Why Have the Philadelphia Eagles Not Signed a Veteran Linebacker?

By Bryn Swartz

Through three games of the 2011 season, the defense for the Philadelphia Eagles is struggling just as much, if not more, than it did in the 2010 season, when they allowed 31 touchdown passes and posted the worst red zone defense in a quarter-century.

This season, the Eagles are being shredded through the air and on the ground. Rams quarterback Sam Bradford didn’t throw a touchdown in week one, but Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and Giants quarterback Eli Manning have each tossed four touchdown passes.

On the ground, Rams running back Steven Jackson appeared poised for a huge day before a hamstring injury ended his day after two carries (for 56 yards and a touchdown). Falcons running back Michael Turner torched the Eagles, capping off a big game with a 61-yard run late in the fourth quarter. And Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw picked up 86 yards on 15 carries. In all, the Eagles have allowed the fourth most rushing yards in the league.

The biggest reason why? The ineffective play of the linebackers, particularly fourth-round draft pick Casey Matthews, who the team has insisted on starting since the beginning of training camp, despite the fact that he might be the worst player on the 53-man roster.

Your starting linebackers are Jamar Chaney, Casey Matthews, and Moise Fokou. Matthews has been extremely ineffective, nobody had any expectations for Fokou in the first place, and Chaney has shown no signs of the incredible talent he displayed at the end of last season.

This offseason, the Eagles went out and acquired a good amount of the best defensive talent in the NFL: defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, defensive end Jason Babin, cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

But they did nothing to the linebacking corps. Sure, they used three draft picks on linebackers, but a fourth, sixth, and seventh round pick doesn’t exactly show that the position is a top priority.

For the life of me, I cannot figure out why the Eagles have not signed a veteran linebacker.

The Seattle Seahawks cut Lofa Tatupu after the 2010 season and the three-time Pro Bowl linebacker doesn’t have a team. He’s just 29.

The Giants let go of former Pro Bowler Keith Bullock. Yeah, he’s 34, but what would be wrong with bringing him in for a year?

The Detroit Lions released five-time Pro Bowl linebacker Julian Peterson in January of 2011. He’s another aging veteran without a team.

Instead of trading Kevin Kolb for a cornerback who is on the field for fewer than fifty percent of the plays, the Eagles should have acquired a top linebacker to help stop the run (and cover tight ends).

The Eagles are shutting down most wide receivers (with the exception of Victor Cruz) but it’s the running backs who are killing them, and if the defense can’t figure out how to stop the run, they’re not going anywhere this season.

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