What’s the Deal at Linebacker?


Since April is just around the bend, I’ve been perusing the glut of mock drafts circumventing the Interwebs to see who the pundits believe the Eagles might nab in the first couple rounds. One name that keeps surfacing is Missouri OLB Sean Weatherspoon.

At 6-1, 240, Spoon is regarded as one of the top linebacker prospects in the draft. He has excellent range, is a sound tackler and has a reputation as a disruptive playmaker. He’s also known to have trouble shedding blocks and has a tendency to over-pursue. Whether or not he projects to either WIL or SAM remains to be seen, but he appears to be a definite first-round selection.

Would Andy Reid actually take a linebacker in the first round? Since he never has before it seems unlikely. I like Weatherspoon mainly because he’s a legit talent who racked 266 tackles and 9.5 sacks in his last two seasons with the Tigers. Maybe Jeremy Maclin can put in a good word for him, but I’m not getting my hopes up.

For whatever reason, Reid has never placed a high value on linebackers. As the depth chart sits now, they have an undrafted free agent at WIL (Akeem Jordan), a seventh-round pick at SAM (Moise Fokou) and a third-rounder coming off reconstructive knee surgery at MIKE (Stew!).

Then there’s mystery man Chris Gocong, who most assuredly is on his way out the door, even though he just signed his one-year tender. He never really took to linebacker after converting from defensive end. If he’s not dealt prior to draft weekend, I almost guarantee he’s shipped elsewhere during the draft, probably to a team using a 3-4 alignment.

If any position is in need of a major talent upgrade it would be linebacker. Plugging in low round bargains and one-year stopgaps is getting old. It was sad watching the comedy of errors last season after Stew went down. The Eagles were caught with their pants down with no one to back him up. Needless to say, it was embarrassing.

So far, Reid and Co. have done little to improve the situation besides kicking loose Will Witherspoon, who went on to ink a deal with the Titans. Counting on Stew to be fully recovered by September seems risky. He’ll be one year removed from the ACL tear, but expecting him to step right in and be his old self is wishful thinking.

Right now, they still have no reliable backup at MIKE or WIL, or SAM once Gocong is jettisoned. With free agency pretty much over, that leaves only the draft to replenish the ranks. Joe Mays flopped badly last summer in his bid to fill the middle, and Tracy White is an unrestricted free agent. White could be brought back, and did flash at times in ’09, but he’s nothing more than a complementary player.

Then there’s Omar Gaither, who is recovering from his own injury. Talk about an enigma. Gaither has lost his starting job three times in four years. It’s obvious Reid doesn’t think much of him. He can’t play all three downs and seemingly has no real place on the roster. Like Gocong, if he’s in midnight green come September, I’ll be surprised.

So, the linebackers are still a mess. One way to help fix the problem would be to commit a high draft pick in April. It doesn’t necessarily have to be in the opening round, but the second or third would be nice, if for no other reason than to provide competition. Guys like Penn State’s Navorro Bowman and TCU’s Daryl Washington are names to consider.

Something needs to be done. Standing pat with who they have would be risky, not to mention stupid.

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