Eagles give nod to LB Casey Matthews

PHILADELPHIA -- Holding onto their last breath of making the postseason, the Eagles will once again attempt to fix the weakest link of their weakest unit.

In what has become almost a weekly change, the Eagles are asking their forgotten man, Casey Matthews, to return to the nickel defense this week when they travel to Miami to face the Dolphins in a battle of a 4-8 teams.

"We've got a few different personnel groups," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "We're going to try to utilize everybody, really. Casey earned the right to get back in there. He's done well when given the opportunity on short yardage and goal line. He's done well on the scout team and he's done well in the classroom.

"Like some of the other guys who took a step back to take a step forward, that's what we're doing with Casey."

Matthews, the rookie fourth-round draft pick out of Oregon, was thrust into the role of starting middle linebacker when training camp opened in late July. He started all four preseason games and the first two regular-season games.

In Week 3 against the Giants, though, it all fell apart.

He started on the weak side vs. New York, bit on a play fake, and was burned for a touchdown. He later heard his fiancee was harassed by fans, and was eventually benched.

Other than that, it was a good day for Matthews.

That loss to the Giants began a movement across the position and was also the last anyone had seen of Matthews, except for a handful of short-yardage plays and on special teams.

But now, the younger brother of Green Bay Pro Bowl linebacker Clay Matthews will be in the first nickel package with Keenan Clayton vs. the Dolphins. They will replace Jamar Chaney and Brian Rolle.

Then again, who knows what Reid will do at gametime. After all, Eagles linebackers have a total of one sack, two interceptions, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery this year.

And Chaney has the sack and both interceptions.

"I feel a lot more prepared than I did," Matthews said. "During camp, when I was first in there, everything was on the run. I was just trying to learn on the fly. It was tough. This is another opportunity to go out there and show what I can do. I need to take advantage of it this time."

For the record, the Eagles have used Chaney as both the starter on the strong side and in the middle, as well as in the nickel.

Moise Fokou, now on injured reserve, started two games on the weak side and four on the strong side.

Akeem Jordan, a starter a year ago, was on the bench until Week 9, and has now started three of the past four games on the strong side.

Rolle, another rookie, has started the last nine games on the weak side, and was on the nickel until this week.

Clayton, who was a healthy inactive player twice this season, hasn't been in the starting lineup -- which has included six different groups.

"I think they're all getting better," Reid said of his linebackers. "They're just a young group. We're young at linebacker. Zero excuse on that, that's not what that is, that's reality. So the thing you do is you try to get better as a player every week. I appreciate their effort, their study habits, the things they're doing.

"They all have an opportunity to play and contribute."