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Roster Outlook: ILB

ILB Mychal Kendricks hit a rookie wall last season. Can he rebound in 2013?

ILB Mychal Kendricks hit a rookie wall last season. Can he rebound in 2013?

The linebacker position was almost always a sore spot on the roster under Andy Reid, but with the Eagles transitioning to a 3-4 defense, that may change. In a 3-4 scheme, only two non-rush linebackers play in the base package as opposed to three in a 4-3 scheme. That may mask some of the Eagles’ deficiencies, but the Eagles are deeper at the position than they have been in recent memory. Chip Kelly stated that one reason he preferred the 3-4 system is because it would allow the Eagles to carry more linebackers on the roster for special teams purposes. Sure enough, the Eagles went out and added Jason Phillips and Emmanuel Acho to a linebacker corps that should generate fierce competition in training camp.

Who makes the team:

Jamar Chaney, Mychal Kendricks, Casey Matthews, Jason Phillips, and DeMeco Ryans

Kendricks and Ryans are locks, but the backup jobs are definitely up for grabs. Right now, Jason Phillips and Jamar Chaney are the second team inside ‘backers, and they should be. Their odds of making the team are looking good right now. The Eagles will likely keep a fifth inside player, and that job figures to come down to the wire. Casey Matthews is the veteran. He’s awful against the run, but he can cover in sub packages and play special teams. The Eagles traded for Emmanuel Acho, who has yet to play a regular season snap in his career. The player to watch, though, is rookie free agent Jake Knott, who the Eagles reportedly love. He has the most upside of the three, but the job will ultimately come down to special teams performance.

Who stars week 1:

Mychal Kendricks (weak side/WILL) and DeMeco Ryans (strong side/MIKE)

Ryans is the quarterback of the defense and his starting job is secure. Kendricks is the heavy favorite to start across from him. He looked fantastic in the preseason, but faded once the season started. He has great range, but needs become stronger and a more reliable tackler. He is most comfortable in a 3-4 scheme, though, and could reach his upside as a run-and-chase weak side linebacker. He will be given every opportunity to start.

How the position stacks up:

The Eagles have average starters and great depth at the inside linebacker spots. Ryans is in command as a leader and still plays the run well, but doesn’t run fast anymore. Kendricks is just the opposite. He will go sideline-to-sideline, and though he’s inexperienced and undersized, he could develop into a tackling machine on the weak side. Jason Phillips and Jamar Chaney are both very solid backups. The Eagles won’t get great play inside, but their personnel should hold up a lot better than it did under Andy Reid.

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