Eagles' Najee Goode gets long-awaited start

Najee Goode (left) knocking the pass away from Packers receiver Andrew Quarless last week. RON CORTES / Staff
Najee Goode (left) knocking the pass away from Packers receiver Andrew Quarless last week. RON CORTES / Staff
Posted: November 17, 2013

Two months ago, Najee Goode had just been released on Disappointment Monday.

It's typically the day when players that had just survived final cuts on the Saturday following the final preseason game get released when teams scoop up discards from the waiver wire.

Goode had made the Buccaneers' 53-man roster a year after he spent his rookie season mostly on the sidelines. But he and another player were cut when Tampa signed a defensive tackle, and as happenstance would have it, former Eagles wide receiver Russell Shepherd.

The Bucs told Goode that they had planned to re-sign him to their practice squad, but when the Eagles called, he left with no regrets.

"I only played three or four games in my first year. I was a little hurt, but it was frustrating because I feel like I can play and contribute some way," Goode said this week. "But the coaches down there had a different plan. God had another one."

Goode has been active from the opener on, playing mostly on special teams. But when Mychal Kendricks suffered a knee injury early in Sunday's Packers game, Goode was thrown into the fire and hardly missed a beat.

But with Kendricks questionable to play this Sunday against the Redskins, Goode will likely earn his first start, and Robert Griffin III and his mates are sure to go after the second-year linebacker.

"When you watched him out here since the first day we got him in September, there was something about him," coach Chip Kelly said of Goode. "He's an extremely hard worker. He prepares like a professional. When his opportunity came, he took advantage of it. You can't rely on the, 'I haven't got a ton of reps.' "

Goode will have had a full week of preparation, though, before the Redskins come to town. He took most of the first-team practice repetitions alongside inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans and faced some looks the Redskins are likely to give, especially with tight end Jordan Reed, who Goode could see a lot.

The Redskins rookie played only a third of the snaps in the first meeting with the Eagles. But since Week 6, Reed has the most receptions of any tight end in the league. Overall, he has caught 44 passes for 487 yards and three touchdowns.

Washington likes to use Reed in their screen game, meaning the 6-foot-2, 244-pound Goode will often be tasked with covering the 6-2, 243-pound tight end. Goode was targeted only two times by the Packers and allowed one catch for 20 yards.

Goode nearly picked off the other pass, and could have deflected another. He also recorded five tackles against the run and shot into the backfield to blow up a few carries.

"He's a really sharp kid, I mean real smart guy," Kelly said. "I think he was an industrial mechanical engineer major. He has a really good grasp. When he got here, that's one of the first things that struck us. This guy is an intelligent football player."

Goode played in a school-record 52 games at West Virginia and was named to the all-Big East first team after his senior season. The Bucs drafted him in the fifth round of the 2012 draft, but he appeared in only three games as a rookie.

Tampa had him playing middle linebacker in a 4-3 defense, but he played inside in a 3-4 in college, where he is now with the Eagles.

"The scheme down there was more gap control and was very strict assignment football," Goode said. "In a 3-4, you can do a lot of things to get the job done and that plays to my strengths."

Against Green Bay, Goode played the run on 31 snaps, dropped into coverage 28 times and pass-rushed 12 other times. He signaled out Ryans for his assistance in learning the Eagles' scheme in short time and in sharpening his cover skills.

"When I first got here, every time we were in coverage, he was like, 'Go ahead, you can run with that. You can do this,' " Goode said, half joking. "He was sending me to do all the busy work and then he'd clean up and make some plays."

Peters, Fletcher questionable

Despite not practicing most of the week, tackle Jason Peters was also listed as questionable for Sunday's game. Cornerback Bradley Fletcher, who missed last week's game with a pectoral strain, was limited at practice this week, but was also questionable.

If Peters, who has quadriceps and pectoral injuries, can't play, Allen Barbre will start in his place. Roc Carmichael filled in for Fletcher last week and will likely take his spot if there is another absence.

Michael Vick (hamstring) was also listed as questionable. Nick Foles will make his third straight start at quarterback. Matt Barkley will back him up if Vick can't dress.



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