A starting inside linebacker in San Diego two years ago, Matt Wilhelm was released on July 24 by the same team that drafted him in the fourth round in 2003.
The Eagles added Wilhelm on Aug. 4 following the injury to starting middle linebacker Stewart Bradley. Coming from a 3-4 scheme, he's been getting a crash course in a new defense.
"With this defense as intricate as it is, you're constantly learning, you're constantly seeing new things, new blitzes," Wilhelm said. "San Diego's (system) was like addition and subtraction; this is like trigonometry and calculus. Where you fit changes, learning the defense as a whole changes as well."
Wilhelm has played in 71 regular season games and has recorded 247 tackles (147 solo), 2 sacks and 6 interceptions.
Though he has six years of experience under his belt, Wilhelm is not taking anything for granted in competing against reserves like Omar Gaither, Tracy White and Tank Daniels and rookies like Moise Fokou, among others. White recorded an interception last week in Indy and Fokou has been around the football in both games.
"A lot of guys are fighting for their jobs," he said this week. "That's fine. Put my back up against the wall and force me to perform."
Wilhelm said he's growing comfortable by the day, with each practice and believes he took steps in the right direction in the first two preseason games. Beginning tonight, he expects nothing short of perfection in his play.
"I think, for me, to play the best game, the most perfect game I can play, execution-wise - being in the right places, making plays, leading this defense as a quarterback, which the middle linebacker has to be, getting guys lined up, calling out the stunts, the blitzes, any checks that we have to make," Wilhelm said. "I've been here long enough to be able to make those, to be decisive with my decisions and to play downhill, attack-style."
"Even though this is a new environment, the coaches are slowly but surely gaining confidence in me, as I am in myself."
Said defensive coordinator Sean McDermott: "He continues to grow in this defense, and as a middle linebacker it's important that you can run the defense. He's working towards that effort right now. It starts with the huddle and getting the defense lined up and then playing downhill physical football."
-- Posted by Bob Kent, 1:26 p.m., August 27