Eagles Wake-Up Call: No Odd Man Out At ILB?
As Billy Davis addressed reporters on Wednesday afternoon, the same topic seemed to surface over and over again.
How is this going to work with three starting-caliber inside linebackers?
“When we get to training camp, the competition will amp up, and it allows us to expand how many packages we run too,” Davis said. “So we can put some packages together where we get two and three inside backers in the same group. So there’s a lot of things we want to do. But right now it’s just about getting everybody up to speed and on an even playing field.”
Davis repeated some form of that response on multiple occasions. The basic gist was: We’ll make it work. There are ways. It’s only June.
It’s true that Davis could cook up a package to get DeMeco Ryans, Kiko Alonso and Mychal Kendricks on the field at once, but it’s not like the Eagles are suddenly going to morph into a 4-3. The team has spent two-plus years working on the intricacies and nuances of a base two-gap 3-4.
“I would say in base defense, it would be more of a challenge to do unless one of ‘em truly assumed a role of an outside linebacker,” said inside linebackers coach Rick Minter. “So most likely it would come up in more of your sub type packages because we’re not just going to change our complete structure. We’re a 3-4 team. We’re a nickel team. We’re a dime team. Because we’ve got skill at the linebacker position, perhaps we can stay with my two guys on the field even more than we did last year.”
In Year 1, the Eagles played mostly base and nickel. Last year, they added a dime package with Nolan Carroll teamed with a true inside linebacker. It’s conceivable that they add a new sub package or two, but the truth is the majority of defensive snaps (barring something completely unforeseen) will feature two inside linebackers.
“Absolutely. We can move in and out of packages,” said Davis. “You can increase your packages by the players you have and the skill set that they have. We can easily put a package together and probably will… to put the best players on the field is what you’re always aiming at. …It absolutely can be done.”
There are several ways this thing could play out. One, the team could still part ways with Kendricks. Two, one of the three linebackers could get injured, and it becomes easy to decide who to play. Three, they all rotate, but someone is unhappy. Or four, the coaches figure out a way to play all three and keep everyone happy.
Davis, Chip Kelly and company will continue to say it’s a good problem to have. And maybe that’ll end up being the case. But it also could be bad problem to have come September if one of the linebackers is upset about playing time.
“It’s not always easy to conjure up new things, and you don’t want to do it just for the sake of,” said Minter. “But any way that we can get more players, more speed, more athleticism in any given situation on the field, then I think you have to give Billy the credit that he’ll come up with something like that.”
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WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Alex Marvez of Fox Sports thinks the Dolphins could still make a play for Evan Mathis:
“Evan Mathis is the guy to continue to watch because he has not shown up at the Eagles offseason workout program,” Marvez said on the Marc Hochman Show with Zach Krantz. “Essentially Evan Mathis is frozen. I wouldn’t be surprised after the minicamp takes place if the Dolphins make a call to the Eagles to see what can be done to potentially acquire Evan Mathis.
“Evan is a really good player who’s in his 30s — he’s also represented if I’m not mistaken by Drew Rosenhaus which doesn’t hurt things having him locally either. I just have to think Evan Mathis is the guy who could be available for trade and might not even cost you that much to get him.”
Tommy Lawlor of Iggles Blitz thinks Walter Thurmond could be a fit at safety:
I’m fascinated by Thurmond as a Safety. The more I think about it, the more he reminds me of Damarious Randall, who the Eagles supposedly liked a lot. Randall played in the slot a lot in college. Thurmond has played outside corner and in the slot. They can cover. Both lack ideal tackling skills. Both have good ball skills.
Thurmond was a big time playmaker in college, but hasn’t been one in the NFL. It is harder to be a playmaker at CB, since you don’t spend as much time watching the QB. As a Safety, Thurmond would be able to watch the QB on a regular basis.
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