Eagles looking for right blend of linebackers

Posted: September 07, 2012

IT TAKES A village to cover a tight end, or something like that.

Jamar Chaney said Thursday his hamstring is 100 percent, as the Eagles continued to try to find the right mix of linebackers in base and nickel for their season opener Sunday at Cleveland.

Rookie Mychal Kendricks, the strongside starter who also plays in nickel, said he expects all the linebackers who are active to play some sort of role against the Browns, not only the starting group of Kendricks, DeMeco Ryans and Akeem Jordan.

"They've got us in a rotation all the time, so we all know each other's tendencies. You know, like a couple times today, Chaney helped me out with my fits and what I needed to do, and [Ryans] will do the same thing, and I'll do the same thing with [them]. We all have to help each other when we're in there," Kendricks said.

Chaney briefly was part of the first-team nickel package at Lehigh before injuring his hamstring. It doesn't seem too much of a stretch to think he might return to that role now that he's healthy again.

"Probably so. They're going to find a way to put the best guys out there . . . They told me to be ready [if called upon at any linebacking spot]," Chaney said.

"Whatever the coaches tell us is what we do. It's no big deal to me," Ryans said, when asked about the possibility of shuffling.

Asked whether he still considers himself a three-down linebacker, which is what the Eagles heralded Ryans as when they traded for him, Ryans said, "I am."

But will he be a three-down linebacker on Sunday?

"That's the coaches' decision. I don't decide who goes out on the field," Ryans said.

The Eagles spent last season shuffling through various combinations of linebackers. By the end of the season, no starter was in the spot he'd occupied in September. Training camp and the preseason hinted at continued dissatisfaction.

Thursday, defensive coordinator Juan Castillo vigorously defended Ryans from questions about why he didn't make more plays in the preseason.

Castillo questioned whether reporters were watching practice.

"I see it in practice. I've seen it in training camp. I've seen the difference he's made in the middle," said Castillo, who again praised Ryans' leadership and ability to get the defense lined up, rather than anything specific about his play.

"Again, think about how much we really played [during the preseason]," Castillo said. "[The regular season] begins on Sunday. We really haven't played that much through the preseason, but it begins on Sunday."

Marty on QBs

Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said he is not concerned about rookie Nick Foles backing up quarterback Michael Vick.

"I've got great confidence in Nick. I think Nick Foles has progressed just beautifully," Mornhinweg said. "Very fast pace. He's a bright guy, he's got natural playing ability, he's got natural instincts."

Mornhinweg called third quarterback Trent Edwards a "crafty veteran" who "does it just like we want him to do it. He also has some natural playing ability, some gut instincts . . . I really think highly of the three quarterbacks that we have here."

Birdseed

The Eagles listed rookie defensive tackle Fletcher Cox as limited in practice by knee inflammation, but Cox said afterward he is fine and expects to play . . . Special-teams coordinator Bobby April confirmed that Brandon Boykin will return kicks Sunday and Damaris Johnson will return punts. April said he has never had rookies in both spots before . . . April indicated that Chas Henry's better holding results than Mat McBriar's did indeed figure into the decision to keep Henry instead of the two-time Pro Bowl punter . . . Juan Castillo left open the possibility that safety David Sims, acquired last week from Cleveland, might be active against the Browns. Castillo noted that though Sims is new to the Eagles' defense, the Browns' system is similar . . . Marty Mornhinweg conceded that there were some things the Eagles did with Jason Peters at left tackle that they won't be able to do with King Dunlap.

Contact Les Bowen at bowenl@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter @LesBowen. For more Eagles coverage and opinion, read the Daily NEws' blog at eagletarian.com.

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