Category Archives: Casey Matthews

How to Judge Casey Matthews

The Eagles and Ravens will play a game tonight, but barring any injury, no one tomorrow will be talking about the score.

The hot topic tomorrow will be how Casey Matthews, the rookie middle linebacker making his first start, looked against another team. Grading a middle linebacker is a hard thing for fans to do. Unlike a kicker or receiver, it is hard to tell if a linebacker was responsible for any mishap that may happen on defense.

All Eyes will be on Matthews tonight

But what can we expect, and look for, from Matthews tonight? Here are some things the coaches will be looking at.

Play Calling: Physically, the adjustment from college football to the NFL is hard on every player.  But for certain positions, like quarterback and safety, the mental aspect is just as important. Middle Linebacker is also one of those positions, especially now that they are responsible for making the calls. Their is a big difference between calling the plays in the quite confines of Lehigh University and the packed, loud environment of Lincoln Financial Field. The coaches will keep a close eye on how Matthews does getting the play to his teammates, and adjusting to anything he sees once the defense is lined up. Matthews must also demand his respect of his teammates, which unlike last year, are filled with Pro-Bowl players.

Tackling: At 6’2 & 232 pounds, Matthews is small compared to other middle linebackers in the league. One issue the Eagles linebackers have had in the past few years is being able to shed blocks and get to the ball. Ernie Sims, who did not play the middle, is a prime example of someone who was unable to get off a block and make a play. Matthews needs to show tonight that despite his small stature, he is able to get to the ball and finish the play. That also means tackling, as Matthews will have to show he can still bring people down at this level. Matthews has done that in practice, but tonight will be his first true test in that area.

Coverage: Matthews is not known for his speed, but has had a decent camp in coverage. In one-on-one drills, Matthew has done a good job staying with running backs and tight ends. Matthews will not find himself lined up with a tight end often during a game, as Jamaar Chaney should get that responsibility. But Matthews will have to drop back in zone coverage at time, and if he is a liability in the middle of the field, the Eagles cannot afford to keep him in their.

Play making: At the end of the day, Matthews will be able to keep his job if he does one thing: make plays. The Eagles have not had a play making linebacker since Jeremiah Trotter- the first time around. Matthews may not be the biggest or fastest, but he knows the game and is able to make plays. Matthews finished with 3 sacks and 3 interceptions last season with Oregon. Tonight, Matthews may not be able to make as many plays as he will later in the year with experience, but it will be important for Matthews to get around the ball tonight. If Matthews can show on film to the coaches that he is making correct reads, reacting to it, and trying to make a play, it will go a long way in him keeping his starting job.

Defense Will Be Ok with Casey Matthews

It seems that Eagles fans have been spoiled by the Phillies.

The Phillies, a 70 win baseball team, are constantly knit picked apart by the fans. An extra arm is needed. The bench is weak. Ryan Howard isn’t clutch. It is their passion that causes them to do this, but the fact is at the end of the day, the Phillies are just fine.

Now, the Eagles defense is not on the same level as the Phillies. Questions about how this team will gel together are fair. Whether or not Juan Castillo will be able to adjust to making play calls on the fly is a legitimate concern. How the young safeties will play is unknown. And how Casey Matthews, the Eagles rookie linebacker from Oregon, will adjust to one of the most important positions on the defense is a concern that has most fans worried sick.

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But if the Eagles biggest problem it has all season is Casey Matthews, it will be ok.

The rookie middle linebacker is slated to start, much to the shagrin of the local fan base. With Nnamdi Asomugha on board, the feeling is that the team should move Asante Samuel for a middle linebacker. But unless they are able to get a top 5 middle linebacker- which is unlikely- the team should give Matthews a chance.

Matthews has looked good in camp so far, and seems to have done a good job grasping the playbook. Defensive coordinator Juan Castillo has moved players all around, but the one constant has been Matthews in the middle. Castillo has spoke at volume about the leadership Matthew has shown.

If Matthews was going to be expected to be a playmaker on the defense, then concerns would be valid. But by having the Pro-Bowl trio of Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante Samuel & Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on the outside, and having an improved defensive line in front of him, Matthews will only be expected to hold fort in the middle. It will also make Matthews better, something that players on the defense have not done for each other in a long time.

