Philadelphia Eagles: Linebacker Depth Still An Issue, Breakdown On Who Will Start

Nov 8, 2015; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills outside linebacker Nigel Bradham (53) tries to block a pass by Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) during the second half at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Buffalo beats Miami 33 to 17. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 8, 2015; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills outside linebacker Nigel Bradham (53) tries to block a pass by Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) during the second half at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Buffalo beats Miami 33 to 17. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports /

The Philadelphia Eagles are nearing closer to the start of the season, but will be struggling with depth at linebacker in their 4-3 defense.

The Philadelphia Eagles have had linebacker depth issues for a while, and it seems as though that trend will continue. The scheme that Doug Pederson and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz will be focused on the powerhouse defensive line, but the linebacker core will become more important as the season moves along and injuries become an issue.

Before looking at the linebacker core, it is important to breakdown the defensive line, which will include dynamic pass rushers Vinny Curry, Brandon Graham, and Connor Barwin off the edges. The middle of the line will be controlled by Fletcher Cox and Bennie Logan, who make for an unstoppable duo on an inside rush.

The quality of the defensive line should be able to mask some weaknesses at the linebacker core, but not enough for the Philadelphia Eagles to completely disregard the lack of depth they have at the position. Let’s take a look at the projected starters at the linebacker positions.

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Middle Linebacker – Jordan Hicks

Jordan Hicks’ spectacular rookie season was cut short after just 8 games thanks to a quad injury. The Philadelphia Eagles seemingly found a steal in the draft as the former 2015 3rd-round pick found a way to make plays each in every game. Hicks racked up solo 42 tackles, 2 interceptions, 1 touchdown, and a sack in his limited amount of games, pointing towards a very successful career, if he can stay healthy.

The former Texas Longhorn will hope to become the anchor of this injury-prone Philadelphia Eagles linebacker core, while trying to keep himself on the field at the same time. Hicks has the skill set and mentality to become a major defensive force on this team, and could blossom into one of the league’s most consistent tacklers from the middle linebacker position.

Outside Linebackers- Mychal Kendricks, Nigel Bradham

Mychal Kendricks will be entering into his 5th NFL season, all with the Philadelphia Eagles. A versatile linebacker that can rush the passer, play the run game, and most importantly, have the ability to cover backs on the pass. Kendricks will continue to take a starting role, and has been recovering from a hamstring injury to ensure he can stay healthy for the season.

Kendricks played in 13 games last season, recording 3.0 sacks and 61 solo tackles. Thus far Kendricks hasn’t blossomed into the ultimate playmaker that many expected from him after his monster 2013 season for the Philadelphia Eagles, where he recorded 86 solo tackles, but is still a very solid defender on the outside.

What may have been one of the Philadelphia Eagles’ most important signings was that of outside linebacker Nigel Bradham. Bradham spent the first four seasons of his career with the Buffalo Bills, and had his best year in 2014.

Bradham took a step back last season, fighting off injury and only playing in 11 games. Bradham will have to come in and become a solid playmaker opposite of Kendricks, and become a run-stopping machine on a core that struggled to do so last season.

The Philadelphia Eagles starting linebacker core looks solid for now, but it’s the depth that will start to become glaringly worrisome.

The Others- Najee Goode, Joe Walker, Deontae Skinner, Myke Tavarres, Quentin Gause, Don Cherry

Najee Goode will step into the role of backup outside linebacker, and will hope to have more of a productive reason. After playing just one game played in 2014, Goode became more of a force on the special teams unit last season. Goode will go from special teams unit player, to potentially an important relief for the injury prone core.

2016 Philadelphia Eagles 7th-round pick Joe Walker will try to battle for a spot on the roster this year, and may actually have a good chance to join the team as a backup middle linebacker. Walker’s three seasons at Oregon were decent, racking up 16.0 sacks and 205 total tackles. Walker could be come a solid special teams player, but may be forced to take a bigger role than expected due to lack of depth at the positions.

Former New England Patriots rookie Deontae Skinner was brought in for some relief as he will take role as a backup outside linebacker. The former Mississippi State product played 7 games last season, starting one. Skinner is mainly a run-stopper, and could become a decent backup.

Quentin Gause will be another rookie linebacker trying to find a backup role for the Philadelphia Eagles. The former Rutgers product could become an OK second or third option if the team is in deep injury trouble, but will most likely find a role on special teams if he indeed does make the team.

Linebackers Don Cherry (Villanova) and Myke Tavarres (Incarnate Word) are signees that probably won’t make the team, but the Philadelphia Eagles must keep all options open.

Next: Season Preview With Jason La Canfora

The Philadelphia Eagles may have a look at free agent Stephen Tulloch, or move around some of the mobile defensive ends to fill in holes if majorly needed. The Philadelphia Eagles will have a decent starting linebacker core, but are desperately in need of some depth.