“We got a chance to prove ourselves this year and we look forward to doing that,” states now starting middle linebacker #51 for the Philadelphia Eagles Jamar Chaney playing the position this pre-season most pundits anticipated Chaney to start come week one verse the St. Louis Rams. “I think everybody was surprised, Moise, me and probably Casey too, just because we didn’t get to talk to al1 the coaches until a day before we reported to camp.” With only five weeks of preparation due to a lock-out shortened off-season, Chaney remains confident having played all three positions during his Mississippi State Bulldogs collegiate career. “I can play all three linebacker positions [so] it really don’t matter to me. I’m going to go out there, play my hardest and make plays like I always do,” reiterates Chaney who maintains the goal “to be one of the best players in the NFL at my position,” and to that point Chaney believes, “every linebacker, every player that came into the NFL was unproven at one time … I got a chance last year to give the Eagles and everybody a taste of what I can do and I look forward to doing that for a whole sixteen or more games this year.”
After a first play from scrimmage, 47 yard touchdown run by Steven Jackson in week one and surrendering 114 rushing yards and score to Michael Turner in a difficult week two road loss to the Atlanta Falcons, Chaney was moved from the strong side to the starting middle linebacker position. “Juan [Castillo] is a great teacher, youth is not going to be a problem,” explains Chaney, who admits “we are young at the linebacker, but it’s just us going out there working hard in the off season, working hard in training camp and working hard right now to prepare.”
The young core accompanying Chaney includes Moise Fokou who now slides over to the strong side from the weak and rookie Casey Matthews, who, after his first two career NFL starts at middle linebacker, will look to reinvent himself at the weak side.
Chaney debuted last season for the Eagles as starter at the MIKE in the week 15 “Miracle at the Meadowlands II” against the New York Giants registering 16 total tackles. Ironically, Chaney’s 2011 debut at middle linebacker once again comes against Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs as the Giants travel to Philadelphia for the Eagles week three home opener.
“That’s the main goal of a team no matter who you are playing, to stop the run. We did pretty good in the pre-season other than the Pittsburgh game. We are just looking forward to building each and every week,” says the second year pro who brings it back to the fundamentals explaining that “getting off blocks and tackles and running to the football … are the three things that you need to be able to do as a linebacker, as a d-line. It’s that front seven. To be a good defense, that’s what we work on everyday so we should be alright.”
The Eagles were ranked 31st last season in yards allowed to opposing tight ends. The Rams now feature rookie standout Lance Kendricks who developed a strong rapport with quarterback Sam Bradford posting 155 yards on 11 receptions and scoring three touchdowns, good enough to lead all rookies. “He’s one of Bradford’s favorite targets in the preseason. He’s a great young tight end and Bradford is an up and coming quarterback,” informs Chaney as Kendricks will mostly likely be a cover for Chaney as the Eagles defensive coordinator Juan Castillo views Chaney’s speed to drop back in coverage as asset best utilized from the strong side linebacker position.
The Eagles limited Kendricks to one reception for 18 yards but the rookie had a couple of key drops stalling two Rams offensive drives. The defense did not fair as well in week two against arguably the best tight end in league history, Tony Gonzalez, allowing 7 receptions for 83 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns in the 35–31 loss to the Falcons.
With the loss of Kevin Boss to the Oakland Raiders this off-season, the Giants do not present a threat from the tight end position but clearly the young linebacker core of the Eagles will continue to be the focal point of attack by Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride via Bradshaw and Jacobs. “We work on tackling everyday and work on getting off blocks. You do those things as a linebacker, you will be alright no matter who you are playing,” contends Chaney.
Having assembled an All-Pro secondary of Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie and Asante Samuel, