Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Questions: Who's playing middle LB?

We've covered the wide receiver question and the right tackle question.

Questions: Who's playing middle LB?

We've covered the wide receiver question and the right tackle question.

Now we move to the defense, where really there are quite a few concerns on a unit that ranked No. 3 in the league last year.

Will they be able to generate a consistent pass rush? Who will fill in at safety opposite Quintin Mikell? Will a leader emerge to pick up some of the slack left by Brian Dawkins? And how will Sean McDermott perform in his first season as defensive coordinator?

We'll get to those questions at some point, but today we take a look at middle linebacker.

Since Stewart Bradley went down with a torn ACL, the Eagles have maintained their stance on how they plan on replacing him. They've said it's an open competition from the start, leaving us to infer that the two primary candidates are Joe Mays and Omar Gaither.

On the practice field at Lehigh, it was Mays getting the reps with the first team as Andy Reid explained that he knew what they had with Gaither since he had started at MLB before. For a time, it looked like Mays would be on the field to start, and Gaither would replace him in nickel situations.

That might still be the case, but it's not a certainty for a few different reasons.

For one, Gaither is nursing a sprained knee. If the Eagles felt comfortable with him as the starting middle linebacker, you would think they'd have plugged him in there a little bit more after Bradley went down. I know what Reid said, but Gaither last played the middle a couple years ago. If they really thought he was going to be the guy, I still say they would have gotten him more reps.

As for passing situations, Mays stayed on the field on third down during the first two preseason games. Of course, Gaither was out against the Colts, and Indy was running the no-huddle so it was tough for the defense to substitute. But it's obvious that Sean McDermott and company want to see how Mays has progressed in coverage.

And finally, a couple other names deserve mentioning. The first is seventh-round pick Moise Fokou, who, according to the Inquirer's Jeff McLane, got some reps with the first team this week. Was that a way of rewarding the rookie for his effort? Did they want to see how he performed in coverage? Is this a sign that he's going to make the team?

We don't know the answers to those questions yet, but if you followed my posts during practices at Lehigh, you know I was impressed by Fokou on multiple occasions. I even called him an "MTC favorite" at one point.

Matt Wilhelm is also on the roster, and the Birds added Curtis Gatewood yesterday. But either one of those guys making a legitimate push for the starting middle linebacker spot would probably qualify as the upset of the preseason.

So that's where we stand as the Eagles get ready for their third preseason game tomorrow night. While all eyes are on Michael Vick, the middle linebacker battle will have a greater impact on the fate of the Eagles' season.

Once again, we ask for your input here. How will this thing play out? And where does middle linebacker rank on your list of concerns?

Sheil Kapadia Philly.com
About this blog
Sheil Kapadia is in his fifth season writing about the Eagles and the NFL for philly.com. His earliest memories as a sports fan include several trips to Veterans Stadium with his Dad. He's not a beat writer or an Insider, but is here to discuss the NFL 365 days a year. E-mail him at skapadia@philly.com or by clicking here

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Sheil Kapadia Philly.com
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