Philadelphia Eagles Need Casey Matthews


Oct 12, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles linebacker

Casey Matthews

(50) reacts after tackling New York Giants quarterback

Eli Manning

(not pictured) during the first half at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Eagles Need Casey Matthews

Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Casey Matthews has run the gauntlet.   He was a draft day designated starter at middle linebacker, thanks to the combined defensive genius of then offensive line coach turned defensive coordinator Juan Castillo and head coach Andy Reid.   He was relegated to the roster bubble and saved his roster slot by a willingness to do whatever it took on special teams to remain relevant, while other more favored linebacker prospects ran into season ending injuries.   He became the last option when inside linebacker Mychal Kendricks injury was followed up by statesman and defensive leader DeMeco Ryans injury, and played his heart out.

And still, in the off-season of 2015, the career that never seemed to take off, and never seemed to fade away, is now at risk of ending the chapter in a Philadelphia Eagles uniform.

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To many fans, this has been the moment they’ve waited for and will likely cheer the event of Casey Matthews free agency status in a fashion similar to the applause reserved for a crucial season ending victory.  But that would be short-sighted.

In a time where we look at box scores and fantasy football numbers, there is a verbal minority of fans who expect every player on a roster to compete for the pro bowl each year.  In a game where we only have one football, there can only be one player who throws the football, only one player who runs with the football, and only one player who can tackle the ball carrier.   We get lost in our effort to find simplicity in a game with more complexity than the chess championships of Bobby Fisher versus Boris Spassky.    What we can’t quantify on an sports page, we ignore.

And that is why some Eagles fans don’t “get” why the Philadelphia Eagles need Casey Matthews.

But that is why I’m writing this article.

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  • Casey Matthews is a 26 year old 6′ 1″ 245 pound four year veteran of the Philadelphia Eagles.  Immediately upon being drafted in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL draft, he was named the starting middle linebacker of the then 4-3 wide nine defense of the Eagles.   That lasted two games.    He was moved to starting weak side linebacker for the third game.  That lasted one game.  From that point, he has fought the label of bust.

    But a fourth round selection is typically the place you find college prospects who have upside but need time and coaching to live up to their potential.    Matthews is no exception to that rule.   His lineage oozes football – as he comes from a long line of professional football players.  His grandfather Clay Matthews Sr and great uncle Bruce Matthews both had notable NFL careers.   His father, Clay Matthews Jr. had a nineteen year NFL career.  His brother, Clay Matthews III plays for the Green Bay Packers.

    But it takes more than genetic codes to last in the NFL, and to Casey’s credit he has fought through difficult challenges.    When he was relegated to the bench, he became an outstanding special teams player.  And finally, in 2014, when he was forced into a starting role at both inside linebacker positions, he played very well.   He was able to plug and play both for  Kendricks and later the same year for Ryans.

    If you want to consider purely and only the box score stats- consider the fact that Matthews was ninth on the Eagles defense with 53 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 3 tackles for a loss, 1 forced fumble, and one fumble recovery.  While he played some games as the designated starter, he was a rotational player.  He recorded more tackles than Trent Cole, Cedric Thornton, Brandon Graham, or DeMeco Ryans.   Yes, he was a back up.  But when his number was called, he answered.

    But We Need To Improve The Defense?

    There is  this unspoken logic that happens during the off-season that is tough to debate.   Those who have an opinion that the team must improve sometimes ignore the fact that players themselves can improve over the off-season.   A great case in point is the situation with outside linebacker Brandon Graham.   Having been injured, then forced to rehab without team resources, then forced into new defensive schemes annually, his career did not explode until 2014 when his 5.5 sacks stood out, considering how few opportunities he had in defensive snaps.  But many simply looked at the box score and proclaimed him to be on the way out.  Fortunately, I saw his career in a different perspective and wrote that he continued to have huge upside.

    That storyline is similar to that of Matthews.  Brought into a team with many issues, set up to fail, and then demoted to the point where most spirits would break.  But he kept on fighting, kept on trying, kept on giving 100%.   Now, that he is on the cusp of playing to that potential, the Eagles are forced to make the decision of resigning or walking away.


    A player like Matthews can be as important to a team as a star player.  He will push younger players for playing time.   He knows what the team expects and he is willing to do whatever it takes.   He contributes on special teams, and is adaptable enough to back up two stars of the Eagles defense.  In a league where injuries happen frequently, and one play can be the difference between a stunning victory or a deflating defeat, Matthews puts more on the plus side.

    Free Agency season is closing in, and there are places where the Eagles must focus upon upgrading to be successful in the NFL, and compete for the Lombardi.  But the bench at the linebacker position?  No need to fret folks.   Casey Matthews has that covered.   As long as the Eagles give him that chance.

    Next: Is Chip Kelly the Eagles' Worst Enemy?

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