Eagles are searching for Mr. Good Linebacker by Lloyd Vance

Could former Bengals LB Odell Thurman — currently playing in the UFL — be the “answer” to the problems that are plaguing the Philadelphia Eagles linebackers 

Through 3 weeks of play, the highly-touted Eagles’ new Wide-9 defense led by rookie defensive coordinator Juan Castillo and veteran defensive line coach Jim Washburn has produced the following numbers:  77 points allowed (ranked 24th in NFL), 593 passing yards (8th), 394 rushing yards (30th), 12 sacks, and 3 turnovers (22).

To say the least, the Eagles have struggled on defense especially in Weeks 2 and 3, which produced consecutive losses to the Atlanta Falcons and New Giants.  These two defeats have definitely raised Philly fans ire and left them wondering if the team’s young linebackers are going to be this season’s Andy Reid blind-spot — see Punt Returner circa 2007. 

After Week 1 of the 2007 NFL Season came and went with the punt returners difficulties on full display in an embarrassing 16-13 loss to the Green Bay Packers, Eagles Nation said “We have been saying that all training camp”.  At the time Reid said of his punt returner situation, “It’s my responsibility to put guys back there that can do a better job”.  And surprise, surprise he added, “That’s my fault.”…. Does any of this sound familiar.

In 2011, there is the potential for the Eagles linebacking unit led by inexperienced linebackers coach Mike Caldwell to be similar problem for Reid.  In Week 3, first the team did the “re-shuffle” for the NY Giants with overmatched rookie MLB Casey Matthews moving to the weakside, Moises Fokou moving to the strongside, and second-year player Jamar Chaney going to the middle. 

Unfortunately, the Eagles LB’s were still fooled by misdirection, play-action, and trucked in run situations.  They only had 9 tackles and 0 sacks as a group.  The worst of the bunch was Matthews, who was smoked by big back Brandon Jacobs on a 40-yard Wheel Route touchdown.  Giants RB’s Ahmad Bradshaw and Jacobs had 7 catches for 95 yards and 2 TDs including Jacobs 40-yarder.

Now in preparation for Week 4 against the Niners, Matthews is out and Brian Rolle is in at the weakside position, but will it work.  In their agony and head-scratching over Reid’s decisions, Eagles fans have been constantly asking, “Are there any linebackers available?”  I am not sure if there is one out there, but I have tried my best to compile a list.

Potential Trade Candidates – The NFL Trade Deadline is on October 18th and some Eagles do have several picks in the 2012 NFL Draft – including the Cardinals’ 2nd-round pick that came over in the Kevin Kolb trade — that could be swapped for a player.  The only problem is that the trade deadline in the national football league is most often times accompanied by apathy.  For the main reasons it is too early in the season and coaches like to hold-on to players even if they are not in their team’s immediate plans (see Vernon Gholston’s tenure with the NY Jets)

Bobby Carpenter (28) — Former Dallas Cowboys high-round draft pick (2006 first round) has bounced around the league after not living up to expectations in Big D — stops with Cowboys, Rams, Dolphins, and Lions.  Carpenter currently is a back-upWLB and special teams player for the Detroit Lions

Aaron Curry (25) — The former first-round selection (No.4 overall in 2009 NFL Draft) has been a major disappointment during his 3-year career inSeattle.  Curry has had difficulty making big plays and right now definitely is not living up to his 6-yr, $60M ($32M guaranteed) contract.  The former Wake Forest star is firmly in Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll’s doghouse — BTW didn’t draft Curry — so there maybe an opportunity for the Eagles to trade for him at the Trading Deadline.  The former college All-American has even taken to Twitter in effort to spur a trade back to the East Coast.  In his 3-year career, Curry has 134 TKLs, 5.5 sacks, 0 INTs, and 4 fumble recoveries

Nai’il Diggs (33) — Former Packers draft pick is a veteran linebacker on the Chargers’ roster.   Diggs has had stops in GB,CAR,STL, and now SD. 

Derrick Johnson (28) — Former 2005 first-round selection of the Kansas City Chiefs is a solid pro, who has a nose for the ball.  There were murmurs that Johnson (starting RILB) was not a fit for Romo Crennel’s new scheme inKansas City and that team’s new braintrust, GM Scott Pioli and HC Todd Haley, were not high on the leftover linebacker from the previous regime.  With the Chiefs struggling in 2011, there maybe an opportunity for the Eagles to grab the high-energy linebacker.  In his 6-year NFL career, Johnson has amassed 386 TKLs, 13 Sacks, and 6 INTs including an NFL record-tying 2 INTs returned for a touchdown in the same game (2009 Week 17)

Kaluka Maiava (24) — Former USC standout is a backup weakside linebacker for the Browns.  The Rock’s cousin was a 4th Rd pick in 2009 by Cleveland

Bills veterans Kirk Morrison (29) and Nick Barnett (30) — These at-the-backend-of-their-career linebackers have found new life playing in Buffalo alongside former NFL sack champion Shawne Merriman.  However one of them could possibly be obtained for the right price.

Jason Phillips (25) — Former Ravens standout isCarolina’s 3rd string middle linebacker

Andy Studebaker (26) — Former Eagles’ draft selection that got away in a roster-crunching situation. Studebaker is a special teams standout, who has learned a lot the past 2 seasons playing on the same unit as former Super Bowl Champion Mike Vrabel

Tracy White (30) — Another former Eagles player — traded to the Patriots for a low-round draft pick in September 2010 —  who is buried on a good team’s depth chart


Practice Squad Players on Linebacker-rich Teams – The Eagles could sign a linebacker off another team’s roster, but they then would have to keep the former Practice Squad player on their active roster.

Houston Texans LB Mister Alexander

San Diego Chargers LB Bront Bird

KC Chiefs LB Justin Cole

Oakland Raiders LB Jeremy Leman

Chicago Bears LB Patrick Trahan

Baltimore Ravens LB Chavis Williams

Carolina Panthers rookie LB Lawrence Wilson

Free Agents

Vernon Gholston (25) — Street free agent, who has already bombed out with the New York Jets (6th Overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft) and Chicago Bears in his short career.  Known for not recording 1 sack in his uninspiring 2-year career after being a Top 10 pick in 2008

Abdul Hodge (28) — A former third round pick by the Green Bay Packers in 2006, Hodge is a solid inside linebacker.  The formerUniversity ofIowa linebacker currently is a street FA after recently playing as a backup for the struggling Carolina Panthers

Dhani Jones (33) — Former Eagles and Bengals veteran linebacker could be a leadership fill-in.  But at this point in his career, I think Dhani is more concerned with traveling the world and selling bow ties.

Brashton Satele (23) — Former NY Jets practice squad player in 2010 was featured in the Hard Knocks Training Camp Show.  He was late cut in September 2011

Lofa Tatupu (28) — Currently anUFA after Seahawks cut the 3-time Pro Bowl player onJuly 31, 2011. There are injury concerns with him since he tore his left pectoral in October 2009 and landed on I/R for that season.  Tatupu has 543 TKLs, 8.5 sacks, and 10 INTs in his 6-year NFL career.

Odell Thurman (28) — UFL Virginia Destroyers, was a tackling machine early in his career with the Cincinnati Bengals.  But has constantly been on the NFL’s Suspended List for Drug/Alcohol violations

Jeremiah Trotter (34) –After so many years with the Eagles –many of them productive — could the “Axe Man” really report for his 4th tour of duty with the Birds. 

Lloyd Vance is the Editor  for Taking It to the House , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA).  Lloyd can be reached on Twitter @lloydvance_nfl

One Response

  1. Great Blog, will be sure to follow you!

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