We will find out a lot about Matthews over the next few weeks, as he takes the field for what should be a very interesting pre-season.

But so far, so good for Matthews.

Training Camp Preview: Eagles Rookies

Any die hard Eagles fan knows that one of the best parts of training camp is watching an late round pick or undrafted rookie make a name for himself. Its a beautiful part of camp- everyone has a chance.

This year, the Eagles have 22 players who no NFL experience trying to make the active roster. Below is a break down of each along with their chances of making the team.

Perry Baker, WR: Listed at 6’2, 175 pounds, this rookie wide out from Fairmont St. is known for having good hands. Most NFL Draft experts say he has enough moves to get open, but does not have top notch speed. In addition, his paper thing body leaves him open to injuries. Chance of making Team: 1%

DeAndre Brown, WR: While the Eagles are deep at wide out, DeAndre Brown has one thing the rest of the group doesn’t: size. Standing at 6’6, Brown has the height and athleticism to out jump any of the Eagles cornerbacks. He has a reputation of clashing with coaches, but he has one thing they cannot teach: size.  Chance of making team: 10% 

Cooper can make this team if he excels in the return game

Graig Cooper, RB: Cooper, listed at  5-10 & 205 lbs, fits the typical body build that Andy Reid likes: small and fast. Cooper’s best chance of making this team is in the return game. Cooper has the ability to return both kicks and punts, which is an area of need for the Eagles. The Eagles would love for Cooper to come in and take the job, as they have not had a consistent kick returner over the last few years. Chance of making the team: 35%

Noel Devine, RB: Many NFL experts were surprised to see Devine go undrafted- and with good reason. Devine was one of the most dangerous running backs in the college game last year, as his combination of speed and elusiveness made him a nightmare for opposing defenses. Had he not been hurt last year, he would have been drafted. Hopefully the Eagles can strike gold. Like Cooper, Devine will have to contribute on Special teamsL  Chance of making team: 35%

Stanley Havili, RB: Havill, a 6’0 230lb running back from USC, is a beneficiary of the new 90 man training camp roster rule in the CBA. One skill Havill does have is catching the ball, which is probably why Reid brought him in. Havill only makes this team if the rest of the Eagles running backs catch a serious virus. Even then, don’t count on it. Chance of making team: 1%

Alex Henery

Alex Henery, K: The argument could be made that Henery is the most important rookie on this Eagles roster. While Danny Watkins and Jaiquawn Jarrett were drafted higher, they can be hidden if they mess up. There is no hiding Henery, the rookie kicker from Nebraska who is going to step in for David Akers. Henery would have to really choke this job away not to make the team. Chance of making team: 85%

Chas Henry, P: If the reports are true that the Eagles are not brining back any of their free agents, then Henry is the only punter on this roster. A rookie from Florida, Henry is in the same situation as Henery- tons of pressure to be perfect from day 1. Unlike Henery, however, there is a good chance another punter is brought in at some point. Would be surprised if Henry is this teams punter in week 1. Chance of making team: 55%

Jaiquawn Jarrett, S: The Eagles surprised many when they took Jarrett this high, but Jarretts majority will serve him well. A four year starter from Temple, Jarrett is used to doing the work to be a starter- the preparation and the responsibility necessary  are nothing new to Jarrett. Thats a good thing, because the Eagles will need him to come in from week 1 and be the man at safety. Chances of making team: 100%

Jerrod Johnson, QB: A Texas A&M prospect, Johnson stands 6’5 and weighs 250lbs. Johnson played 12 games in 2009, throwing for over 3,500 yards and 30 touchdowns. He also rushed for over 500 yards that year, making him one of the more talented QB’s in the nation that year. His senior year, however, Johnson had shoulder surgery before the first game, and was never the same.  Johnsons only chance of making this team is if Mike Kakfa is either injured of plays very poorly. Still, Johnson has a great chance of making the practice squad as a Andy Reid project. Chance of making team: 15% 

