In the days leading up to Training Camp, we will take a look at the most pressing questions facing each position group. Today, we look at the outside linebackers ...
|A Look At The Outside Linebackers
|Amazing work ethic will help maintain 2014 production
|Brings edge to league's best special teams unit
|Versatile UDFA, played OLB and DE in college
|Transitions to first season as full-time starting OLB
|Started career at OLB before moving inside
|Had a roster spot secured before ACL injury in '14
|Can he put it all together in Year 2?
1. How Will Brandon Graham Perform As A Full-Time Starter?
For the first time since the Eagles lost to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX, Trent Cole is not on the roster. Cole was released by the Eagles this offseason and he caught on with the Indianapolis Colts.
The Eagles re-signed Brandon Graham, a former first-round pick, to a four-year deal to take over Cole's spot as the Predator linebacker. Like Cole, Graham transitioned from defensive end to outside linebacker when the Eagles moved to a 3-4 base front in 2013.
Graham has been very productive as a reserve. Last season, Graham played in 499 snaps and posted 5.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss. Graham started one game last season, his first as an outside linebacker, and had six tackles and four quarterback hurries in the Week 16 game against Washington.
Cole played 800 snaps last season. Over the past three seasons, Graham has played 420, 323 and 499 snaps, respectively. Will Graham be as effective on a full-time basis?
To get ready for #EaglesCamp, we're taking a look at each position with today's focus on the outside linebackers ...
- Who Will Be The No. 3 Outside Linebacker?**
As Graham takes on a full-time role, who will take on Graham's role from last season? Linebacker Marcus Smith, the team's first-round pick in 2014, did not get on the field much as a rookie. He changed his diet and added 15 pounds of muscle. He trimmed his body fat percentage from 18 to 15. He was limited in the spring due to injury. He needs to be ready to hit the ground running on Sunday.
Smith was productive in college as an outside linebacker. He has the look of an NFL outside linebacker. It's time for him to showcase those skills on the field.
Travis Long was going to make the 53-man roster last year out of the preseason, but he suffered a torn ACL in the preseason finale against the Jets. He has been with the Eagles for the past two seasons. He had 20.5 sacks in college at Washington State. He was able to participate in the spring training sessions. Long is back and ready to push for not just a roster spot, but a role in the outside linebacker rotation.
Smith and Long are the front-runners for the No. 3 spot. Bryan Braman is a special teams ace. Brad Jones may work on the outside with the glut of inside linebacker talent.
Here are two wild card options: Mychal Kendricks and Vinny Curry. Kendricks is an inside linebacker and Curry is a defensive end, but they were used as edge rushers last season. The Eagles can be creative with Kendricks since they have DeMeco Ryans and Kiko Alonso in the middle. Curry was second on the team with nine sacks and some of them came as an outside linebacker.
3. No Mention Of Connor Barwin?
Connor Barwin's hard work and talent resulted in the first Pro Bowl and All-Pro accolades of his career in 2014. He led the NFC with a personal-best 14.5 sacks, the most ever by an Eagles linebacker. There has been no sign this offseason of Barwin slowing down anytime soon. He has been a free agent gem since joining the Eagles in 2013.