Inside the Birds: New Coach, But Same LB Mentality?
With coaching and roster changes continuing to unfold in Philly this offseason, the linebacker spot once again looks to be an undervalued position for the Eagles.
In the latest Inside the Birds podcast, Geoff Mosher and Adam Caplan take a deep dive into the Eagles' linebacker room and team issues with developing a star at that position, now and over the years.
Geoff Mosher: “In order to understand why it's important that this team develops linebackers better, we have to understand the framework with which they'll be working. I don't want to say you can get away with the kind of linebackers, you had in the past under Jim [Schwartz’s] system, but Jim emphasized your front end, your front four rush, and re-diverting the running backs on the way to the quarterback and it was supposed to make it a little bit easier in some cases, to make tackles if you're a linebacker, but this will be a different style of defense.”
Adam Caplan: “This is going to be as I understand more of a read-and-react front like Minnesota. When you do that it's not about the wide nine; and by the way the wide nine is going to be junked. I'm not saying they won't play a little bit of it. [Mike] Zimmer's used it before I was told, but very little. Another fact that someone gave me from another team is a lot of teams use a small portion of the wide nine, they'll do it in nickel, especially if it’s say 3rd or 15 or more. Some teams will do it just to get a pass rush; you just want to get upfield. "But in general, I'm not expecting to see a lot of it obviously very few snaps of it, if at all anymore. So it's going to be about the size and scheme on the back end and this should be a secondary dominated defense. Now that's to me music to my ears, if I'm an Eagles fan, however, you need better personnel on the back end.” Mosher: “I don't know that these guys have what [Jonathan] Gannon might be looking for as far as the nose for the blitz, the understanding, the tenacious downhill nature that way, I don't know.”
Caplan: “So let's break it down, their UFA’s are Nate Gerry and the aforementioned Duke Riley. I can't imagine a scenario where Nate Gerry comes back. Why? Because his godfather, so to speak, [former Eagles linebackers coach] Ken Flajole is no longer here so why would Nate Gerry come back? He was a below-average linebacker. The only reason why he was here quite frankly in my opinion is because of Flajole. Flajole as I understand it never backed off that he was smart and he executed and all this. The guy just loved the kid. The reality is Nate Gerry should never have been a starting linebacker anywhere. Anyhow, he just shouldn't have been.”
Caplan: “Duke Riley, up and down with the Eagles; he has positional versatility and his contract is up. He does have extensive starting experience starting with Atlanta. I wouldn't rule him out [to come back, but] Gerry I would be shocked if he returned.”
Caplan: “Alex Singleton is technically an exclusive rights free agent which means he's not really a free agent. The Eagles control his rights, he can't go anywhere but let's put it this way, if they don't tender him they really didn't want him back and they clearly don't think he could help them. I would say this, I do expect him back. He is not definitely a starting player here, despite how well he played last season; it was a great story. You have a new coaching staff, you have a new D coordinator, you have a new linebackers coach. Nothing's given to any of these players.” [UPDATE: The Eagles have reportedly tendered Singleton along with running back Boston Scott and wide receiver Greg Ward.]
Mosher: “I think that this is an area that they have to obviously work on in the draft. You've heard me screaming about if you're not going to ever use a first-round pick and if you're not going to put a lot of free-agent money into a linebacker then you need to at least treat it with a second or a third; higher in the draft, and they did that last year. And I still wasn't satisfied because the information that you bring in and I got on Davion Taylor was that third was a little high compared to where other teams had him ranked, so I sit here today and I say you got to develop this position. I just wonder if their mindset is no, we're actually good with Davion Taylor in year two and he's going to really come into his own.”
Caplan: “I know the guy can run, there's no question in the limited tape that he had, and we knew that coming in but he is a project. Now, their hope was at the time they drafted him by year three, he would be absolutely their nickel linebacker because, in today's NFL man you need guys who could cover. If he could be that guy, he could be here a long time because nickel linebackers against tight ends, these guys have unbelievable value so we'll see. Again, he gets a fresh start with a new group, with a new coaching staff.”
Mosher: “The Eagles have to work so hard. We know that Howie Roseman has to make so many moves just to become compliant with the cap, but really the goal is to be well enough under the cap so that you can bring in; and you're gonna have to sign some free agents.”
Caplan: “Yeah, their cap situation as I go through it is not going to be nearly as bad. Not only that, if this TV deal gives the NFL enough time with the NFLPA to reconcile the cap because of this extra TV money. I'm not saying it's going to be $200 million but it may be much better than $180 [million]. Look, the problem is, the Wentz contract. Obviously, they have to account for that and they have to account for it by March 17 and that's going to certainly be a problem. But they're going to do some extensions at some point in the next two weeks or so they'll get some extensions done to lower cap figures.“
Caplan: “We've talked about Derek Barnett. I don't see any way he plays at $10.065 million. They told teams he was not available at the trade deadline and they absolutely should keep him. This is a guy that's shown something from that 2017 draft, which was a terrible draft but he definitely has been a success story, to a certain extent, certainly needs to be better. "You know, other than that, there are other guys that they could take a look at restructuring so I don't think it's quite as dire as we once thought, but it's certainly not going to be great, it's not a good situation. This is their most challenging cap situation that they've been through, but we talked about the Zach Ertz situation, they'll get that resolved soon, one way or another.” – Justin Morganstein (@jmotweets_) is a staff writer for InsideTheBirds.com.
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