It's evident that Casey Matthews needed to bulk up when the Eagles decided he was their man in the middle. Matthews was listed at 232 pounds, but a close look at him in training camp showed he was probably around the 225-230 range.
I wrote an article explaining why Matthews needed to be upgraded at middle linebacker because he was just too small to take on the much bigger tackles and guards and suggested that he be moved to weakside linebacker.
After watching Matthews play against the Steelers, I still stand by what I said about three weeks ago.
According to the team website, Matthews is currently around 245 pounds, but he was probably around that weight against Pittsburgh, yet still struggled.
The nine-wide technique calls for the defensive ends to line up outside the tackles which makes them ineffective against inside runs. The linebackers, especially the middle linebacker, have to be the guys to rack up the tackles.
That's why the Titans' Stephen Tulloch was so successful and recorded 160 tackles.
The Eagles would be smart to realize Matthews may not be the answer at middle linebacker.
Here are three linebackers who could replaced Matthews:
1. Jamar Chaney
I wrote this in the Casey Matthews Upgrade article:
I firmly believed Jamar Chaney would be starting at middle linebacker considering he was impressive manning the middle in a few games last year. He did make mistakes, like any rookie, but for the most part, he showed his immense potential. Chaney is a fundamentally sound tackler, who is aggressive around the ball. He can cover and has great speed and can even blitz. The Eagles, though, seem content with playing him on the strong side, where he can still make an impact, but not as big as in the middle.
Chaney was not perfect last year, but he has experience playing the middle and is the best option with the nine-wide technique in place.
2. Kirk Morrison
While Kirk Morrison may not be a playmaker in the middle, he is still a starting-caliber player in this league. If the Eagles still like Matthews in the middle, they could hold him off for a year to get a stop-gap player like Morrison, who would be an upgrade in run coverage over Matthews.
Do you believe in Matthews at middle linebacker?
The 240-pound Morrison has started 95 straight games and averaged 120 tackles per year since entering the league. He may not have the legs to play on third down in pass coverage, but the Eagles could insert Matthews. Morrison can still be a solid two-down linebacker.
3. Lofa Tatupu
John Clayton, who has close ties with the Seahawks and its players, said that he thinks the Eagles should look at him. Tatupu is not the same player he was before the injury bug hit him. He is coming off double-knee surgery potentially scaring off all of his suitors.
Tatupu was slow in coverage the past year, even though that was his supposed strength, and struggled mightily in run coverage.
Tatupu could be a fallback option if disaster strikes the Philadelphia linebackers, but the Eagles would be smart to stay away from the rapidly regressing player