Last season, while he was productive when called upon, Jamar Chaney was still a rookie. In the beginning of this season, Chaney was still adjusting to his move to the SAM linebacker position. Now, after readjusting to the middle linebacker spot, Chaney has settled back into the role he likes to play - leader of the defense.
"That's what I like the most," Chaney said, "The MIKE is pretty much the signal caller, the leader on defense and I like that kind of stuff to be put on me."
Over the last few weeks, several defenders have credited Chaney with taking control of the huddle.
"Sometimes we'll be playing around in the huddle and coach Juan (Castillo) always tells (Chaney), 'This is your defense. You have to run it,'" said fellow linebacker Moise Fokou. "And when we get out of hand every now and then, he'll stomp his feet or yell or grab somebody's facemask to say, 'Listen up,' so it's kind of exciting to see him take ownership of the defense and really play the MIKE linebacker role."
"That was huge," said defensive end Jason Babin. "Saw him snatch some guys up by the facemask, saw him say, 'Quiet down,' and called it his huddle a few times. I'm not going to tell him to his face, but he's doing a good job."
For Chaney, a four-year starter at Mississippi State, it's a familiar role. But now that he's settled into the NFL game and into this defense, Chaney, who can come across as soft-spoken off the field, has been increasingly vocal.
"He was a rookie last year, he was running around making plays, but now he's being back in the middle where he's comfortable," said Fokou. "He understands the defense, he's in here almost every day with coach Juan (Castillo) and (linebackers) coach Mike Caldwell figuring things out, just getting more comfortable with the entire defense. And I think he's been doing a good job of that week in and week out for the past five weeks."
Fokou added that there have been several veteran leaders on the team all season, notably Asante Samuel, Babin and Cullen Jenkins. But he said that it always helps to have a lone voice to help lead the defensive unit. Chaney, despite being in only his second season, has taken that mantle.
"We don't look at him as even being a young guy when he tries to take that role, when he does take that role," Fokou said. "I think they look at him as being a leader on the defense and being a MIKE linebacker. I don't care how old you are, how young you are, everyone needs a leader, somebody to kind of bring everybody together, say 'This is my defense and this is the way we're going to do it.' Until you kind of have that, you could have too many leaders out there which is not always a bad thing, but it's not always the greatest thing."
The Eagles have allowed 10 points per game over the last two victories, as opposed to 26.4 points per game through the first five games. There are certainly many factors in that turnaround, but Chaney's ascension to defensive leader has, at least according to the players, helped the defense rally. If you ask Chaney, he'll tell you that he's doing his best to channel Juan Castillo and be a coach on the field.
"You have to hold up your 1/11th," he said. "When you go out on that field, you have to make sure you're holding up your part and know what you're doing. You don't see too many guys not giving the effort. You have guys sometimes that don't know what they're doing or don't know the situations and stuff like that. You want to make sure everybody knows the situations, down and distance, stuff like that – little keys that'll help you out in game-time situations. You need to be thinking about that kind of stuff in practice and that's something I try to do."