Strike up the Tulloch and Kuechly bandwagons, baby.
Because if common sense and the eyes of the common fan couldn’t prove the Eagles linebackers sucked in 2011, well, then we’ve got some geeky stats and numbers and figures and such that will prove it.
PFF lists middle linebacker as the Eagles’ top concern heading into the 2012 free agency and draft period.
Rookie fourth round pick Casey Matthews (-10.6) never looked capable of starting in the NFL. He was all over the place in the preseason, not to mention his struggles in the games that actually counted. The Eagles didn’t have a decent backup plan either as second year man Jamar Chaney (-5.7) struggled in the new scheme which sees defensive tackles attacking upfield rather than occupying blockers. The only other option currently on the roster is 2011 seventh round pick Greg Lloyd who can’t be relied upon.
Luckily for the Eagles, this free agent class may well be stacked with high quality middle linebackers. Stephen Tulloch would make the most sense, seeing as he’s played in the scheme both in Tennessee and Detroit, but don’t rule out Curtis Lofton. Considering the youth of this unit, it would be a little surprising if Philadelphia waited until the draft to address the position.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, PFF says the Eagles’ second biggest need is…yep, another linebacker.
I’ve already mentioned the struggles of Chaney in the middle, but it’s worth noting he wasn’t much better on the outside (-4.3). It’s clear he’s a functional player if allowed to play in space (+1.5 against the run in 2010), but is unable to consistently shed blocks. We had high hopes for Moise Fokou when he was given the starting job (considering he’d finished in the Top 10 against the run among4-3 OLBs just a year ago) but he too struggled when asked to read and react, instead of just being allowed to attack. In the end, Akeem Jordan came in and did a solid job (+4.8 in just 250 snaps), but he’s better served on the weakside or as a backup.
If the Eagles seek a solution in free agency, Baltimore’s Jarret Johnson would make a lot of sense. He would provide the kind of physical presence Philadelphia hasn’t had since Carlos Emmons left. The options thin out a little after that, although Erin Henderson might have the flexibility to play on that side.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is…they better friggen fix this.