A Closer Look at the Eagles Linebackers
If the offensive line was the biggest problem for the 2009 Philadelphia Eagles, the linebackers were a close second. Keeping this unit intact was the biggest challenge for rookie defensive coordinator Sean McDermott.
Due to injuries and inexperience, the Eagles linebacker group was on the brink of turmoil the entire season. It all started during the preseason with the season ending injury of Stewart Bradley. That loss started a domino effect for the rest of the group.
Rookies were needed to start before they were ready. A popular veteran was brought back after being out of football for over a year. A trade was made to bring in a starter at the trade deadline. A lot of patchwork has been done and this group is still very unsettled.
Can the Eagles linebackers rebound and become a strength for the team in 2010? It’s very possible.
Jordan is a talented player, but he's not a long term solution as a starting outside linebacker. His promotion to starter last year was more due to the lack of production of Omar Gaither.
Jordan is scheduled to be a restricted free agent after the season. Because he’s produced when called upon and he’s an excellent special team player, I'm sure the Eagles would like to keep him on the roster.
The Axeman has played hard, but his best days are obviously behind him. His mid-season signing was a stop gap solution until Bradley returns.
Will the Eagles bring Trotter back? While I doubt it, he’s good for short yardage situation and he’s an excellent leader
Witherspoon is a very good veteran and trading for him was a great move by the Eagles. He's a little undersized to play MLB and McDermott seemed unsure where to play him at times.
The best part about acquiring Witherspoon is looking forward to seeing him and Bradley play together next year.
Gocong will be a free agent (restricted if no CBA agreement is made by March 5) this off season and not re-signing him will be good for both him and Philly.
Gocong's skill set is better suited for playing OLB in a 3-4 defense, not the Eagles 4-3 formation. He'll sign somewhere else and become a stud there probably.
White is a veteran back-up who will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason no matter the CBA outcome. His skills are limited and it's very unlikely that he'll be re-signed.
One thing the rookie has received this year is experience. Injuries have forced the Eagles to play him and he has struggled. He's committed a lot of penalties and played out of position a few times.
He probably won't be a starter, but if Fokou's learned from his mistakes he'll be a reliable back-up.
During the 2008 preseason, Mays showed lots of promise only to disappear behind Bradley on the depth chart. He'll probably disappear off the roster very soon.
His constant inability to step up when called upon is the reason Trotter and Witherspoon were both acquired during the season.
2009 was supposed to be Bradley's breakout season. Unfortunately, he didn't make it past the Eagles first ever Flight Night. It's been game of musical middle linebacker ever since.
The positive thing is Bradley's injury led to a necessary trade with the Rams. I don't know about you but I'm really looking forward to see Bradley and Will Witherspoon together next season.
It was bad enough for Gaither to lose his starting job to Akeem Jordan last year. This year he was okay but not great.
Gaither will be a restricted free agent if a CBA agreement isn’t made by March 5. Due to the possible shortage of available free agents, He’ll receive a one year tender. I don't see Gaither in the Eagles long-term plans though.
Even with a healthy Stewart Bradley, the Eagles will still have some linebacker needs to address.
If Trotter doesn’t return, they need to make sure a reliable backup to Bradley in the middle is in place. This is another reason Gaither will probably be retained.
A quality 4-3 strongside linebacker is needed as well. The Eagles haven’t really had one since Carlos Emmons was here. I expect Karlos Dansby to cost too much for the Andy Reid to even consider pursuing.
Whether through free agency (Will K.C. let Derrick Johnson go?) or the draft (A.J. Edds??), McDermott needs someone who will fit right into his system.
If these needs are addressed, it would allow Jordan, Fokou and Gaither to be reserve/special team players. That would make the Eagles linebackers a very deep and experienced unit.