Eagles Defensive Coordinator met the media yesterday and the topic of discussion was mostly centered on linebackers. The Eagles clearly targeted the position as a weakness last year and in need of change coming into this season. They drafted two LBs(Jamar Chaney & Keenan Clayton) and one hybrid type OLB/DE (Ricky Sapp). They also signed a UDFA (Simoni Lawrence) and traded for Ernie Sims. When you add in the returning Stewart Bradley who didn’t play a down last year… That’s five or six new bodies.
So far, Keenan Clayton has been the standout of the new faces and Stewart Bradley has been arguably the best defensive player in Lehigh so far.
There’s also been some shuffling of the guys that were here last year. Ernie Sims appears to have pushed last year’s starter at WILL, Akeem Jordan, out of the spot. However, Jordan may have found a new home on the strong side. Currently, he’s running with the first team at SAM. McDermott was asked about the move.
We’re just trying to find the best combination of the first three. [LB] Akeem [Jordan] is a good football player, he’s been productive for us over the years, so that’s why he’s in there.”
Last year’s seventh round pick Moise Fokou finished the season starting at SAM, no naturally McDermott was asked whether putting Jordan with the ones was any indictment of Fokou’s play.
“Absolutely not, absolutely not. Moise still has a lot of good football in front of him. We’re talking about a very young football player in the NFL right now. He’s done some good things, he’s very physical and his best football is ahead of him.”
“It really goes with the territory. If you’ve been around sports long enough, this happens all the time. At the same time, it’s a challenge for Moise or the player in question to rise up and respond to the challenge.”
What makes you worry however, is that Jordan has never played on the strong side. This is a position switch for him. His inexperience at SAM is something McDermott addressed.
“He’s played there some in the spring, he’s played there some in the spring and early on in his career he may have touched the spot once or twice when I was his linebacker coach. Really, he’s been a MIKE or a WILL, mostly a WILL up to this point. He’s got a good feel for the game and instincts to go along with it, and that’s what we’re banking on that he can make the transition. Really, he’s been taking the mental reps at that position even before physically we made the move at this time.”
Is there a major difference in the SAM and WILL positions in the NFL these days?
To some extent you have to stay current in terms of the trends that are going on the offensive side of the ball so you know how to defend it. If we were playing in a smash mouth league and, in some cases we are with the NFC East, then we’ve got to be able to stop the run. I feel confident that Akeem, at the SAM linebacker, can succeed at the point of attack. He’s physical, he loves the aggressive part of the game.”
With Bradley in the middle and Sims on the weakside, 2/3 of the LB corps seems set. The SAM position looks like it will be the battle to watch.