• March 24, 2023

A Quick Look At The Eagles Linebackers

I think the Eagles have a group of young linebackers who have the ability to get much better, but they must learn to play smarter by anticipating the upcoming plays.  They have the physical tools but they’ve got to get better pre-snap reads about what offenses are going to do by seeing the formations, knowing the down and distance, identifying the tendencies of that team and the mentality of the offensive coordinator.

To give you an example.  The Eagles offense marched down inside the Packers five yard line and they tried a couple of plays which they had run effectively against the Giants in that historic comeback win.

One was a delayed crossing route from to the left to the right side by Jeremy Maclin and the other was a quarterback draw by Vick to the left side.  Green Bay’s linebackers had done their homework and recognized those plays before the Eagles could have success running them.  This is one of the reasons Green Bay is still in the playoffs but the Eagles are on vacation.

The defense needs more interceptions, sacks and forced fumbles out of the linebackers.  They need them to be impact players in order to have a good defense.

It’s clear that weakside linebacker Ernie Sims hasn’t been the big-time playmaker the Birds were looking for when they traded for him.  He started the season playing all 1st, 2nd and 3rd downs but as the season went on they started taking him off the field in nickel situations.  I told you during the summer at training camp after checking Sims out, that he was a better athlete than he was an NFL linebacker.

He’s still playing like he did in college where you just run around and hit people, but in the NFL you play with your mind as well as your body.  I’ve asked him questions about what the upcoming offense likes to do and he can never give me the information that he needs to be giving.

It’s pretty simple, Sims doesn’t make enough big plays, but he does give them up. He bites on fakes and is caught out of position on a near constant basis.  Sims had 55 tackles with two sacks for the season.  Despite playing full time, he rarely if ever got his hands on the football or forces any turnovers.

Sims hasn’t been able to advantage from the study of video tapes and statistics.  He seems to fall for every pump fake known to man.

I expect Akeem Jordan to compete for the starting Will linebacker job next season.  He’s got good speed and is an adept pass coverage linebacker.  Jordan does a decent job versus the run but that’s not his strength.  He’s a good football player but he’s not a big-time hitter.  He needs to be more physical.

Jordan has started at Will linebacker in the past but his work will be cut out for him to do it again.

Strongside linebacker Moise Fokou had a good year in 2010.  He played in all 16 regular season games and tallied 51 tackles along with one sack.

You might notice that the Birds relinquished less yardage to tight ends as the year progressed.  Fokou is an aggressive player, who seems to make a mistake only once and learns from it.  Versus the run, Fokou was doing a good job of getting off blocks and making plays on the ball carrier. He’s making good reads and playing an attacking style of ball.

Versus the pass, he has learned the value of a good jam on the tight end.  The young outside linebacker plays a very physical style which is a requirement for having success against tight ends.  when I saw him getting better the longer he played.

Rookie middle linebacker Jamar Chaney is a keeper.  He’s got great quickness and speed for a middle linebacker, which allows him to run down plays and run with speedy running backs.  I like the way Chaney attacks running plays and finds ways to work through traffic to make plays.  The Birds deserve a pat on the back for this one.

Chaney didn’t become a starter until late in the season yet he was able to register 42 tackles with a few forced fumbles.  He’s one of those sideline to sideline guys, who seems to be all over the field making plays.  He as well as Antonio Dixon are the best things that happened to the defense this year.

Chaney has the instincts to play the position because he’s always around the football and he has a knack for causing turnovers.  The rookie struggled at times in pass coverage, but he should improve tremendously next year with the experience he garnered this season.  He’s got the speed and savvy to be as good versus the pass as he is against the run.

The Eagles haven’t made a commitment to him as a starter in 2011, but I think you can rest assured that he’ll be the man in the middle for the Birds next season.

I think you’ll see Stewart Bradley moved to the strongside linebacker position, if Fokou can make the move to the Will linebacker spot.  Bradley is just a year away from knee surgery, but he played well at the middle linebacker position.  I didn’t say great, but he was part of a much improved run defense.

Rookie outside linebacker Keenan Clayton has the speed to play the safety position and he’s nearly as small as a safety. I like his coverage skills and the way he closes on a ball carrier.

He stays around the ball when he’s on the field and the youngster is willing to throw his body around to make plays.  The young linebacker has catch up speed, but the jury is still out on him when comes to stopping the run.

It will be difficult for Clayton to be a full time linebacker because of his size deficiency, but he does fit in as a hybrid safety/linebacker to be used in nickel and dime situations.

I do think he will get bigger in his second year and probably the year after that as well.  I remember talking to him after he was drafted when he said he was weighing near the 215-to-220 range.

Who knows if he comes back next year with an extra twenty pounds, he may be in the competition to start at the Will linebacker position because he does have playmaking skills.

