Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Akeem No Dream, Or As The Weak Side Turns

So the story out of the Eagles today is how Michael Vick is healthy, wearing a thicker rib pad, and he'll be good to go on September 9 in Cleveland when the season begins. So Eagle Fan is supposed to stop worrying about this sort of thing, since it's all going to be fixed, and Vick is a veteran who doesn't need any snaps in the preseason. Um, OK, whatever.

But here's the little niblet of news that I was far more interested in: that veteran special teams linebacker Akeem Jordan is now the starting weakside linebacker, ahead of Brian Rolle.

Now, I'm not going to defend Rolle; he's been awful in the preseason, and wasn't very good last year. While he's got some quicks and potential, he overpursues and doesn't take good angles, and is a little undersized to do things like, well, defend the tight end in coverage. But that's not the issue, really.

You see, the Eagles actually have two credible LBs this year; DeMeco Ryans, the import from Texas who gives them hope at middle, and the spectacular rookie Mychal Kendricks from Cal. If they could ever stop committing stupid penalties, there's the potential for an interesting defense here, seeing how they are getting after the QB like gangbusters, and that's all been without Jason Babin, or even very much from Trent Cole, seeing how he doesn't really need the work. They are probably going to cut Darryl Tapp, and Tapp is going to latch on somewhere else and rack up a half dozen sacks on his lonesome; they are that deep when it comes to rushing the passer.

But not, well, when it comes to covering backs and tight ends out of the backfield. That's where your choices are Rolle, Jordan, Jamar Chaney, Keenan Clayton, or, I suppose, Casey Matthews. And there isn't much to like about any of them, really. Rolle failed last year and hasn't done anything in the preseason to show improvement. Jordan is a 27 year-old guy, in his sixth year; he knows where to go and how to tackle, but on a good defense, he's a depth play and special teamer. Chaney, in his third year, is the kind of guy who might be on the roster bubble, since he doesn't seem like he's getting better. Clayton is a special teams beast, nothing more. And Matthews, last year's washout as starting MLB, came on at the end of last year, but still looks a step too slow in coverage, and like he's only in the NFL because he's related to better players.

Now, this is a chicken and egg situation. It's not as if the Eagles are unaware of the LB problem, since Ryans and Kendricks were both imported this year. They keep spending high picks on the problem. And last year, the built-in excuse was that the team, and defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, just didn't have time to teach them up.

Well, that doesn't wash any more.

So either... the team isn't coaching anyone up, or the picks are getting boned. And it's happening all over again.

Oh, and if you don't think the third LB matters very much, because he comes off the field in the nickel packages... um, maybe, but it's not as if Joselio Hanson or Oshi Atogwe is going to be shutting down Jason Witten, Jermichael Finley or Jimmy Graham. And that's going to be, well, kind of necessary.

So if you want to give me the over/under of 3.5 starters at the position this year... I'll take the over. And, well... no organization is so good at talent evaluation as to just put studs in every space. Eventually, you have to coach up a Mathews, or a Rolle, or a Chaney to replacement level, rather than just shuttle them in and out. And the fact that they don't do that...

Well, it's just like every other year of the Andy Reid Era now, inn'it?

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