Akeem Jordan was given the opportunity of a lifetime in the Nov. 23 game at Baltimore.
Against a physical, run-oriented Ravens team, Jordan had to know that he would be the primary target with two physical fullbacks in Le'Ron McClain and Lorenzo Neal because of his 6-1, 230-pound stature. Sure, the Eagles lost but Jordan impressed the coaches by recording seven tackles and two for a loss. Jordan's effort seized the starting job for the remainder of the season.
Jordan finished the year with 52 tackles, two pass knockdowns and a fumble recovery. On special teams, Jordan added 21 tackles which was good for second on the team. In a two-game stretch, the regular season finale against Dallas and the Wild Card win over Minnesota, Jordan had a team-high 26 tackles.
Even though he played his college ball at James Madison, as one of nine Eagles on the final roster last year to come from a non-BCS school, Jordan's speed and athleticism put him in prime position around the ball time after time again. He doesn't shy from taking on a lead blocker and is comfortable enough in space to cover a back or a tight end.
The youngest of the three starting linebackers, all eyes will be on Jordan to see if he can capitalize on the experience he gained as a starter in 2008. Surely, Omar Gaither will attempt to win back the job. Gaither did have 2.5 sacks last season and has the ability to create turnovers. Of course, the Eagles could add someone in the draft.
But Andy Reid's switch to Jordan late in the season proved to be another one of the correct buttons pushed in the road to the playoffs. The Eagles defense finished fourth in the league against the run, third against the pass and third overall. But if the Eagles are going to evolve from a very good defense to a dominant one in 2009, more big plays from the linebackers - all of them, not just Jordan - are a must.