Of all the coaches in new positions on the Eagles' staff, perhaps no one has a more difficult job of preparation for the upcoming season than Mike Caldwell, the new linebackers coach. With so much uncertainty regarding the upcoming offseason, it's very difficult to imagine what exactly the Eagles' linebacking corps will look like in 2011.
Four of the seven linebackers on the Eagles' 2010 roster – Stewart Bradley, Akeem Jordan, Omar Gaither and Ernie Sims – are scheduled to be free agents whenever free agency begins. Of course, there can be no player movement until there is a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. In what will be a transition year for the defense, Caldwell can only be sure of three players whom he'll need to help adjust to a new defensive scheme that will fill the holes behind what is expected to be a more aggressive defensive line under Jim Washburn.
The only players assured of being in midnight green next season are Moise Fokou, Jamar Chaney and Keenan Clayton. The good news is that Caldwell and the young trio already have a strong relationship after Caldwell's two years on the defensive staff, including his role as assistant linebackers coach in 2010.
"He's been here," said Fokou of Caldwell. "He understands what we're going through ... The rest of the guys on the team definitely respect him, all the linebacking corps loved him.
"I learned little things from how to use my hands to how to get off blocks and how to drop into coverage from that nine-technique SAM linebacker spot that he's played a couple times in the league also. The tremendous amount of knowledge that he has in the linebacker position is just only going to help him more in his coaching of it."
For his part, Caldwell has also been impressed with the eagerness with which the young linebackers have approached the game.
"All the guys, they have a great work ethic," Caldwell said. "They come in and they're hungry to learn. Now it's just our job to feed them."
Caldwell specifically spoke highly of the habits of Chaney, who impressed late in the season when filling in at middle linebacker for the injured Bradley. Chaney took charge of the defense in impressive fashion for a seventh-round rookie.
"I saw he was a diligent player," Caldwell said. "He got in there and I was with him in the classroom and I saw his study habits and he was diligent in learning the playbook and he worked real hard. He's a guy, and all the guys, they go out there and they take their craft as a professional. They go out there and they try to study and get better every day."
As for Caldwell himself, how does the former Eagles linebacker feel about his next step as a first-time position coach?
"I think it's something that I've prepared for these last few years as far as getting into the coaching ranks," he said. "I'm excited about it. I'm just ready to get out there and get to work and get the guys playing hard-nosed, aggressive football.
"It was a relief (when I found out I got the job). It had been a while and it was something I was hoping for and as soon as they gave me the news, I put a smile on my face, then I wiped it off and got ready to go to work."
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 1:00 p.m., Fabruary 11