Bradley’s height sometimes works against him on the inside because it’s easier to get underneath him as a blocker.  He could be competing for a starting job at Sam with Fokou or a starting job at Mike with Chaney.

He doesn’t deliver the impact in his tackling like the top middle linebackers.  His instincts are okay but not great.

Bradley was stronger in pass coverage than he was in run stopping, so I think the move will work out.  With Bradley’s size and height he’ll be a good matchup versus the tight ends in the league.

Veteran linebacker Omar Gaither didn’t see too much time this year at the linebacker position.  Gaither just doesn’t have the speed or size to be a dominant linebacker.  He’s a good backup because he’s very smart and has great instincts.  The only reason he’s in the league is because of his instincts.  It’s too bad they can’t do a transplant and put Gaither’s smarts and instincts on Sims’ body.


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January 12, 2011 9:18 am

I feel pretty good about our linebackers and they are only going to get better. But when was the last time we had a stud LB? Carlos Emmons? This team really needs a Ray Lewis/Brian Urlacher type guy to lead the defense. Someone nasty that gives the defense that type of reputation the Raves and Bears have. I think biggest needs on defense on CB and yet another pass rusher because the pass rush was non-existent during the 2nd half of the season.

crazy johnny
crazy johnny
January 12, 2011 9:25 am

G…….what do you think about Keenan Clayton? I noticed that we saw more and more of him towards the end. He is probably faster than Sims and smarter too. Any chance of seeing him at WILL next year?

January 12, 2011 9:34 am

Ernie Sims

I must apoligize for calling you the Fantastic Scrub – because of your ability to disappear in every game.

I must also apoligize for saying the 3 words that best describe your are STINK STANK STUNK!

I also apoligize for calling you a GOLDFISH in the Water.

It was immature of me and I shoud have be much more adult about the situation. So here goes…

Please get out of town. Please demand a trade. Volunteer to give back your signing bonus or half your pay. Whichever is greater. Find Jevon Kearse and his party boat and have a few drinks and a few laughs about how you two robbed Banner and gave him a couple of Ulcers. You win. While the Eagles are good at outsmarting young talent and getting them to sign lowball offers you two took the team for a ride. It would be funny except you two also took the fans for a ride. Before you leave town ask Assante Samuel and Mike Vick about studying film. There is a reason they are going to the probowl. The advice they give you should help you with your next team. You could be like Clemons and Babin and be a star for another team.

While you are at it, with all those muscles, why don’t you shove a certain 400lb coach out the door and tell him you are putting him and the fans of Philadelphia in a better position to win…

A Championship.

Ronnie Noel
Ronnie Noel
January 12, 2011 9:47 am

Eagles haven’t had an impact lb since Tom
Modrak brought in Carlos Emmons. Wish fat boy would get it through his stubborn head that these undersized lbs don’t get the job done & wear out by midseason

Ronnie Noel
Ronnie Noel
January 12, 2011 9:49 am

Can’t win with all these late rd draft picks and rookie fa’s starting on defense

January 12, 2011 10:11 am

bsm, I have the same feelings about Ernie Sims. We had a bunch of people on here claiming how good of a pickup it was since he was a 1st round pick and they said he was good in Detroit but because the team was so bad he couldn’t really excel. Dude just can’t play. He has good aggressiveness but he isn’t a smart player. Too small to shed blocks. Not smart enough to cover. How many times did we see him going the wrong way this year? Too many. I’m sick of the undersized and fast guys. We need someone with a nasty attitude that big and strong. I miss the days when Trott use to blow up the center and both guards on a blitz so Dawk could come free and smack the QB. That was Eagles football. I will say that with Chaney in the middle and Fokou and Bradley at the other 2 spots it is a much better starting LB core but we need one of them to become a play maker.

January 12, 2011 10:11 am

Good analysis G,

SIms,Gaither contracts are up and will not be re-signed by the EAgles moving forward
Bradley is also a free-agent, but his value has been diminished with his history of injuries and the
emergence of Chaney in the Middlle.. They will make an offer to Bradley but it won’t be for the $$$
that he was expecting or hoping for so the ball will be in Bradley’s court on whether he returns
(I expect that he will and I also expect them to sign A Jordan to lock him in)
So for 2011 I believe the LB corps will consist of Fokou,Chaney,Bradley as the Starters
with Clayon,Jordan playing in passing downs and blitzing situations (Clayton bliltzed pretty effectively vs the PAckers though he didn’t finish any plays but he did bring pressure)
and then they will add 2 reserves thru the Draft and maybe acquire one thru Free-Agency..
I like this James ANderson from the Panthers.. young,heatlhy,active and has a nasty streak
also like S Burnett from Chargers with long arms and a long stride who is an effective pass-rusher
a couple of real steady LB’s from the Vkiings in C Greenway and B Leber could also be on the radar if Bradley chooses to sign with another team
I do agree with G that the LB Corps will be better in 2011 as the younger players have more experience and play together more, but Sims was a 1 year stop-gap player who really didn’t work out
and Gaither is just not worth the Roster spot for his salary when you can have a younger,faster players for 1/3 of Gaithers Salary perform the same duties
This is a deep Draft for LB’s this year and a lot of promising players will be available in the early-mid rounds of the Draft

