Shuffling Deck Chairs: The Eagles Finally Change the Linebackers

Finally, Andy Reid and Juan Castillo came to their senses and put Jamar Chaney back at middle linebacker and moved Casey Matthews to the outside. It should have never happened in the first place.

Last year, Chaney took over in the middle of the Cowboys game for the injured Stewart Bradley. The Cowboys, like any team should when a starter goes down, went right at him. Chaney made 8 tackles in an admirable job in relief. The next week the Giants, an even bigger running team, went at him again, and again Chaney held his own and the Giants were held to 100 yards rushing. His next two starts, against Minnesota and then Green Bay in the playoffs, were what you would expect from a rookie 7th rounder thrown into the fire: at times he looked good, at times he struggled. Compared to Ernie Sims and Fokou, he was a breath of fresh air.

This year has been a mess with the linebackers. Matthews’ size and skill set suited him to the WILL. Moise Fokou shouldn’t be starting, but someone has to play the SAM when there’s 3 LBs on the field and LBs are an afterthought to Reid and GM Howie Roseman. Instead of keeping Chaney and Fokou where they ended the season and plugging Matthews in where the lousy Ernie Sims was (or going out and getting an established LB or two), green-as-can-be first year defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, and his first year linebackers coach Mike Caldwell, installed Matthews as the MIKE, Fokou as the WILL and Chaney as the SAM. Results were predictable: they stunk. Matthews was completely overmatched against the run, Chaney’s abilities were misused away from the middle of the field, and Fokou struggled. The run defense, with the Wide 9 defensive line leaving gaping holes for the LBs to plug in the run game, was terrible. Topping it off, as the MIKE, rookie Casey Matthews was given play calling duties.

Now, heading into the Giants game, they’ve put everyone where they belong, with Chaney patrolling the middle, Fokou at SAM and Matthews on the weakside where his inability to get off of blockers will be less of an issue. The run defense is still a major issue, after all it’s still the same 3 players out there and it’s still the same enormous running lanes for the opposition, but with Chaney in the middle there’s hope it will improve. Of course, there’s almost no place to go but up for the run defense. So now the Giants and their 3.3 yards per carry come to town to test out the new LB look, so maybe the run D will appear better than it really is.

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