A few years ago, it was OK for the Eagles to feature run-stopping linebackers because of the rough and tumble teams they faced in the NFC East. You needed the big bodies to handle the likes of Brandon Jacobs, Marion Barber and Clinton Portis.
That doesn't work anymore. Sure, those three backs are still in the division, but you have to account for home run hitters like Felix Jones and the pass catching tight ends that can wreak havoc in the middle of the field.
The Eagles linebacking corps will have a much different look come opening day if everything falls into place. Former first-round pick Ernie Sims will man the weakside position. Last year's seventh-round pick Moise Fokou showed enough ranginess and toughness to work on the strong side. And, of course, the Eagles welcome the return of Stewart Bradley, who missed all of last season with a knee injury.
"Stewart, his value, in terms of what he brings to this defense both on and off the field, you can't put a number on it, you really can't," defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said Tuesday. "What he does for us in the huddle, what he does for us in between plays and let's keep in mind he's still a young player. From my standpoint, he's the guy that's going to quarterback the defense and he's going to know the defense as well as I know the defense and by situation, make checks to put us in the right defense. It'll be a significant addition to our defense having Stewart back."
And while you might think the Eagles are placing a high emphasis on speed at the linebacker position, they aren't just putting track stars out on the field.
"When you have speed on the field it gives you a lot of different options. Speed is one thing, but speed with football instincts is another thing," McDermott said. "I think when you mention Ernie and Stewart and the guys that can run, and Keenan (Clayton), you've got guys that are football players, football savvy players that have the speed and the ability to run with tight ends and receivers down the field."
-- Posted by Chris McPherson, 3:15 p.m., July 27