One of the biggest takeaways from last week’s loss to the Steelers was the play of middle linebacker Casey Matthews. This was the first real opportunity we got to see him play after only being on the field for seven plays against the Ravens.
There were a lot of questions surrounding Matthews heading into the game, and he failed to step up to the plate and deliver. Matthews was pushed around most of the night and was largely ineffective.
For the young rookie, the Eagles are asking a lot. The NFL lockout shortened the time that players had to prepare for the regular season, and that’s tough for a first year player being asked to step into the starting lineup.
With Matthews poor performance against the Steelers, questions immediately began to rise about whether Matthews would be replaced in the middle. For now, he’ll get another opportunity to prove himself against the Browns this Thursday.
One of the biggest knocks against Matthews has been his size. He’s labeled as too small to play middle linebacker, and from what we saw against Pittsburgh, it’s hard to say it’s not true.
Matthews failed to get off blocks and was easily moved out of the way by bigger offensive lineman. It’s possible to still be effective when you’re his size, but you have to be able to get off blocks. He failed to show that he can do this at a professional level.
Much like last week, all eyes will be on Matthews. The Eagles coaching staff believed he got better as the game went on, so he’ll get a chance to prove he can be the man in the middle. If we don’t see him play dramatically better than last week, it’s hard to believe the Eagles will continue to believe he’s the guy.
We saw Jamar Chaney do a solid job last season when Stewart Bradley went down with an injury. Most believed that Chaney would be the starting middle linebacker before training camp began.
If Matthews can’t show he has what it takes, the Eagles may have no choice but to move Chaney back into the middle.