Why the Eagles' Young Linebackers Are Crucial to the Team's Success

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Why the Eagles' Young Linebackers Are Crucial to the Team's Success
(Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Defense wins ballgames.

 

Everyone knows that.

 

The Eagles have themselves a very good defense. The defensive line is among the best in the game and the secondary is deep and experienced.

 

With Pro Bowl end Trent Cole and underrated stars Mike Patterson and Brodrick Bunkley anchoring the interior, the line will thrive as always in 2009. With the never-ending rotations the team likes to use, look for the defensive line to receive solid contributions from each and every single player.

 

The secondary has always been one of the team's strengths under Andy Reid.

 

Perennial All-Pro and fan favorite free safety Brian Dawkins departed for Denver, but the team should be solid in his place.

 

Quintin Demps and Sean Jones should be able to fill in, and strong safety Quintin Mikell is a reigning All-Pro and one of the most underrated players in the game.

 

Asante Samuel and Sheldon Brown are arguably the NFL's top cornerback tandem, and Ellis Hobbs leads a solid group of corners more than capable of filling in at any time.

 

The linebackers are the only group without a Pro Bowler, but I believe this group of young draft picks could develop into one of the most talented units in the NFL.

 

Stewart Bradley is an All-Pro in the making. A young and aggressive player, Bradley is quickly becoming one of the game's most talented middle linebackers.

 

He has been compared to Brian Urlacher in the way in which he roams the middle of the field.

 

According to the Eagles' Web site, Bradley was credited with 151 total tackles last season. Sports Illustrated named him to their All-Pro team in just his first season as a starter.

 

Heading into just his second season as a starter and third season in the NFL, great things are expected from Bradley. There is talk that he may fill the leadership void left by Brian Dawkins, who left for Denver after 13 seasons as an Eagle.

 

I forsee a great future for Bradley, a third round draft pick in 2007. I think he can turn into one of the best linebackers in all of the NFL this season.

 

Chris Gocong and Akeem Jordan—the team's two outside linebackers—have just a combined three years of starting experience between them.

 

Nonetheless, I have high expectations for this group.

 

Gocong is the strongside 'backer who played defensive end in college. He missed his entire first season due to injury, but took over as the team's full-time starter in '07, replacing the underachieving Dhani Jones, who departed for the New Orleans Saints.

 

Gocong is a good pass rusher who has been utilized at both outside linebacker and defensive end. He is entering his third season as the team's starter.

 

Akeem Jordan beat out Omar Gaither for the starting job at weakside linebacker last season.

 

Gaither—who had registered 170 tackles and 14 pass deflections as the team's starting middle linebacker in the 2007 season, seeming tobe a star in the rising—moved back to WILL linebacker for the '08 season.

 

He started the first 11 games of the season, before he was benched in favor of Jordan for the Week 12 game against the Baltimore Ravens.

 

Jordan played well down the stretch, particularly in the 44-6 beatdown of Dallas in the last game of the season, registering a season-high 11 tackles, including two tackles for losses.

 

Even if Gaither is not starting, he will provide solid depth for the Eagles in the rotation of linebackers the team always employs.

 

There are high expectations for this talented group of linebackers in the '09 season.

 

Stellar performances from these three players could be the difference between the Eagles taking the NFC East and sitting home watching the playoffs on TV.

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