There is no substitute for experience, so rookie Jamar Chaney is heading into his first NFL start full of gusto, intensity and the understanding that any mistakes he makes will be made going 1,000 miles per hour. There is a joy in youth, and sometimes that can make up for the lack of game time on the football field.
There is nothing basic about what Chaney has experienced this week, nor about what he is going to see on Sunday against the Giants. There aren't enough hours in the day to make up for the lack of playing time. Chaney knows what he knows, and he has the support of his teammates and his coaches, and he is preparing in a fashion that will make him as prepared as he can possibly be for the 1 p.m. kickoff.
So what can the Eagles expect from Chaney, realistically? He is going to make mistake; there is no question about that. To expect him to be flawless is unreasonable. To expect any player to be flawless is foolish. Chaney played for 2 1/2 quarters Sunday night at Dallas, and those who watched the film and studied Chaney came away impressed.
"He played very well," said NFL Network's Brian Baldinger. "One thing you see with Chaney is that he is very fast, he finds the football quickly and he has outstanding foot speed. The mistakes he made were not in the running game. He had a couple of plays in coverage when he had some technique issues, and the coaches will work on that with him. The Giants saw that, too, so I wouldn't be surprised to see New York throw at him a little bit and test him. Overall, though, he went out there and played good football. He wasn't tentative in the least. He knew his responsibilities and he tackled well and made plays."
The obvious concern is that the Giants, with their power running game, will target Chaney and take advantage of his 6-foot, 242-pound body. He replaces Stewart Bradley, all 6-4, 260 pounds of him. Baldinger doesn't think the running game is the issue with Chaney, who made eight tackles in the victory over Dallas.
"I thought he used his hands well, he shed blockers and his technique was terrific," said Baldinger. "He trusted his reads and played downhill football. I was impressed."
A couple of former Eagles who understand the challenges of the Eagles' defensive system have been in Chaney's shoes. Ike Reese was a sometimes-starter who played all over in the linebacker rotation. Jeremiah Trotter sat for much of his rookie season before moving into a starter's role. The key, they both say, is making sure to detail the pre-game work.
"When it comes right down to it, Jamar has to understand that it's football, a game that he has been playing since he was a kid," said Reese. "Chaney has dominated at every level. He was a stud at Mississippi State before he was injured and then he had to battle all the way back. My advice to him is to make sure he puts in all the work to prepare for the game, and I'm sure the coaches will make sure he watches all the film that he can, and then he is mentally right for the game and that he understands the scheme and what Sean (McDermott, defensive coordinator) is trying to do.
"When the ball is kicked off, Jamar has to have fun and play the game like he knows he can. He has the ability. He is used to the speed of the game. Last week was invaluable from that standpoint. I think he needs to just go out there and play and trust what he sees and go get the football."
Trotter wants to see Chaney play the middle linebacker position the way he played it: In an attacking fashion.
"Play downhill football. That's my advice. Use your eyes and trust what you see and play fast, physical football," said Trotter. "The Giants do now what they do when I played. You have to read the 'triangle' -- the center, the guard and the fullback -- and get your keys that way. He looked good to me against Dallas. That was a good start for him. He has to build on that and go hit that team in the mouth and have a lot of energy. Jamar plays the game the right way."
An important 60 minutes of football wait for Chaney, for an Eagles defense that has had its ups and downs. That the Eagles head into such a huge game with a rookie in the middle is a focal point. The Eagles trust Chaney, who has earned the right to play and show what he can do.
"He didn't look like a seventh-round draft pick to me," said Baldinger. "He is fast and physical. No doubt he has a lot to learn, but that's part of it. I'm telling you, he looked really good in Dallas. I think he can handle the position against the Giants. It isn't just on him, but Chaney is going to be OK in the huddle, he is going to make the right calls and if he builds on what he did in Dallas, he will be fine in there."