Thursday, February 11, 2016

Chaney to MLB; Matthews to WLB

Jamar Chaney is now the Eagles' starting middle linebacker, replacing rookie Casey Matthews, who will move to weak-side linebacker, team sources said.

Chaney to MLB; Matthews to WLB

Rookie Casey Matthews struggled in his two starts as the Eagles´ middle linebacker. (Jeff Roberson/AP Photo)
Rookie Casey Matthews struggled in his two starts as the Eagles' middle linebacker. (Jeff Roberson/AP Photo)

Jamar Chaney is now the Eagles' starting middle linebacker, replacing rookie Casey Matthews, who will move to weak-side linebacker, team sources said.

The shuffling of the linebackers included Moise Fokou moving from weak-side linebacker to strong-side linebacker in place of Chaney.

Chaney confirmed the moves following the afternoon practice.

"This is the position I like to play," Chaney said. "I liked playing [strong-side] but I was just getting used to it."

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Did the Eagles make the right move by replacing Casey Matthews at middle linebacker with Jamar Chaney?
Yes. The veteran Chaney should be better at calling plays and will help improve the Birds’ run defense.
No. The rookie Matthews showed potential and just needed more time to develop.

Chaney believed that the move was partly made "because I was at [middle linebacker] last year and had some pretty good success at it. ... Growing up you always want to be the leader of the defense and I take on the challenge and look forward to it."

Two games of watching running backs run rampant through the middle of the Eagles' defense was apparently enough for coordinator Juan Castillo to make the moves as the Eagles prepare for Sunday's home opener against the New York Giants.

"It's not really different, it's all basically the same," Matthews said of the changes.

The Matthews experiment in the middle is thus offically over. The rookie, a fourth-round draft pick, struggled in two starts. In fact, the entire linebacker corp has not played particularly well thus far. In the opener, the Rams ran for 154 yards on the ground. On Sunday, the Falcons gained 138 rushing yards, including a 61-yard run from Michael Turner in the fourth quarter that set up the game-winning score for Atlanta.

Chaney moves back to the middle where he played most of last season as a backup. When he did start, filling in for the injured Stewart Bradley, he fared well.

Then a rookie, Chaney tallied 16 tackles, a forced fumble and a quarterback hurry against the Giants on Dec. 19. A week later against the Vikings, he recorded eight tackles. And then in a playoff loss against the Packers, Chaney notched 11 tackles, a forced fumble and a hurry.

Many had Matthews pegged as an outside linebacker in a 4-3 defensive scheme coming out of Oregon. He'll get his chance to play there on Sunday.

"He played outside in college so he might feel more comfortable out there," Chaney said. "He was out there practicing today. He said he's already starting to like the position so that's a good thing.

"With [weak-side] he doesn't have to worry about making no calls. He did a good job. Out of all the rookie linebackers in the league he probably had the most pressure or responsibility on him."

Fokou moves back to strong-side where he played most of his first two seasons.

"It's not a huge change but you're doing different jobs," Chaney said.

The Eagles had felt Chaney was better suited to play strong-side in Castillo's scheme because of his cover skills. But Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez had his way against the second-year linebacker on Sunday, although many have suffered the same fate against the future Hall of Famer.

Chaney said the nickel defense will remain the same at linebacker with either Matthews or Brian Rolle -- and sometimes Keenan Clayton -- playing alongside him.

Staff Writer
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Birds' Eye View is the Inquirer's blog covering all things Philadelphia Eagles and the NFL.

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