The NFL Draft has come and gone and if there was one surprise, it was that the Eagles didn’t select an Inside Linebacker to potentially be DeMeco Ryans’ heir apparent. Hell, they didn’t even sign a rookie free agent at that position.
That speaks volumes about how they must feel about Najee Goode, Jake Knott, Jason Phillips and Emmanuel Acho.
To me, the defining moment in the draft came in Round 5 when the Eagles were on the clock with their second pick and chose Safety Ed Reynolds instead of potential Inside ‘backers such as Jordan Tripp, Jordan Zumwalt, Ronald Powell or Devon Kennard.
Zumwalt was the only true Inside Linebacker prospect, but the other three guys could have been projected to that position in the NFL.
In any case, I was fully expecting the Eagles to take a prospect to groom behind Ryans.
Ryans is a good veteran player and team leader. However, he turns 30 in July and his effectiveness as a three-down player has come into question. Some people even thought he was in danger of being released or would be asked to take a pay cut due to his 2014 salary.
Well, here we are and things are the same as last year. So, what happens if Ryans gets injured or becomes more of a liability in pass coverage?
Najee Goode seemed to play well in relief of Mychal Kendricks for two games, but is the former fifth round pick who was released by Tampa Bay after one season good enough to capably fill in for the long haul or be the future?
The scouting report on him coming out of college in 2012 was that he was a versatile, smart player who was an aggressive hitter and good in tight spaces. However, scouts saw him as more of a two-down run stopper and core special teamer.
Goode was claimed off of waivers after the final cuts last year and the Eagles released Acho to make room. Being that he was the last LB in the door and the first one up after a starter went down, I’d say the Eagles like his potential.
In limited playing time on defense, Goode was in on 21 tackles, recorded a sack of RG3 and had four passes defensed. He was also a good special teamer in notching eight tackles and scoring a touchdown on a fumble recovery after a botched punt snap.
Jake Knott is another player the Eagles are high on. He was signed as an undrafted free agent last year and made the team as a backup and special teamer. The main reason he went undrafted was due to an injured shoulder he suffered at the end of his last college season that prevented him from working out prior to the draft.
The interesting thing about that particular injury was that it was a torn labrum, and Knott played in his final college game with the injury…without painkillers…because he “didn’t want to let his teammates down” and wanted to “give them one more game.”
He then proceeded to record 11 tackles, one forced fumble and earned Big 12 defensive player of the week honors.
Here was a scouting report on him heading into last year’s draft (from DraftInsider.net) –
Bio: Three-year starter awarded all-Conference honors since his sophomore season. Had his senior campaign cut short by a shoulder injury and finished the year with 79 tackles and six tackles for loss in eight games. Junior totals included 115 tackles after 130 as a sophomore.
Positive: Fierce, three-down defender who stands out in all areas of the game. Physical, instinctive, and flies around the action. Fast up the field, quickly changes direction, and shows speed in pursuit. Plays with quickness. Goes hard sideline to sideline and covers a lot of area. Effective in coverage, gets depth on pass drops, and works hard to defend the throw.
Negative: Easily blocked from the action or disrupted from his angle of attack by the first hit. Coming off a serious shoulder injury.
Analysis: Knott is an intense defender who plays smart, tough football. He is effective stopping the run, defending the pass, and offers potential on the outside of a 4-3 alignment. Knott will play at the next level if he recovers from last year’s shoulder injury.
While all of that sounds great, we’ll need to see it on the field. Knott didn’t make his presence felt too much last year in recording just six tackles in extremely limited playing time on defense, and was 12th on the team with five special teams tackles.
He has also been suspended for the first four weeks of the upcoming season after ingesting a nutritional supplement that contained a banned substance that apparently wasn’t listed on the label.
Knott is a player I really want to see in camp and preseason to see how much he’s improved from last year.
Jason Phillips was signed last year in large part due to his special teams ability. He’s a bit of a journeyman in that the Eagles were his third team in five years. He only has two career starts under his belt (both in 2012) and he’ll be coming off an ACL tear he suffered last summer.
We’ll have to see what he has to offer, but chances are his biggest contribution will be made on special teams.
The Eagles acquired Emmanuel Acho last offseason in a trade with Cleveland (Acho for Dion Lewis) and after becoming a fan favorite during training camp, he ended up being cut in favor of Najee Goode.
He ended up coming back to Philly after sitting on New York’s practice squad for two months and was basically a special teams body. Acho is a former sixth round pick from the 2012 draft and here was a scouting report on him from Pro Football Weekly…
Has large hands and a big wing span — long arms to play off blocks. Can scrape and flow when freed up. Has a 351⁄2-inch vertical jump. Good work ethic. Versatile — has played all three positions. Solid production. Terrific character. Intelligent and hardworking. Has NFL bloodlines.
Knock-kneed, pigeon-toed and bad-bodied. Not strong at the point. Gives ground to beat blocks. Foot speed is just adequate — gets outrun to the perimeter. Tightly wound with leggy, stiff movement skills (can be exposed in space). Average lateral agility. Tends to clutch and grab in coverage. Dull striker. Limited finishing strength. Does not project as a special-teams standout.
Stiff, long-limbed, bad-bodied, three-position backup lacking starter-caliber traits in any area. Could be best playing on the strong side in the pros.
I’m not going to say Pro Football Weekly is the greatest scouting source on the planet, but they are a rather large outlet.
With as many scouting reports I’ve read over the past four or five years, I’ve never seen “Knock-kneed, pigeon-toed and bad-bodied” as a description on any player. He must have said something bad about that scout’s mama!
However, Chip Kelly’s favorite word is listed in his positives: versatile.
Even still, it’s hard to view Acho as much more than a special teamer and he’ll likely struggle to make the roster again this year.
So, it appears that Goode and Knott will serve as the primary backups to Ryans and Kendricks. Both players have potential and given that the Eagles didn’t bring in anyone new, they at least will have the 2014 season to prove themselves.
If neither player steps up, the Eagles will absolutely have to address the ILB position in next year’s free agency or the draft (draft most likely).
Ryans and Kendricks are under contract for the next two seasons. Kendricks will be eligible for an extension after this year so we’ll see what happens there. However, it’s highly unlikely Ryans will be signing any extension but could play out his current deal.
Is the future at ILB on the current roster? Goode and Knott will answer that question this year.