The Eagles fixed their middle linebacker problem by trading for Houston's DeMeco Ryans, but they're still a little shaky on the outside.
Their young corps is comprised of Moise Fokou, Casey Matthews, Jamar Chaney and Brian Rolle. There are many believers that Chaney and Rolle have potential, including myself, but the addition of another linebacker wouldn't hurt considering the Eagles could deal Fokou and make Matthews the backup MLB.
Possible Solutions: Luke Kuechly (Boston College), Dont'a Hightower (Alabama), Zach Brown (North Carolina)
Kuechly is the top-ranked linebacker according to many sites, including nj.com, because of his pro-level ability and collegiate career.
Kuechly led all of Division-I by 41 tackles in 2011, recording 191 of them. It was a record for a Boston College player and simply a feat that may not be repeated for years to come.
Kuechly also ranked somewhat high among linebacker for tackles for loss, recording 12.0 of them.
He has the innate ability to always be around the ball, whether it is diverting the runner one way or bringing him down. He is also a natural linebacker, dissecting plays quickly and running downhill towards the ball-carrier.
He will struggle at time due to his average speed and agility, which he was able to make up for using smarts at the college level. Kuechly isn't a good pass-rusher, either, but then again, the Eagles feature two of the best defensive ends in the league.
However, his consistent tackling would be a welcome addition alongside the inconsistent Rolle.
Kuechly would definitely require the Eagles No. 15 pick, and might not even be there. So, if there are strong reports that he won't be, they'd have to trade up and make things work.
Hightower, anchoring a Division-I-best defense at MLB, would be another possible solution at outside linebacker. He recorded 85 tackles with 4.0 sacks and 11.0 tackles for a loss as a senior, playing inside.
Hightower is a good run-stuffer, getting off of blocks quickly and pursuing plays well. He's good at staying in holes and not being forced out of position, meaning he won't be very mistake-prone in the NFL.
Like Kuechly, his size is ideal, but his speed isn't. He's a decent blitzer off the edge, but has never been much of a pass-coverage guy and will struggle to make game-changing plays as a pro.
Plenty of analysts, including Matt Miller, have Hightower going in the late first round to either the Patriots or the Green Bay Packers. The Eagles were hoping earlier on that he might fall to the mid-second round, but now it seems they'd either have to give up their two second-round picks or trade down in the first round to make this move equitable.
Zach Brown of the North Carolina Tar Heels is the third and final solution I'll be discussing at outside linebacker.
Brown had a very good senior season with UNC in 2011. He recorded 105 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 13.5 tackles for loss and three interceptions as their strong-side linebacker.
He has elite athleticism, even more than Jamar Chaney. He can cover most TEs and FBs, as well as staying in front of the outside runs. He was also a team captain at college, meaning he could develop into a defensive leader for the Eagles.
Brown, unfortunately, lacks ideal size and build for an NFL 'backer. He struggles to get off blockers that are bigger than him, meaning he completely disappears for stretches at a time. If he bulks up a little and combines strength with speed, he could be a very good option for Philly at OLB.
Plenty of mocks have him going in the late second round, even to the Eagles at No. 51, so he seems like the most likely option among the three.
Read more of my work here.