Brian Rolle is the only returning starter among the Eagles' linebackers. Hard to say what that means, exactly -- maybe Rolle was such a pleasant surprise as an undersized, sixth-round rookie that he was given a reprieve when the linebacking unit was reworked in the offseason. Or, maybe you can only change so much, and the Eaglers figured that with DeMeco Ryans in the middle and Mychal Kendricks on the strongside, they could get away with keeping Rolle at WIL. And Jamar Chaney, the former SAM and MIKE starter, plans to challenge Rolle for Rolle's spot, something Chaney can't really do until the team puts the pads on at Lehigh.
"Nobody ever gets better with a job given to 'em or nobody pushing 'em," Rolle said Monday, as the Eagles continued a seemingly endless series of OTAs at NovaCare. "I'm looking forward to it, the rest of OTAs and camp. We're going to battle it out, and may the best man win."
Rolle likes lining up with Ryans and Kendricks.
"I feel like we're going to make a lot more plays, we're going to contribute more to the team," Rolle said. "We're going to be a better-tackling group than we were last year. and bring the athleticism in with Kendricks."
Missed tackles were a problem for the Eagles in general and Rolle in particular, who measured at 5-9 5/8ths and weighed in at 229 at the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine. The Eagles list him at 5-10, 240.
"In our defense, we're taught to pursue fast and take shots, so of course, your missed tackle rate is gonna be high," Rolle said. "At the same time, when you have the oportunity 1-on-1, you've got to try to make a play."
Philadelphia has been an adjustment for Rolle, who grew up in Florida and went to college at Ohio State, where the football stars are revered. Rolle and some other newcomers to the team got into occasional Twitter spats with caustic Eagles fans not thrilled with last year's 8-8 letdown after intense buildup. Rolle's most memorable tangle came during this year's combine. He was watching the linebackers bench press on TV, and Rolle, who'd managed an impressive 28 reps himself a year earler, tweeted "These LBs weak."
Some fans treated this as much more than an offhand observation, questioning how any Eagles linebacker could criticize others' performances, and so on. Rolle ended up talking with a fan who'd written about the dispute on Yahoo.com, Rolle trying to explain his perspective. The fan, Vincent E. Heck, Jr., then wrote another post giving Rolle props for reaching out.
"It's still funny to me, just for the simple fact that people look at us and think we can't be fans," Rolle said. "If a regular guy had said it, it'd be nothing, but I'm just as much a fan of the game as anybody else, a fan of the young guys that just came out in the draft. I feel like, because we give our opinion, people shouldn't look at it like we're looking down on them. I was just saying in one area, the bench press -- overall, I thought that was one of the most impressive linebacking groups I've seen at the combine ... I didn't mean any harm by it, didn't mean to talk down on those guys, I was just speaking my mind as a fan. I shoulda thought about it a little more. We can't be fans on Twitter."
"These fans are like none other," Rolle said. "Being booed at home here, I'm looking up in the crowd and I couldn't believe it. At Ohio State, I lost six games in college, but the ones we lost at home, you still get a cheer from the crowd, you still sing the alma mater. Here, you get booed, people talk down on you. But I understand that they expect nothing but the best. We're going to try and give them that."
As previously reported DeSean Jackson is missing this week of OTAs because of a family matter. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie missed Monday. An Eagles spokesman said DRC went away to a funeral, was to fly back to Philly early Monday morning, but was delayed by weather. He is expected to attend Tuesday. These are optional workouts for veterans anyway.