State of Eagles' Defense - Part 2 - Linebackers

Written By Bob Cunningham On Thursday, April 09, 2009
Stewart Bradley and Chris Gocong were solid starters last season and seem to have their spots on this team solidified. However, the WILL position is another story.

Seemingly without cause, Omar Gaither was benched last season in favor of Akeem Jordan. The change took place after the horrendous display by the entire team in the Baltimore game, but for some reason Gaither seemed to be the scapegoat.

The dilemma here is that while Gaither was playing well, perhaps not great but playing well, Jordan played just as well as Gaither.

The problem is that there are four starting-caliber linebackers, but only three spots available. This is a situation that will be resolved in the summer months when the team reports to Lehigh University.

This young but talented group took enormous strides during the ’08 season, but still have a lot to prove after really being taken advantage of during the playoffs.

In the first two games against the Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants respectively, they took advantage of weak offensive units. While the Giants are usually not looked at as a weak offensive team, lingering injuries slowed Brandon Jacobs and the team was without Plaxico Burress due to his well-documented night club incident.

Reality struck this young group in the NFC Championship game, and can really be pointed to as a main reason for the lopsided first half. The Arizona Cardinals, unlike the Vikings and Giants, were far from offensively inadequate. Led by Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald, the Cardinals attacked the middle of the field all game long with incredible success.

Personally, I don’t understand Gocong playing on the strong side. At Cal-Poly, Gocong was an unbelievable pass-rushing defensive end, registering 23.5 sacks in a single season. However here in Philly rather than rushing the quarterback, he’s been entrusted with covering the tight end.

To me, this doesn’t make any sense.

Why would you take a guy who’s already been taken out of his comfort zone going from DE to LB, then make it worse by asking him to cover the great tight ends who litter the NFC East? My suggestion would be to flip-flop the linebackers.

I believe Gaither should be the starter at SAM, while Gocong moves to WILL in order to take advantage of his pass-rushing ability. Some may say that Gocong is at SAM because he’s a better cover-guy, but is he that much better than Gaither that his pass-rushing ability should be ignored? I don’t believe so.

Stewart Bradley was a guy who a lot of people in Philly were clamoring for him to make the Pro Bowl, but I’m not so sure. He made a lot of mental mistakes throughout the season, but especially early on. Now that’s not to take away from a good first season that he had, but that’s really about all it was; Just a good first year.

However with that said, I do believe that he will evolve into a Pro Bowl player in the middle for Philly for many, many years to come. Unfortunately, that’s not happening just yet.

Gaither and Jordan both played well at WILL, and either of them will have the trust of Andy Reid and Jim Johnson to performed their role, whatever that may be.

Given that we have four starting-caliber linebackers with only three available spots, I have a solution to get everyone involved while also confusing opposing defenses to no end.

The 3-4.

Do I want the 3-4 full-time? No, of course not. We’ve had too much success and have the personnel for the 4-3, but the 3-4 could help us for a couple plays a game to get all of our linebacker talent on the field.

The linebackers would be Jordan at WILL, Gaither and Bradley at the MIKE, and Gocong at the SAM (or flipping Jordan and Gocong if it was up to me), with Broderick Bunkley playing nose in between Trevor Laws or Mike Patterson and Victor Abiamiri. This way, we get all of our linebackers on the field while throwing a curveball at the offense.

The line may be a bit small, but not by much. Abiamiri is 6’4” and 270 pounds with Laws weighing in at 6’1” and 300 pounds. As I said, a bit small, but not by much and worth it to confuse the offense.

In all, I think the linebacking corps needs a veteran guy to push all of these younger linebackers and help mentor them after getting rid of Jeremiah Trotter and Takeo Spikes. With a couple more years of experience and time together, I believe we’ll eventually be looking at one of the better NFL linebacker corps… Just not yet.

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