J.Johnson could be Reid's next project

Jason Keice, C: Keice played his college ball at Cincinnatti, but is undersized for his position. With Jamaal Jackson back, Mike McGlynn will be the back up center. The Eagles don’t need a third. Chance of making team: 0%

Dion Lewis, RB: Dion Lewis was the first rookie to sign today, which is a good thing- Lewis needs to get in the class room as soon as possible. Making the transition from college to NFL running back is hard for one reason- the blitz. Lewis must learn how to pick up the blitz, or he won’t see much playing time. Luckily, Lewis will have LeSean McCoy- his former teammate at Pitt- to help him out. Chance of making team: 95%

Greg Lloyd, LB: Lloyd must have been happy the last few days watching the Eagles cut linebackers loose like it was nothing. Lloyd, a 7th round pick for the Eagles, was 2nd team All-Big East in the 2009 season for UConn. While the chances are slim, the mere lack of bodies at the position will give Lloyd a chance to catch the coaches eye. Chance of making team: 30%

Curtis Marsh, CB: Marsh is one of the more interesting story lines of training camp. By all accounts the Utah State cornerback is way to raw to take the field. But as a third round pick, I find it hard to believe the Eagles will cut him loose. The roster spot is Marsh’s to loose, but he will if he has problems picking up the scheme or a bad attitude. Chance of making team:  85%

Casey Matthews, LB: As if their was not enough pressure already on Casey Matthews due to his brother Clay Matthews, the linebacker from Oregon saw himself jump up the depth chart this week as Stewart Bradley, Akeem Jordan and Ernie Sims all are were reportedly sent packing. Matthews may not be a starter now, but the Eagles want him to take the job. He can by doing what he did in college- being around the ball and making plays. Chance of making team: 100%

The lack of players gives Rolle a real chance to make this team

Brandon Peguese, LB: Peguese is a 6’1, 230 lb linebacker from linebacker Hampton. Peguese is a training camp body with little chance of making the team, but at least he plays at a position of dire need. Chance of making team: 10%

Brian Rolle, LB: A 6th round selection by the Eagles, Rolle earned being the right to be drafted by having a monster senior season at Ohio State. Rolle finished with 76 tackles, 2.5 sacks and 2 interceptions. The multiple interceptions is something you like to see from a linebacker, as it shows he knows how to read the play and make a jump on the ball. Chance of making team: 40%

Cedric Thornton, DT: Thornton, simply put, is a big boy. Standing 6’4 and weighing 309 pounds, Thornton’s only chance of making this team is by using that big body and clogging up the middle. Chances of making team: 15%

Isiah Trufant, DB: A 5’8 rookie from Eastern Washington, Trufant has one thing the rest of the Eagles cornerbacks have: a lack of height. That is not good for Trufant, as he doesn’t have something the rest have as well: NFL talent. Chance of making team: 1%

Julian Vandervelde, G: Drafted out of Iowa, Vandervelde only chance of making this team is if Howard Mudd had a say in getting his drafted. Otherwise , the Eagles will not be playing any rookie not named Danny Watkins on their offensive line anytime soon. Chance of making team: 15%

Watkins job at right guard is his to loose

Danny Watkins, G: When Watkins was first drafted, Eagles fans had a fit over his age. But one thing that comes with age (hopefully) is maturity, which will serve Watkins well on an offensive line that has to protect an offense built to win now. Andy Reid made it clear at his press conference- Watkins is the starting right guard. Chance of making team: 100%

Martell Webb, TE: Webb comes into this camp fighting for the 3rd spot at tight end, behind Brent Celek and Clay Harbour. One thing Webb has on both of them is speed, as he ran a 4.7 40 at the combine. Blocking will be key to Webb’s chance of making this team. Chance of making team: 5%

Jeremy Williams, WR: Williams is a victim of normalcy. Standing at 6’0 and weighing 206 pounds, Williams does some things ok- but nothing great. In the NFL, you have to have a great tool to help you make a roster. Williams lacks that. Chances of making team: 1%

Training Camp Preview: Training Camp Battles

The Eagles went through a lot of changes this offseason- both the players on the field and the people who coach off of it.

