Eagles Shuffle Linebackers, Move Matthews From Middle by Matt Lombardo

On Wednesday the Eagles shuffled their linebackers returning Jamar Chaney to middle linebacker where he started several games last season. 

It was a move that needed to be made.

On Wednesday the Eagles did what many suggested should have been done in the latter stages of training camp and the preseason: mercifully they shifted their linebacker alignment and moved Jamar Chaney to the middle, rookie Casey Matthews to the weakside and Moise Fokou to the strong side.

Anyone that has spent time watching this Eagles defense through the first two weeks knew that this was necessary.

Matthews’ struggles in the middle have been well documented. The fifth round draft choice out of Oregon was physically man handled by interior lineman against both the Rams and Falcons in the first two weeks, often pushed to the hash marks on run plays. Perhaps worse, for Matthews, he struggled against misdirection plays run by opposing offenses and was often out of position because of his inability to recognize the gaps as they developed.

The results were troubling. Through the first two games Philadelphia surrendered 292 yards against the run, good enough for 30th in the league. The Birds gave up five touchdowns on five red zone opportunities against the Falcons in week two.

By moving to the weakside, Matthews will no longer have to call out signals, nor be the focal point of a defense that invites inside rushes by running a wide nine defensive line scheme.

Through the first two weeks, linebacker was the clear and obvious weak link. The Eagles secondary play from Nnamdi Asomugha and Asante Samuel was solid. As was the pass rush, that  recorded nine sacks in the first two games. However, the as hard as Juan Castillo and company tried, the defense simply could not hide Matthews’ deficiencies in the middle of the field.

Beginning on Sunday against the Giants (1-1), Chaney returns to the middle where he started several games last season. Chaney finished 2010 with 33 tackles in 14 games and by all accounts manned the position as well, or better than incumbent starter Stewart Bradley. Perhaps most importantly for the Eagles moving forward this season, unlike Matthews, Chaney has experience calling out the defensive signals and a year under his belt of defending NFL offenses.

The move is one that Chaney embraces.

“I like to look at both sides of the offensive line,” Chaney said at practice on Wednesday. “All the way to the fullback and you can do that at the MIKE position, but at SAM you only see pretty much half of the line.”

Meanwhile Fokou moves to the strong side position where he will have the responsibility, among other things, of locking down opponents tight ends. Last week tony Gonzalez feasted for 83 yards and two scores against a seemingly helpless Eagles defense.

 Clearing The Notebook 

  • Michael Vick did not practice on Wednesday but did take part in the morning walk through.
  • Cullen Jenkins could see some reps at defensive end against the Giants this week if Darryl Tapp and Juqua Parker cannot go, neither practiced on Wednesday.
  • Jenkins was fined $15k for his hit on Matt Ryan on Sunday night.

Matt Lombardo is the Philadelphia Eagles beat  reporter and host for 97.3 ESPN in Atlantic City, NJ. Matt can be reached on Twitter @MattLombardoPHL or by Email atMDLombardo@yahoo.com


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