Zeroing in on the prospect whom I think is in Gil Brandt’s secret envelope.
What they’re saying: Mike Trout on Chip, and a Bill Belichick/Kelly comparison.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
LSU CB Jalen Collins visited the NovaCare Complex yesterday, per Geoff Mosher of CSN Philly:
The 6-foot-1, 208-pound Collins, an underclassman, has the size and length that Eagles coach Chip Kelly prefers from his outside corners. He clocked a 4.48 in the 40-yard dash in February at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Collins, who started just 10 games at LSU, is considered by scouts and analysts to best fit a man-press scheme, which is what Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis runs frequently. NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock has mentioned Collins as someone who’d be a good fit for the Eagles in the first round.
The Eagles are showing a lot of interest in Utah DB Eric Rowe, according to Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net:
As first reported two weeks ago, there’s a feeling Rowe will end up in the second half of round one and won’t get past the 40th pick. The teams I’m hearing highest on Rowe in round one include the Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles have doubled up on Rowe, that is worked him out and will bring him in for an official visit, as have the Detroit Lions, who believe Rowe can start at either safety or cornerback.
We’ll take a closeup look at another prospect.