Former Pro Bowl linebacker Greene visits Eagles

DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Kevin Greene meets the media after Eagles practice.
DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Kevin Greene meets the media after Eagles practice.
Posted: August 06, 2014

WITH Kevin Greene working with outside linebackers in Eagles camp this week, the Birds' pass rushers have been gathering trade tips from one of the league's all-time bests.

And, technical tips aside, perhaps the most interesting piece of advice was what Greene seemed to say was the foundation for beating offensive linemen and corralling quarterbacks.

"Always establish the violent, physical nature of the game up front from the get-go," Greene told reporters after the Eagles concluded their workout yesterday at the NovaCare Complex. "That's the No. 1 thing. Kick his ass. That's it, and everything else is secondary . . . "

Greene - who played from 1985-99 and again watched as others were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last weekend - used that mindset during 15 NFL seasons in which he amassed 160 sacks with the Los Angeles Rams, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Carolina, putting him No. 3 on the league's all-time list behind only Reggie White (198) and Bruce Smith (200).

After last season, Greene left the Green Bay Packers, where he served as an outside linebackers coach from 2009-13, reportedly to spend more time with his family.

A few months ago, Greene called Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis about an opportunity to impart his knowledge in Philadelphia. Greene's stay is said to last about 3 days.

Davis, now in his second season with the Birds, coached Greene as an assistant in Pittsburgh (1993-95) and later in Carolina, where Davis was an outside linebackers coach.

While with the Packers, Greene was credited, in part, for the emergence of Clay Matthews, an outside linebacker who became the first player in franchise history to earn Pro Bowl recognition in his first four NFL seasons (2009-12).

Whether it's a mindset shift or nuanced tricks of the trade, the Eagles could use similar assistance for a defense that ranked 20th in the league in sacks (2.3 per game) last season, led by Trent Cole's eight and Connor Barwin's five.

"What he's done is he's brought a different mindset to the pass rush," said Casey Matthews, younger brother of Clay, now in his fourth season in Philadelphia. "That's really what pass rush is. It's a mindset more than anything . . . obviously it takes some physical skills and speed, but if you have that determination that [nothing] will stop you from getting to the quarterback, you'll be tough to beat.

"He saw a tackle that would be blocking him as disrespect, because [the tackle's job] is that you're not going to sack the quarterback. So, every time he went out there, he saw it as a challenge just to get to the quarterback."

For Barwin, entering his second season with the Eagles (sixth overall), Greene's message appears rooted more in subtlety than mindset.

"The one thing he's definitely taught me right away is the ins and outs of pass rushing," Barwin said. "Obviously that was his bread-and-butter with 160 sacks, but to rush on the edge against tackles from a two-point stance is what he did and that's what I'm asked to do. So there have been just little technical things that he's taught me that I hadn't been coached on before, I'm sure those are going to help.

"I've had some great coaches. I think Bill McGovern [outside linebackers coach] is an outstanding coach. But to talk to a guy who actually played my position for 15 years, and played it as good or better than anyone else ever did is really invaluable. So, he's been here for 2 days, I know stuff that he's already taught me that helped me today, so I'm excited to have him for another day."

Greene says he doesn't miss coaching because he teaches his son, Gavin, a junior linebacker at Niceville High in Florida. Greene is not a coach at the school but tutors the finer points after practices.

And although former New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan, No. 5 on the all-time sacks list (141 1/2), was inducted into the Hall of Fame on Saturday, Greene said his continued rejections don't eat away at him.

"Only because I look back on my 15 years and I know what I was able to accomplish," Greene said. "My goal was to pass Lawrence Taylor in sacks. I knew that was my goal because everybody looked at Lawrence Taylor as being the best outside linebacker, and I was blessed to play longer and be more productive than the great Lawrence Taylor. That's where my peace lies, whether anybody else recognizes that - that's really out of my control. But, I know what I was able to accomplish, playing essentially the same position as the great Lawrence Taylor."

When asked about differences in today's game, Greene said, "Outside linebackers have got to really do everything, and it's really been that way for years. They've got to be able to obviously rush like a defensive end that weighs 285 pounds. They've got to cover like a big, strong safety and they have to play the run hard at the point of attack. Things like that will always remain consistent about a 3-4 outside linebacker."

Scouting report

Greene offered evaluations of Barwin and rookie linebacker Marcus Smith.

* On Barwin: "High motor, athletic, physical . . . He has some tools in his toolbox, so I'm whispering in his ear . . . 'Try this, it may work for you, just give it a shot.' But he's a pretty good player, pretty good player."

* On Smith: "Athletic as all get-out. No doubt he brings a lot of skills, big skill set to the table, so I'm whispering sweet nothings in his ear every chance I can . . . there are a lot of things in this young kid Marcus, athletic as he is, big, as fluid as he is, and as physical as he can be when he wants to be. He can be a fine player."


On Twitter: @AceCarterDN

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