Scouts Inc.'s Matt Williamson examines the linebackers of each NFC East team. Today: Philadelphia Eagles.
The Eagles have two starting linebackers scheduled to be up for free agency in Stewart Bradley and Ernie Sims. Maybe neither will be brought back. Bradley is a very solid player, but his durability has to be a major stumbling block when discussing a long-term deal after a severe knee injury in 2009 and a serious elbow injury last season. He started in the middle and did a nice job, although I tend to think this big-bodied linebacker would be best suited on the strong side. But when right, Bradley can be a force -- so Philadelphia has a tough choice with him. And its team doctors surely will have a lot of input in that football decision.
As a rookie, Jamar Chaney did a pretty nice job as Bradley’s replacement in the middle, but is probably only a two-down player. As for Sims, watching him play can be maddening. He is athletic, but plays with very little recognition or discipline. So adding starting-caliber linebackers might be in order for the Eagles. But they have some interesting guys to go along with Chaney in Moise Fokou, Akeem Jordan, Omar Gaither and Keenan Clayton.
Fokou can play either outside linebacker spot and is an exceptional special-teams player. Although he might not be the ideal starter, Fokou has a lot of value to Philadelphia and isn’t a liability in any phase on defense. Jordan also can hold his own at linebacker, but isn’t special in this regard. Gaither and was much better in 2009 than last season and there is still hope for his career. Like Gaither, Jordan did play quite well in 2009, though. Clayton has great speed and can be a factor on throwing downs, but probably isn’t suited to handle the pounding of an every down backer. But Clayton is intriguing for sure. Maybe he could thrive on the weak side if given ample opportunity.
A difference-maker added at linebacker could do this defense a lot of good, but I don’t consider it a move that absolutely must be made.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.