Philadelphia Eagles: 5 potential replacements for Mychal Kendricks

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(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /
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Philadelphia Eagles
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Kenny Vaccaro

Wait, why would the Philadelphia Eagles replace their starting linebacker with a safety?

Well, as the NFL gets more and more pass-happy, teams are spending more and more time in their nickel packages, with the five defensive back scheme essentially becoming the new base defense for many teams.

I mean this is the very reason why Kendricks fought so hard for his release in the first place, a lack of snaps at linebacker.

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While Kendricks did receive a noticeable uptick in snaps last season, after playing less than 30 percent of the team’s defensive snaps in 2016, thanks to Hicks’ Achilles injury, he was once again going to be in line to play only in base packages for Jim Schwartz‘s scheme in 2018, a move that would totally waste his immense talents.

With nickel cornerback Patrick Robinson and nickel safety Corey Graham combining for 1,030 defensive snaps in 2018, good for 105 percent of the Eagles’ total snaps, it’s clear that teams are slowly moving away from the typical three linebacker front sevens that have defined the 4-3 defense for decades, in favor of a new, speed centric lineup.

This is why teams are starting to prioritize smaller, more athletic linebackers who are able to match up on tight ends, running backs, and even wide receivers in a pinch, with some teams going as far as to draft a college safety with size and athleticism and converting them into modern day moneybackers like Deone Bucannon, Temple alumni Haason Reddick, and the Eagles own pair of Kamu Grugier-Hill and Nate Gerry.

Which brings us to Kenny Vaccaro.

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Vaccaro, the 15th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, spent the last five seasons with the New Orleans Saints and defined the term ‘jack of all trades, but master of none’ in the Big Easy.

Spending time lined up at deep safety, in the box, in the slot and even as a weakside linebacker at times for Sean Payton‘s defense, Vaccaro used his size, speed, and athleticism to make plays all over the defense, but struggled to find a single spot that allowed his skill set to shine.

Now an unrestricted free agent after half a decade in New Orleans, Vaccaro has flirted with a few teams but remains unsigned due to his lack of a defined position on a typical defensive scheme.

Bad news for Vaccaro, but potentially great news for the Eagles.

While the Eagles are loaded at cornerback, especially after adding Avonte Maddox in the draft, they do not have a young, proven safety to back up Rodney McLeod and Malcolm Jenkins in 2018, and Vacarro could do that, and oh so much more.

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Whether it be lining up in the slot, back deep at safety, or in the middle of the field as a stand-up linebacker, Kenny Vaccaro could add some much-needed versatility and optionality to Jim Schwartz’s defense in 2018 by killing two birds with one stone.