Sep 21, 2011, 1:40 PM EDT
Well, that lasted all of two weeks.
After two subpar games as the starting middle linebacker, the Eagles have thought better of the Casey Matthews experiment, and will relocate the overwhelmed rookie according to Birds’ Eye View. Stepping into his role will be Jamar Chaney, who struggled to cover Tony Gonzalez on Sunday night, but shined at his true position on the inside late last season.
Matthews slides over to the weakside, while Moise Fokou will shift back to strongside, where he’s spent time in previous seasons.
This is closer to the lineup most observers envisioned before the lockout ended and training camp began.
Chaney drew rave reviews for his play in the final three games last season while filling in for Stewart Bradley after he succumbed to a dislocated elbow. Expectations were high for the second year player out of Mississippi State, who showcased his speed, physicality, and instinct during the limited opportunity. It was assumed that was one reason they let Bradley walk.
However, Chaney’s talent had not translated to his new role through the first two games.
Meanwhile, it was suspected Matthews could come in and compete this summer for a job at one of the outside positions, where nothing was nailed down. Instead, the fourth round pick wound up in the middle where his limitations were painfully obvious, especially defending the run. He failed to shed blocks and was pushed around with ease far too often.
Matthews has great football IQ though, and has flashed ability in coverage, so he could still have some value this season.
With all of that in mind, the Eagles will likely draw criticism for not making this decision in the first place. They had one guy who looked like a natural MIKE linebacker, and another less athletic, less experienced player who was forced to learn on the fly after the shortened off-season.
In this case, it’s difficult to defend the process. Had the usual off-season programs been in place, maybe the coaching staff would have reached this conclusion earlier, but since those practices weren’t held, that’s no excuse. The team could have stuck to conventional thinking from the beginning, or at the very least, made these moves following the preseason, not unlike what they did with the offensive line.
But the change has been made, and thankfully before too much damage was done. The linebackers clearly were a big reason for Sunday night’s meltdown though, and while they were far from the only players with a role in that loss, the Eagles aren’t waiting for more disaster to unfold.
>> Chaney to MLB; Matthews to WLB [BEV]
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