It took a while for the experienced Dannell Ellerbe to find a handful of snaps on defense since signing with Philadelphia back in mid-November.
After a strong showing in just his second game as an Eagle, Ellerbe very well could be the starter at middle linebacker heading into the postseason.
"It's probably more the way we're leaning going forward. He had a lot of things we liked, it just wasn't an overnight thing getting him in there. But he's worked really hard at it, and I think it showed in the game," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said of Ellerbe's performance.
"He's a tough, inside-run defender. Used his hands well, was active, stepped up, and made a big tackle for a loss in that game. Just like any other player, he's still got a long way to go, but I like the way he's trending, and we think that he can help us going forward."
The Eagles signed the 6-1, 245-pound Ellerbe to provide depth at the middle linebacker spot following the season-ending injury to Jordan Hicks. He'd only played on defense in the Seahawks game before playing 40 percent of the snaps against Oakland. Ellerbe turned a few heads when scooted past the Raiders' offensive line for that aforementioned tackle for loss late in the third quarter.
"It was a formation where we knew they were going to run the ball and I knew I could take my chances, shoot the gap," Ellerbe said in the locker room Thursday. "I knew I saw a lot of people saying they were blitzing the line but it wasn't a blitz, I was in coverage. I just read the play and shot."
Ellerbe could have been on the field sooner but there's a difference between simply knowing the defense and communicating it to his teammates.
"If I would have been playing any other position, and I didn't have to make the call and just listen to somebody else, I could have learned it a whole lot quicker," he said. "Playing (middle linebacker) you got to know all that and I couldn't go out there half-stepping."
No stranger to the playoffs, Ellerbe will be in the postseason for the fifth time in nine NFL seasons. He was a member of the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens back in 2012 along with Torrey Smith and Corey Graham. The ninth-year veteran has played in many schemes and is proving his ability to adapt to Schwartz's scheme going forward.
"I thought Dannell Ellerbe looked pretty good in the base defense playing downhill in the run game," said NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell on the Eagle Eye in the Sky podcast. "I thought that he was reactive. I thought his play recognition was good for a guy who hasn't played.
"He's an upgrade at the middle linebacker position in that 4-3. Not an upgrade from Jordan Hicks because he's obviously out for the year but an upgrade from who'd been playing."