January 12, 2011 10:16 am

The problem with SIms is the same one that has plagued him for years, is that he has been known to have a diffcult time picking up the playbooks and recognizing plays,formations and tendancies,etc,etc, (G and others stated this back in the summer so it’s real no surprise)
He has relied on his athletic abaility which was good enough at the Collegiate level but doesn’t cut it the NFL Level.. but don’t worry,for he will not be part of the 2011 Eagles team

January 12, 2011 11:04 am

Look at our defensive picks under Andy. Out of all these picks we probably had 5-6 guys that actually contributed and played some decent-good years. Many of these guys didn’t belong in the league or are just backups that we were looking to have big impacts. Just sad. I didn’t include last year because it’s too early to fully judge them.


LB Barry Gardner
S Damon Moore
DT Pernell Davis


DT Corey Simon


LB Quinton Caver
DE Derrick Burgess


CB Lito Sheppard
S Michael Lewis
CB Sheldon Brown
LB Tyreo Harrison
DE Raheem Brock


DE Jerome McDougle
DE Janaal Green
DB Norman LeJeune


DB Matt Ware
DB JR Reed
DB Dexter Wynn


DT Mike Patterson
LB Matt McCoy
S Sean Considine
DE Trent Cole
DT Keyonta Marshall
LB David Bergeron


DT Broderick Bunkley
LB Chris Gocong
LT Omar Gaither
DT LaJuan Ramsey


DE Victor Abiamiri
LB Stewart Bradley
CB Rashad Barksdale


DT Trevor Laws
DE Bryan Smith
S Quintin Demps
CB Jack Ikegwuonu
LB Joe Mays
LB Andy Studebaker


DB Macho Harris
LB Moise Foku

January 12, 2011 11:23 am

Good points about this group! Sims didn’t study and as stated was always out of position or blown out of the play. I don’t like any of the current players as the WILL, need a new attitude at that spot and a playmaker. The Linebacker Bruce Carter from North Carolina comes to mind. Spend on this position and firm it up for years esp if we are going to play this attacking style (damn the mid round theory that we have been going with for years esp since we have had 12 different players revolving at this position). Let Akeem back him up.

Like Stew at the SAM esp blitzing ala Clay Matthews. He needs to get stronger and play lower so he can make plays behind the line of scrimmage. Moise Fokou can back him up and overachieve like he did this year. Can a healthy Ricky Sapp help at SAM? He was pretty good in college. Graham as a standup blitzer and this comes to mind since he has stated that he studies Dumerville (not dropping into coverage would help this group too)

Chaney is ok at MLB, can use this whole offseason and get stronger and learn in this defense. He needs a backup and that’s an area best filled through free agency (make him earn the position).

Clayton as a SS playing down in the box works for me since he flashes speed at his size. He’s played this position in college and is best suited for this in my opinion.

This group has to get tremendously better or we’ll see this story again and again! Linebackers and Runningbacks IMO win games in the playoffs/

January 12, 2011 11:45 am

Gotta give Andy props on the 2002 draft. But boy did he whiff on the 2004 draft. However, we didn’t have a lot of need on defense that year. I’d say 2008 was a pretty awful draft (all things considered).

January 12, 2011 12:21 pm

Good stuff Scorpion,
I am glad I ate lunch though before reading this list for I would have lost my appetite..
Pretty brutal stretch except for 2002

by the way, not to add Salt to the wounds..
LB Studebacker looks pretty good to me for the Chiefs… He was in the backfield making plays and gets after the QB.. Again the Eagles didn’t give this guy enough reps with the big boys to see what he can do..He is not a Coverage LB, but he gets after the QB better than anyone on the Eagles current LB Roster

January 12, 2011 2:59 pm

Chaney is not the answer and got exposed in pass coverage too much. He would be a good backup and special teams guy. Go out and sign Chad Greenway, keep Bradley in the middle, and move Fokou to WILL….if Bradley’s play doesn’t improve (as he is a restricted FA) then move on…

Realistically, they will just sign a LB coming off a knee injury.

January 12, 2011 9:29 pm

“He is not a Coverage LB…”

Paulman this is why he doesn’t play for the Eagles and more importantly it’s emblematic of the pathetic talent evaluation the Eagles have been doing for a while for the system they have in place. How many undersized DLinemen, “Non-Coverage oriented” LBs, “Injury discount draftees” does a group have to run out of town and for how many years before before some people in the FO get their feet held to the fire?