Eagles Wake-Up Call: Linebacker Depth Chart Analysis
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:
Projected starters: Jordan Hicks (MIKE), Mychal Kendricks (WILL), Nigel Bradham (SAM)
Reserves: Najee Goode, Quentin Gause, Travis Long, Deontae Skinner, Myke Tavarres, Joe Walker
As currently constructed, things would have to break just about perfectly for this to be a high-end unit.
There is some reason for optimism when it comes to the starting three. Hicks had a pretty spectacular half-rookie season, posting 54 tackles, two interceptions, a sack, a forced fumble and three fumble recoveries in just eight games before being lost for the season because of a torn pec. Kendricks is coming off a down year which can be attributed in part to the fact that he was in and out of the lineup and unable to get into a groove. Now 15 pounds heavier, he feels equipped to play in Jim Schwartz‘s attack scheme. Bradham already knows he’s a fit. He had a career year while playing for Schwartz in ’14 with 104 tackles, 2.5 sacks and seven passes defensed.
But Hicks is still green and has a concerning injury history. Kendricks has missed seven games over the past two seasons himself and is no sure bet to bounce back. Bradham sat out the last five games of the ’15 season with an ankle injury.
There isn’t a whole lot of proven depth behind them. Goode is a serviceable pro but otherwise the group seems thin. Maybe Long stays healthy and can contribute; perhaps one of the three rookies (Gause, Walker, Tavarres) makes an impact, but there’s little you can bank on.
What I think will happen
I believe the Eagles will look to the outside to bolster the position. Yesterday we wrote about the possibility of Stephen Tulloch ending up on the roster should he be released by the Lions. Hours later, Detroit finally made the move. Tulloch is 31 and apparently has lost a step. But even though he was more of a two-down linebacker last year, the vet still ended up with over 100 tackles. And barring injury, he wouldn’t be asked to log a lot of miles here. Might not even start. The question is whether he would be interested in that kind of arrangement, assuming the Eagles do in fact have eyes for Tulloch.
Whether it’s Tulloch or another veteran that gets shed for salary reasons, the bet here is the Eagles will make a signing or two before the start of the season.
WHAT YOU MISSED
With the Lions officially releasing Tulloch yesterday, should the Eagles sign the veteran linebacker?
“One thing that he can do — particularly in tight areas — is separate from man-to-man type coverages.” The Eagles by the numbers.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Tommy Lawlor explores the idea of whether or not the Eagles should draft someone in next week’s Supplemental Draft.
I do not think the Eagles will spend a pick on any of these players. None are that good. In case you have forgotten, teams can select these players during the Supplemental Draft and would then lose that pick in the 2017 draft. The Eagles are already missing their 1st round pick. I don’t think they would want to use any more picks unless the player was simply too good to pass up.
I did not watch any tape of Eddie D’Antuono, but those guys are usually late round picks anyway. The Eagles already have Jon Dorenbos and a rookie at LS. I don’t see them using a pick.
[Ra’Zahn] Howard is 6-3, 325. He is a big, powerful player who started the past 2 seasons. He would be good as a 3-4 NT or a run-stuffer in the 4-3. Put on the tape and you’ll see some good plays, but not enough to make him a compelling option for the Eagles. He reminds me of a lesser Beau Allen. Howard had 2 sacks in his career and the Eagles prefer playmakers in the new system.
[Jalen] Overstreet used to play at Texas, but got the boot and went to SHSU. He has some legal issues that could make jail more likely than the NFL.
Jimmy Kempski details why he thinks the Eagles have the most talented defense in the NFC East.
Cox is, in my view, the clear-cut best defensive player in the division. Getting 9.5 sacks from an interior defensive lineman spot is very good as it is, but to do it in a two-gapping 3-4 scheme is incredibly impressive. Cox is a dominant beast, who took over games at times last season, most notably against the Saints, Patriots and Bills.
As for Logan, the Eagles drafted him to be a two-gapping defensive lineman. However, despite low sack totals, Logan has shown the ability to penetrate through the line of scrimmage, although his success in a penetrating scheme is something of an unknown. I personally think he’ll thrive, but again, that’s pure projection.
Nineteen days until camp.
Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.