The Philadelphia Eagles enter the 2016 season with questions surrounding their linebacker unit. The team’s three current starters (Nigel Bradham, Jordan Hicks, and Mychal Kendricks) each have yet to start a full 16 game season. The Eagles depth at linebacker is also questionable, but the addition of Stephen Tulloch has helped ease the mind of many fans.
Mychal Kendricks, who is penciled in as the Eagles’ starting weak-side linebacker, has been a subject of criticism lately by beat writers and fans alike. He missed the first two preseason games with a nagging hamstring injury and the coaching staff made sure he made up the reps in the team’s third preseason game that had Kendricks playing well into the 4th quarter.
Kendricks is scheduled to start and play a portion of the team’s last preseason game, which comes as a surprise given the fact roster bubble players partake in the preseason finale.
Kendricks has clearly been frustrated with how he’s being used lately. He’s made himself unavailable to the media and Philadelphia Inquirer reporter, Jeff McLane, has reported Kendricks’ frustration as well. It seems that Kendricks might be on a short leash with the Eagles new coaching staff and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.
The question is – who replaces Kendricks as the starter at weak-side linebacker? The most likely answer is Najee Goode. Goode has been a long-time special teams player and has only started one game in his five year career, so he clearly has much to prove, but could surprise if finally given an opportunity.
Goode filled in for Kendricks as the starting outside linebacker for the Eagles’ first two preseason games. He’s tallied up seven tackles in those games.
Goode is penciled in as the No. 1 backup for each outside linebacker spot. Given Bradham and Kendricks’ injury histories, Goode has a shot to get playing time as is, but it appears Kendricks is currently on a short leash as a starter so don’t rule out Goode potentially replacing him in the starting lineup.
Many believe Stephen Tulloch was brought in to start at middle linebacker and that the Eagles would transition second-year linebacker, Jordan Hicks, to the weak-side position. Tulloch was signed to replace the Eagles seventh-round pick, Joe Walker, who was placed on injured reserve after tearing his ACL during the team’s preseason matchup versus the Pittsburgh Steelers. Tulloch provides the Eagles with insurance at middle linebacker, which was definitely needed given Hicks’ extensive injury history.
Goode could be a wildcard starter for the Eagles in 2016. Given Kendricks current uneasy state with the team, the lack of depth at outside linebacker and Goode’s performance during the preseason, it’s definitely not something to rule out.
The Eagles linebacker unit will be something to keep an eye on this season. Schwartz might have some ideas up his sleeve and they could end up surprising Philadelphia.