The Eagles defense enters the 2014 season returning 10 of 11 starters from last year. That is a good sign for a defense that is in the second year of a completely new scheme. Inside linebacker is one of many positions with a solidified starting unit. However, the depth behind the two starters is relatively untested. Let’s take a shot at predicting the Eagles’ depth chart at inside linebacker.
First off, the Eagles have two guys firmly entrenched as the starters: Eagles linebackers DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks. Ryans enters his third year with the team after a successful six year career with the Houston Texans. He has been to the Pro Bowl twice and been named an All Pro once in his career and also has led the team in tackles both years that he’s been an Eagle.
Kendricks also enters his third year with the team after being drafted in the second round of the 2012 draft. He had a pretty rough rookie season and started last year similarly, but really started to look good in the second half of the 2013 season. His athleticism and playmaking ability could lead to him becoming a future Pro Bowler if he can put it all together.
Behind the two starters, the depth chart gets a little cloudy. No one behind the starters is really assured a roster spot. Eagles linebackers Emmanuel Acho, Najee Goode, Jake Knott, and Casey Matthews will be competing for what is likely 2 spots.
Personally, I really liked how Najee Goode played last year. When he got playing time, he made the most of it. Against the Washington Redskins in week 11, Goode had 5 tackles and a sack. While those numbers may not seem like much, he did it in limited playing time. Goode showed last year that he fits very well with the rest of the players on the Eagles defense, and I think he sticks on the 53-man roster come September.
Jake Knott made the team last year after going undrafted. He played decently when he got on the field, but was rather unspectacular overall. Knott has also been suspended for the first four games of the 2014 season for violating the league’s rules on performance enhancing substances. That can only hurt his chances of making the team.
Casey Matthews could technically be considered an outside linebacker, as he transitioned to that position last year. However, Matthews has the ability to play both inside or outside, which is probably the only reason the Eagles kept him around last year; head coach Chip Kelly does love versatility. The Eagles do have more depth at both inside and outside backer than they have had in a while, so I think that this is the year that Matthews’ disappointing career with the Eagles comes to an end.
Last is Emmanuel Acho, who was on the team last offseason prior to being cut from the roster before the regular season. He was drafted by the Browns in the sixth round of the 2012 draft, but hasn’t really had an impact. He is the little brother of Arizona Cardinals linebacker Sam Acho, but he has not shown the same amount of NFL-caliber talent that his brother has shown.
Projected Starters: DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks
Projected Backups: Najee Goode, Jake Knott
Tags: Philadelphia Eagles