Linebacker Jamar Chaney was the Eagles' leader in tackles and started all 16 games a year ago.
Chaney even moved from the strongside linebacker spot to the middle midseason to augment the defense. By the end of the season, the Eagles ranked in the top 10 in both points and yards allowed.
Despite the improvement, the Eagles knew they had to upgrade the linebacker position. They traded for two-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans, who was inserted into the starting lineup immediately. The Eagles drafted Mychal Kendricks in the second round to play on the strong side, but the team wouldn't immediately declare him as a starter.
Where did this leave Chaney? Chaney was not expected to take part in the Organized Team Activities because of the offseason neck procedure he underwent, but when the Organized Team Activities began on Tuesday at the NovaCare Complex he was out there on the field. Chaney said he wasn't with the starters, but instead competing against Brian Rolle for the weakside linebacker job. It's the one linebacker spot where Chaney hasn't started in his first two seasons.
"I think I'm pretty good in space. I've got the speed to do it," Chaney said of playing on the weak side. "I don't think that will be a problem. I'm going to do everything I can to be the best at that position.
"May the best man win if it's just me and him battling it out."
When the rookie camp concluded on May 14, Chaney had not been cleared by team doctors to take part in the OTAs. That was when head coach Andy Reid said Chaney would not be on the field. Chaney has since been cleared and thought it was important to get the on-field reps that he didn't get a year ago because of the lockout.
"There's only so much you can learn in the classroom," Chaney said. "I think you actually learn more running out here.
"When you get to training camp, there really is no learning curve. You put the pads on and go full speed instead of having to learn everything all over again."
A seventh-round pick in 2010, Chaney replaced an injured Stewart Bradley late in his rookie year at middle linebacker. In fact, the Miracle at the New Meadowlands against the Giants was Chaney's first career start. He registered a career-high 16 tackles in that game and was an impressive force against the run. Last year, Chaney had 104 tackles, 10 pass breakups, three interceptions and a sack.
Chaney understood that Ryans has the resume and he knew that the Eagles wouldn't draft a player in the second round just to sit on the bench. The fastest linebacker at the NFL Scouting Combine in 2010, Chaney has no problem fighting for his spot on the team.
"There's nothing in my life that's ever been given to me. You always have to work for it. I prefer and like that," Chaney said. "There are not too many people who are going to work as hard as me.
"We're going to compete and they're going to put the best three out there."
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