The 2011 Philadelphia Eagles were marked by inconsistency, fourth quarter collapses, and poor play at both the linebacker and safety positions.
The team played most of the season with just six linebackers on the 53-man active roster, and none of them had more than five years experience. Rookies Casey Matthews and Brian Rolle were thrust into the starting lineup early, and while Rolle held his own for 16 games, Matthews was clearly overmatched and benched in Week 3.
Andy Reid has never drafted a linebacker in the first round, and his attempts to draft a linebacker in the second round haven’t worked out well. Barry Gardner, Quinton Caver and Matt McCoy were all picked in the second round, and none of the three developed into the impact-type player the Eagles were hoping for. Stewart Bradley in the third round was a good pick, but he struggled with injuries and now plays for Arizona.
The 2012 NFL draft is stocked with quality linebackers—Vontaze Burfict, Luke Kuechly, Courtney Upshaw, Melvin Ingram and Whitney Mercilus, to name a few—but Reid has never been able to spot a linebacker with good talent in the draft. I would much rather have the Eagles try to sign a player in free agency, and there are a good group of free agent linebackers that could step in and provide an immediate impact for the Eagles in 2012 and beyond.