About 48 hours ago, Jason Babin and Matt Wilhelm were unemployed.
What a difference a day (or two) makes. And thanks to injuries, inconsistency, and indiscretions, both men could see significant time on the Birds’ defense this season.
In Wilhelm’s case, his addition is a response to the loss of Stewart Bradley—which, according to team doctors, could last into next season as well. Apparently, his ACL was completely destroyed, and it could take up to 18 months for him to be full strength.
So now, Joe Mays calls the plays, Omar Gaither works in at both the WILL and MIKE positions, and Wilhelm backs them both up.
A 2003 draft pick of the Chargers, Wilhelm worked his way up the depth chart. When Donnie Edwards left in 2007, he became the starting MLB and made 21 starts in 2007 and 2008. The former was his best year, as he recorded 97 tackles and three interceptions for the Bolts.
While he won’t come close to that as a two-position backup in Philly, what they will get out of him is a veteran who knows how to handle a defense and can make plays when called upon.
For Babin, it’s a tremendous case of right place, right time for the former first-round draft pick. Babin, a 265-pound hybrid LB/DE, was brought in with the idea of converting back to a full-time end.
And after the week the Eagles have had, it’s very possible he could be starting there. Trent Cole is entrenched as a speed rusher on the right side, but after that, the depth chart is a mess.
Last year’s starting LDE, Juqua Parker, was arrested early this morning for marijuana possession. He was released and attended camp today, but a possible drug conviction would lead to an instant suspension from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Directly behind him are Victor Abiamiri, who is currently on the PUP list with a strained pectoral muscle, and Chris Clemons, who could be classified as a bust in his first year in Philly—delivering only four sacks in limited action after signing a $12.6 million contract.
On the right side, Cole’s backups are Darren Howard, who is 32 and is more of a situational replacement, and Bryan Smith, a second-year man who spent all of last year on the practice squad and hasn’t really shown much so far according to Eagles insiders.
Sounds like the perfect opportunity for a guy like Babin.
At 6'4", 265 pounds, he is bigger than Parker, Abiamiri, and Clemons. And while he’s not a menacing pass rusher, he can hold his own (15 career sacks in 54 games). He also knows how to be a starter; he spent his rookie season of 2004 as a starting OLB in Houston.
The 2008 season might not have been a banner year for Babin, as he played only nine games for two different teams, but 2009 will be a shot at redemption for the 27th overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft.
Both sound like the perfect fit for a blue-collar town like Philly.