Andy Reid announced this week that Akeem Jordan will start at weakside linebacker for the Philadelphia Eagles on opening day. Defensive coordinator Juan Castillo and Reid shocked the world with this announcement. Some reporters, myself even (although my most recent mock final roster had him as a lock), had Jordan being cut from the Eagles roster before opening day. So why the drastic change from roster bubble to starter?
During OTAs and early in training camp, Brian Rolle, second year linebacker from Ohio State University, was listed as the starter. He is very undersized at 5’10″ and 235 lbs, but that didn’t stop him from making plays against the run all last season as Pro Football Focus had him rated as the sixth best linebacker against the run last season. Where Rolle really struggles is in coverage. Being vertically challenged drastically hurts his ability to cover mammoth-sized and freakishly athletic tight ends like Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski. In all likelihood this is what caused Rolle to be demoted. It’s unfortunate because he plays with tremendous heart.
Next in line to start at weakside linebacker was Jamar Chaney. He started most of the year for the Eagles at middle linebacker last season but was slightly undersized for that position. Chaney, with his athletic prowess, is better suited for either outside linebacker position. Sadly for him, he was coming off next surgery in the offseason and been dealing with a nagging hamstring throughout the preseason. The injuries have limited his snaps in practice and games, leading the Eagles to pass on him as the starter.
This left the door wide open for Eagles special team ace, Jordan, to push for a starting job. Even though his reps have been limited with the starters, especially on the weakside, according to Castillo the decision to name him the starter was simple and quite obvious. Castillo said of Jordan “He’s been overly productive. He’s been making plays.” At practice throughout training camp Castillo kept thinking to himself, “Hey, Akeem made another play. Whoa!” Jordan was very effective playing with the Eagles backups against the New England Patriots.
Here’s to the Castillo and the Eagles not making the same Casey Mathews type mistake like last year. Castillo and the rest of the Eagles drastically improved as the season progressed. Hopefully that trend will continue and the Eagles linebacker core performs at a higher level throughout the season.