The Eagles have decided on their new head coach. Now, it's time to start retooling the roster for the 2013 season. We continue our series analyzing each position group with a look at the linebackers ...
End Of Season Depth Chart: The Eagles acquired DeMeco Ryans last offseason in a trade from the Houston Texans to fortify the middle of the defense. Ryans provided immediate dividends as he thrived in his return to a 4-3 defense after finishing his tenure in Houston in a 3-4 scheme. For the fifth time in his seven-year career, Ryans had over 100 tackles finishing with 148 - the second-highest single-season total of his career. Ryans played on all three downs and ranked fourth among all 4-3 middle linebackers in terms of overall performance, per Pro Football Focus.
Just like Ryans, linebacker Mychal Kendricks was a second-round pick. The rookie was immediately placed in the starting lineup alongside Ryans on the strong side. Kendricks flashed tremendous athleticism right from the start. Kendricks played well in the beginning of the season notching 18 tackles in his first three games. As the season progressed, Kendricks had his ups and downs. Following the Week 13 games against Dallas, Kendricks was moved from the strong side to the weak side where his speed could be used to neutralize running backs coming out of the backfield. He finished the season with 88 tackles, 11 pass knockdowns and a sack.
Akeem Jordan and Jamar Chaney split the starting role on the other side of Kendricks. Jordan started in seven games, all on the weak side, and finished with 44 tackles. Jordan provided a steady, veteran presence for the Eagles on defense. Chaney, meanwhile, started two games on the weak side and finished the year as the starter on the strong side when Kendricks went to the weak side. Chaney started in five total contests and had 21 tackles on the season.
Casey Matthews played in all 16 games and started one game at strongside linebacker although he was the backup middle linebacker. Matthews was on the field for short-yardage situations. Ryan Rau was added to the roster for the final four games of the season, but was almost exclusively a special teams player.
Player To Watch In The Offseason: Kendricks was the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year in his senior season at Cal and finished his college career with 36.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks. It was a little surprising that Kendricks wasn't allowed to blitz more and use that natural athleticism to get to the quarterback or the ballcarrier. Now, the linebacker position, as a whole, could be one of the most changed positions this offseason if the Eagles switch to a 3-4 defense. Kendricks would likely play inside as he did in Cal's 3-4 defense.
Free Agents To Be: In addition to being a starter for most of the season, Jordan was one of the team's top special teams performers and is a veteran, versatile linebacker.
Best Performance: Ryans had back-to-back 14-tackles games at one point in the season (vs. Detroit, vs. Atlanta), but his home debut as a Philadelphia Eagle was the best performance from the linebackers in 2012. In addition to his nine tackles, Ryans also registered a sack and an interception in the win.
Noteworthy Stat: Ryans recorded more tackles and tackles for loss in a single season than any Eagles player in the Andy Reid era with 148 total tackles and 16 for loss.
Previous Offseason Previews:
Make sure to follow us on Twitter @EaglesInsider