Even with the infusion of youth at the linebacker position, it was still somewhat of a surprise to see rookie fourth-round pick Casey Matthews run the first-team defense from the middle linebacker spot at Thursday afternoon's practice.
"At first it was a little intimidating, but I got used to it. The coaches complimented me on how I've been taking control of the huddle. It just comes with being the MIKE linebacker," Matthews said. "I'm looking forward to the challenge."
Matthews arrived at the NovaCare Complex on Tuesday to start learning the defense. Even with the limited time in the playbook because of the work stoppage, Matthews said that the defense thus far was "very basic" and "not too hard to understand."
In fact, Matthews acknowledged that with new defensive coordinator Juan Castillo all of the players are learning on the fly.
"They've tweaked the defense so a lot of people are learning for the first time," Matthews said. "Even some of the guys who've been here said it's different. It's going to be tough, but I'm looking forward to the challenge."
The 6-1, 232-pound Matthews was one of three linebackers selected by the Eagles in the 2011 NFL Draft along with Brian Rolle and Greg Lloyd. Matthews is of course the brother of Green Bay outside linebacker Clay and one of six members of the family to play in the league. Since Casey couldn't be with the Eagles in the offseason, he worked out with his brother and added 15 pounds of muscle.
Matthews is no stranger to anchoring a defense, as he led Oregon to the BCS national title game last year. But not at this level. Time will tell if he can remain up to the challenge.
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