Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid has admitted that he did not have the proper personnel at linebacker to complement the teams’ new wide 9 defensive scheme last year. It is no secret that the Philadelphia defense was decimated by opposing rushing attacks for much of last season. It’s also clear to everyone that the Eagles linebackers did not have the requisite size or experience to play effectively, especially at the beginning of the season, when the Eagles went 1-4. In a defensive scheme that funnels opposing running backs to the middle of the field, the Eagles linebacking corps was woefully undersized and inexperienced.
The shuffling of players at the linebacker position was something that resembled a Las Vegas casino blackjack table as opposed to a professional football starting roster. The season did not start out on a good note when rookie Casey Matthews was given the nod to start at middle linebacker. Matthews, then a 232 pound rookie out of Oregon, realistically had no chance to succeed, especially given the fact that his time to learn the NFL game was shortened due to the lockout.
Reid spoke with the media during the NFL owners meetings in West Palm Beach, Florida, and the full transcript of his press conference is available at philly.com. Said Reid of his decisions at linebacker last year: “The plan that I had I didn’t execute it very well. Right? That’s my responsibility. I goofed on that one, right? I expected the young guys on defense to get where they’re getting by the end of the season sooner, particularly the middle of the defense — linebackers and safeties.”
It seems as if Reid and the Eagles organization has finally realized that the linebacker position is of paramount importance in their defensive scheme after being much maligned for undervaluing the position. Upon coming to that realization, the team traded for former Houston Texans linebacker and 2 time Pro Bowler DeMeco Ryans. The addition of Ryans should bring some size and stability to the middle of the Eagles defense. The fact that they only had to give up a 4th round pick in addition to swapping picks with Houston in the 3rd round could turn out to be a bargain.
Despite the fact that the linebacker spots were a revolving door of underqualified candidates, the Eagles still managed to rank 5th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed, giving up 142.2 per game. With additional time to work together as a group, as well as the new additions that will be coming to the team, there is no reason Philadelphia cannot improve on that statistic in 2012.