Matthews to start in nickel

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Casey Matthews will return to the starting lineup in nickel formations Sunday. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

The Eagles are making more changes at linebacker. Casey Matthews will be playing middle linebacker in nickel formations along with Keenan Clayton this week.

Matthews replaces Jamar Chaney. The base linebacker set of Chaney, Brian Rolle and Akeem Jordan is unchanged.

"It’s very exciting to get back out on the field other than just short yardage reps. You want to feel you’re a part of it, you’re gonna help the team out," Matthews said.

The rookie fourth-round pick entered the season as the starting middle linebacker, but clearly wasn't ready and has spent much of the season playing special teams or in short yardage packages. He said the time has allowed him to better learn the defense.

"When B-Rolle was put in I was able to kind of step back and get an actual grasp of the defense," Matthews said. "Being able to look at it like that, during camp when I was first in there everything was on the run and being able to learn on the fly it was tough. Having the eight weeks (not starting) to pick up the terms and defense as a whole, I feel that’s helped me right now be able to grasp it better."

Chaney said, "When you're 4-8 and not playing defense the way you're supposed to, they're going to make changes."

Matthews became the focus of fan criticism after his rough start. It got so bad, he said, that some home fans harassed his aunt, cousin and fiancee at an early home game.

"One of the earlier games they harassed my family and made my fiancée cry. It’s tough, it’s frustrating, but that’s how they are here," Matthews said. "If you win they’ll love you so I guess we have to turn things around and start winning again."

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