Eagles Notes: Rookies Matthews and Kelce getting the reps

Rookie linebacker Casey Matthews had a tough time shedding blocks early against the Steelers, but he improved later.
Rookie linebacker Casey Matthews had a tough time shedding blocks early against the Steelers, but he improved later. (YONG KIM / Staff Photographer)
Posted: August 21, 2011

Andy Reid is sticking with one rookie and going with another.

Despite criticism that Casey Matthews wasn't up to the task of being the starting middle linebacker after his rocky outing in Thursday night's preseason game against the Steelers, the Eagles coach stuck with the rookie at Saturday's walk-through.

The Eagles' entire starting linebacker crew, in fact, did not change after the 24-14 loss in Pittsburgh. Jamar Chaney stayed at strong-side linebacker and Moise Fokou was still at weak side.

Matthews, a fourth-round draft pick, is being asked to shoulder a lot without an offseason of learning. He had a tough time shedding blocks early against the Steelers, but Eagles coaches believed the rookie improved his play as the first half went on.

Matthews and the starters did not play in the second half.

Jamaal Jackson and rookie Jason Kelce had been splitting first-team repetitions at center through almost all of training camp at Lehigh University. But Thursday night Jackson took all the snaps with the starters because, Reid said later, the offense ran very few plays.

Those might be the last snaps Jackson sees for a while.

Kelce will take all the first-team reps this week, he said. The rookie said that he didn't know if he would start in Thursday's game against the Browns, but it is more than likely.

The question now is if he'll remain the starter into the season opener on Sept. 11. That the sixth-round pick is even in the running is a bit of a shocker.

Even though Jackson is trying to rebound from a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in December 2009 and a season-ending torn triceps in last season's opener, the nine-year veteran still has 72 career starts. And it's not as if he's struggled in the preseason or in camp.

And then there's Mike McGlynn, who started 15 games last season in place of Jackson. But McGlynn rarely plays center now and is more of a deep reserve guard who is in danger of being cut.

New offensive line coach Howard Mudd favors comparatively smaller and more athletic linemen, and the 6-foot-3, 282-pound Kelce fits that mold more so than Jackson (6-4, 325) or McGlynn (6-4, 315).

Chaney on cheap shot

Chaney took to Twitter to point out the cheap shot that Steelers guard Ramon Foster took at him in Thursday's game.

"Looking at the cheap shot [Foster] for the Steelers gave me Thursday night, I should have been getting ready to have season ending surgery," Chaney wrote.

The Eagles linebacker provided a link to a YouTube replay of Foster's jumping on the back of Chaney's legs after the whistle. Reid said Chaney suffered only a sprained ankle and still practiced Saturday.

"He's very fortunate because he received a late hit on the back of his knee there," Reid said. "That could have been really a severe injury."

The following players did not practice: Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (illness), tackle Winston Justice (knee), wide receiver Jason Avant (knee contusion), defensive tackle Antonio Dixon (back spasms), defensive end Juqua Parker (calf), wide receiver Steve Smith (knee), defensive end Daniel Te'o-Nesheim (hamstring strain), linebacker Greg Lloyd (high ankle sprain), tackle Fenuki Tupou (knee sprain), defensive end Brandon Graham (knee), and safety Marlin Jackson (sports hernia).

Defensive tackle Mike Patterson (seizure), defensive tackle Trevor Laws (hip), and tackle Ryan Harris (back) returned to practice.

Extra points

Reid said that tackle Jose Acuna, whom the Eagles acquired last week, was granted a leave to attend to family matters. . . . Wide receiver Brandon Caleb and defensive tackle Charlie Noonan were released.

Contact staff writer Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745, jmclane@phillynews.com, or @Jeff_McLane on Twitter.


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