The mass changes in the coaching staff will have a big part and creating even more change amongst the players. New defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, offensive line coach Howard Mudd, and defensive line coach Jim Washburn have no loyalty to any player. No favorites will be played. The jobs will be won over the next few weeks by the play, not the relationship.

With that being said, here are some of the top training camp battles to keep an eye on.

Right Tackle: Winston Justice vs. King Dunlap

Going into last seasons playoff game against the Green Bay Packers, there was no battle at this position. But after Winston Justice played so poorly that he was pulled in favor of King Dunlap, Justice’s grip on the position is not as tight as it once was. The fact that Justice had offseason surgery does not help either. This position is perhaps the most important on the line, as whoever wins will be in charge of protecting Michael Vicks blind side. Andy Reid said today that the job was Justices, but don’t buy it- this position is very much up in the air.

An injury and late season benching have Justice in a battle

Center: Jamaal Jackson vs. Mike McGlynn

Take away the fumble Mike McGlynn had a part in causing against the Titans last season, and McGlynn did an outstanding job taking over for Jamaal Jackson at center. But now that Jackson is back from a torn tricep, Andy Reid said that Jackson is the starting center. While the job may be his for now, things could change very quickly. Jackson has not played a full game in over a year and a half. McGlynn, on the other hand, played what Eagles expert Ray Didinger said was some of the best football an offensive lineman played over the second half of last season. While Jackson has had more experience at the position, McGlynn is the one who Michael Vick is used to. The fact that Howard Mudd has no loyalty to Jackson only adds more intrigue to this training camp battle.

Third String Running Back: Noel Devine vs. Graig Cooper vs.  Eldra Buckley

The Eagles first two running back spots are wrapped up with LeSean McCoy and Dion Lewis holding down those spots. The third running back position, is very much up in the air. Eldra Buckley held that position last year, due to his stellar special teams play. Buckley also brings more of a power running style then either McCoy or Lewis. But Noel Devine and Graig Cooper have more talent then Buckley, which should add some intrigue to this battle. Both Devine and Cooper have the ability to take it to the house when given empty space. Devine is stronger then Cooper, but both excel in the return game- something Buckley does not. This will come down to one thing: if either Devine or Cooper can make an impact on special teams, Buckley could be gone.

Nickel Cornerback: Joselio Hanson vs Trevard Lindley

Hanson could win the job- or be cut all together

You would think they found a knife in Trevard Lindley’s locker the way he has been blamed for the firing of Ex-Coordinator Sean McDermotts firing. Many people around the Eagles feel that Lindley was not able to grasp the defensive system well enough to get on the field, and blamed it on McDermott. This season, big things are expected of Lindley, who will battle with Joselio Hanson for the nickel cornerback spot. Hanson is in serious danger of being cut as a cap causality, which makes this battle even more important. A poor training camp by Hanson could find him out of a job.

Defensive Tackle: Antonio Dixon, Trevor Laws vs Mike Patterson, Broderick Bunkley

Antonio Dixon came on like a gangbuster towards the end of last season, as he play led him to be the best defensive tackle on the team in many people eyes. The same could be said for Trevor Laws, who arguably saved his NFL career last season. Broderick Bunkley and Mike Patterson, both former first round picks, started last season off strong before fading away at the end. The wrap on Bunkley and Patterson have been their inability to collapse the pocket on the opposing quarterback. Dixon did a good job of that last season, and Laws came up with big players during his time on the field. While it would be shocking to see both Bunkley and Patterson go, a strong training camp by Dixon and Laws could spell the end for either Bunkley or Patterson in Philadelphia.

Weak Side Linebacker: Moise Foku vs Casey Matthews

Perhaps the only reason Moise Foku is still here is his low salary, as it seems every other member of last years linebacker crew has been jettisoned off. Foku battled last season with Akeem Jordan for this job, but with Jordan likely out of the picture, he now has 4th round pick Casey Matthews to contend with. Make no mistake about it: while this job is an open competition, the Eagles want Matthews to win it. Matthews is quicker then Foku, and shows a better knack of being around the ball. With that being said, Matthews is still a rookie. Unlike a rookie defensive lineman, a rookie linebacker caught out of position could spell disaster for a defense. Foku can win his job by playing solid, mistake free football.