The Eagles were able to give their young players an extensive look at the linebacker position in 2011. Two rookies –
2011 Season In Review
In 2011, the Eagles used eight different combinations of linebackers throughout the season - four in their base defensive set and four in their nickel formation. By the end of the season, it seemed as if the Eagles had finally found the correct amalgamation of players at the position.
When all was said and done, the three Eagles who notched the plurality of the team’s snaps at linebacker were second-year man Jamar Chaney and rookies Brian Rolle and Casey Matthews. Indeed, the Eagles’ young group of linebackers grew together as a unit throughout the season.
The Eagles began the season with Matthews at middle linebacker, a position that proved to be a bit overwhelming for the rookie to handle without the benefit of a full offseason. He was moved to weakside linebacker after struggling in the first two games of the season, with strongside linebacker Jamar Chaney reclaiming his role in the middle of the defense from the season prior.
One game after his move to weakside linebacker, Casey Matthews was relegated to special teams, with fellow-rookie Brian Rolle taking over in the base defense. Matthews continued to plug away and he eventually caught the eyes of his coaches as he was installed into the team’s nickel defensive package for the team’s final four games. In those games, the Eagles went 4-0 and the Oregon-alum played his best football of the season.
Perhaps the brightest star last season at linebacker was rookie Brian Rolle, who started every game for the Eagles after taking over for Matthews in Week 4. He tied defensive end
Also playing significant roles in the defense by year’s end were
Going into Week 6, when the Eagles were 1-4 on the year, their rush defense ranked 30th in the NFL. By season’s end, their rush defense had improved to 16th in the league and they went 7-3 during that stretch.
End of Season Depth Chart
WLB: 1. Brian Rolle, 2. Casey Matthews
MLB: 1. Jamar Chaney, 2. Akeem Jordan, 3.
SLB: 1. Akeem Jordan, 2. Keenan Clayton
Injured Reserve: Moise Fokou
To Be Answered
The Eagles will have to decide this offseason whether they want to rely upon the progression of the young linebackers already on the roster or try to bring in another draft pick or veteran presence at the position. Jamar Chaney, Brian Rolle and Casey Matthews have started an average of just 11 games each in their careers. Rolle and Chaney each started over three-quarters of the Eagles’ games in 2011 and will look to keep their starting spots going into 2012. Matthews, who stepped up his play in the final four weeks of the season, will push for a starting job, as well.
With Chaney undergoing offseason neck surgery, it is unclear what the timetable for recovery will be for the veteran linebacker. Veterans Akeem Jordan and Moise Fokou will also be in the mix for playing time. Keenan Clayton and Greg Lloyd will have a chance to impress in training camp to earn spots on the 53-man roster next season.
Make sure to follow us on Twitter @EaglesInsider