Theirs no question the Eagles defense was the weakness of the team last season. They struggled against both the pass and the run, and gave up over 300 yards per game.
This could be credited to many things: first year on the job for Sean McDermott, the loss of Brian Dawkins or the lack of a consistent pass rush. All of those things are valid reasons for the set back last season.
However, if the linebackers can play as good as they look early on in training camp, the team could make a big leap back in the right direction.
Stewart Bradley, who was on the way to being an all-pro before he injured his knee last season, seems to be back in pro bowl form. He is all over the place at LeHigh, getting behind the line to stop the run, and following tight ends stride for stride. He has knocked the ball down from Brent Celek countless times.
Bradley had the play of the day today when he stepped in front of Jeremy Maclin to intercept a Kevin Kolb pass. Bradley said afterwards that the defense this year will allow him to make more plays with his lateral speed. It show so far.
In addition to Bradley, the team also added Ernie Sims from Detriot this off season. Sims had over 100 tackles his first 3 seasons in the league, before missing 5 games last season due to injury. He is built like a bowling ball, and has serious speed. He had no problems following Jeremy Maclin today on a crossing route.
Sims is also not afraid to lay down a big hit. He had crushing people today when the pads were on, both in the scrimmages and the drills. He will be a serious problem for opposing offenses when he comes on the blitz.
In addition to Sims and Bradley, the team has a surprising amount of depth in the line-backer spot. Omar Gaither can play all 3 spots, Moise Fokou is a year older and looks impressive so far, and Akeem Jordan has played decent when called upon in the past. Undrafted rookie Simoni Lawrence has been making plays when he is called upon, and even ran with the 2nd team today. Playing beside Bradley and Sims should make these players even better.
If the Eagles can get great play from the linebackers, it will help the defense immensely. This group looks like they can cover linebackers, which will help the pass defense. They are also a fast, hard hitting bunch, which will help the run. It could also help a secondary that has some question marks. Having Bradley back will also allow McDermott to call a more aggressive game plan.
Its early on, and theirs still plenty of camp to go, but the Eagles have to be happy about what they see so far from their line-backing crew.
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Philly Stand Up is a sports blog dedicated to keeping the average Philadelphia sports fan filled in on what they need to know. Eagles, Sixers, Phillies and occasionally Flyers will be covered, as well what's happening in the world of sports. If you are a dedicated Philadelphia sports fan, this is the place for you!
Philly Stand Up is ran by Eliot Shorr-Parks, a Temple University Senior. You can also find Eliot's writing on Garry Cobb's website, www.gcobb.com. Eliot's first book, More Than A Game, is due out in the fall. To learn more about the book, go to www.morethanagamebook.org
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