How Eagles have addressed the need for linebackers throughout the years

The Eagles have needs, as all teams do. To fill those needs, they will turn to free agency and the draft. But it seems as though the Eagles have had the same needs year after year, namely linebacker. Howie has been general manager for the Eagles since 2010, with the exception of the Chip year in 2015. How has he “tackled” the position? (Get it?!)

2019 Depth Chart

The Eagles’ linebacker corps consisted of Nigel Bradham, Nate Gerry, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Duke Riley, T.J. Edwards, and Alex Singleton. Grugier-Hill ended the season on IR and is a free agent this offseason. Bradham played in 12 games and had the worst season of his Eagles tenure, but the Birds can decline his team option and make him a free agent. Gerry underwhelmed in 2019 but it was revealed that he played the whole season on a torn core muscle, which he underwent surgery to repair a few weeks ago. Riley played a grand total of 32 defensive snaps in 2019 for the Eagles and will probably just be a special teams player. The same could be said of Singleton, but he offers more upside for the defense. Edwards showed a ton of promise during the season and was easily the team’s best tackling linebacker and best in coverage among the group.

This group needs an overhaul, but the Eagles have never put an emphasis on the position. Is 2020 the year it changes? Let’s take a look at the moves Howie Roseman has made over the years to address the long standing need.

2010

  • Traded away Chris Gocong (along with Sheldon Brown) for Alex Hall

The only move made in 2010 for linebacker depth was when Howie traded away Chris Gocong to the Browns for Alex Hall.

Linebacker Depth

Omar Gaither, Jamar Cheney, Stewart Bradley, Ernie Sims, Akeem Jordan, Moise Fokou, Keenan Clayton

Did the team need linebacker upgrades?

Of the team’s 1,009 tackles in 2009, 584 of them were from the linebackers. The leading tackler of that group was Akeem Jordan with 71. The team needed playmakers in that group and instead of upgrading the unit, they traded away a player with 44 tackles in 2009 for a guy they would ultimately waive in July of 2010.

2010 results

With the non upgrades, the Eagles linebacker corps took a step back in 2010. They combined for 282 tackles out of the entire team’s 890. The leading tackler was Stewart Bradley with 65.

2011

  • Drafted Casey Matthews (4th round) and Brian Rolle (6th round)

Another year of no major changes to the linebacker corps.

Linebacker depth

Jamar Cheney, Brian Rolle, Akeem Jordan, Casey Matthews, Keenan Clayton, Moise Fokou

Did the team need linebacker upgrades?

Uh, yeah.

2011 results

The linebackers took yet another step back in 2011, finishing with 277 total tackles of the team’s 908. They did have their first 90+ combined tackler since 2008 in Jamar Cheney with 92. However, next up was Brian Rolle with 54.

2012

  • Traded for DeMeco Ryans
  • Drafted Mychal Kendricks (2nd round)
  • Traded away Moise Fokou
  • Released Brian Rolle
Linebacker depth

DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks, Jamar Cheney, Akeem Jordan, Casey Matthews

Did the team need upgrades?

Yep, and it looked like they were on their way to building a fundamentally sound group. But, they brought in two and sent away two. Leaving the depth depleted.

2012 results

272 tackles. Another year, another decrease. Of those 272 tackles, 113 were from Ryans and 75 were from Kendricks. That means 84 were spread out among the rest of the linebackers. Not ideal.

2013

  • Signed Connor Barwin
  • Trent Cole transitioned from defensive end to LB as the team switched to a 3-4
  • Claimed Najee Goode off waivers
  • Released but reclaimed Emmanuel Acho
Linebacker depth

DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks, Connor Barwin, Trent Cole, Najee Goode, Emmanuel Acho, Casey Matthews

Did the team need upgrades?

The team went from 584 tackles from the linebackers in 2009 to 282 in 2010 to 277 in 2011 to 272 in 2012. The Eagles needed upgrades every year of Howie’s early career as a GM and the team failed to do so. Keeping promising players on the roster in 2012 in Ryans and Kendricks, adding Barwin, and transitioning stellar defensive end Trent Cole to linebacker signaled a change in thinking: they finally realized they need good linebackers.

2013 results

The continued rise of the Ryans and Kendricks duo propelled this linebacker group to 382 tackles, 110 more than 2012. The two combined for 233, with 58 coming from Barwin, 56 coming from Cole, 21 from Goode, 12 from Matthews, and 2 from Acho. It’s not unlike most teams to have two linebackers have the lion’s share of the tackles among the group but, for the first time in a while, the Eagles finally had depth behind them. This looked like the start of a great trend for the corps.

2014

  • Signed Bryan Braman
  • Marcus Smith was drafted to not play his college position of linebacker and was switched to defensive end
  • Brandon Graham moved from his defensive end position to play linebacker
  • Goode and Ryans placed on IR during season
Linebacker depth

DeMeco Ryans, Casey Matthews, Mychal Kendricks, Trent Cole, Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham, Emmanuel Acho, Bryan Braman

Did the team need an upgrade?

For the first time in a long time, the team really didn’t have a huge need at linebacker. All they needed to do was to continue to development of the studs in the group and hope for good health.

2014 results

Connor Barwin was a Pro Bowler with his 14.5 sacks. The group was more well rounded with Kendricks having 82 tackles, Barwin had 64, Matthews had 53, Cole had 52, Graham had 47, and Ryans had 45 in eight games. Although only having eight less tackles than 2013, with 374, it could still be viewed as a disappointment due to the lack of a 100 tackle season after back to back. The good health hope went unanswered as many of the linebackers missed multiple games, so plenty of disappointment to go around.

We’re skipping 2015 due to it being the Chip Kelly GM year, so let’s take a look at the post-CK Howie GM days on the next page.

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