The Philadelphia Eagles are certainly doing their due diligence on linebackers as they prepare for the 2011 NFL draft. To date, they have been linked in varying ways to 13 different college linebackers. From senior bowl, Shrine Game, and combine interviews to private workouts and pro-day attendances, the Eagles are making sure they leave no stone unturned when it comes to a potential future linebacker. So far, the Eagles have seen or met with the following players:
Lawrence Wilson, Connecticut
Scott Lutrus, Connecticut
Greg Lloyd, Connecticut
Brian Rolle, Ohio State
Ross Homan, Ohio State
Doug Hogue, Syracuse
Kelvin Sheppard, LSU
Jonas Mouton, Michigan
Matt Hansen, Rhode Island
Joseph Harris, Rhode Island
Casey Matthews, Oregon
Mark Herzlich, Boston College
Michael Lockley, Florida Atlantic University
All of the above players fit the Eagles’ philosophy when it comes to linebackers — they’re all are projected to be drafted in the middle rounds or later and a few of them aren’t expected to be drafted at all. Not one “blue chip” prospect in the bunch. I’m sure this is much to the chagrin of many Eagle fans because the linebacker position has been a perpetual sore spot on this defense since the days of Jeremiah Trotter and Carlos Emmons. The last time the Eagles have had the same 3 starting LB’s for 2 seasons in a row was in 1992 and 1993 (Seth Joyner, Byron Evans, William Thomas). Since then, our LB corps have been a revolving door, especially at WLB (weak side), and Reid has kept that tradition going.
The Eagles, under Andy Reid, have never invested heavily in a high caliber linebacker through either the draft or free agency. Reid has taken a few shots on them as high as the 2nd round but came away with the likes of Quintin Caver, Barry Gardner, and Matt McCoy. Maybe he was traumatized after that, I know I was! But, it appears to be his philosophy that you can “plug and play” any linebacker into their system, especially when he had Jim Johnson as defensive coordinator. What’s certain is that his linebacker talent evaluation skills need serious improvement.
I fully expect the Eagles to go into next season with some combination of Bradley, Chaney, Fokou, and Clayton as our starters. If Chaney builds on the promise he showed last season and Clayton progresses, that could be a solid LB corp. I believe Ernie Sims will be let go along with Omar Gaither. And finally, I expect the Eagles to target 1 or 2 of those 13 linebackers (or others that they will meet with) in the mid-to-late rounds or as a rookie free agent after the draft.
It has been 31 years since the Eagles have drafted a LB in the 1st round (Jerry Robinson, 1979). I would be utterly shocked if that changed this year.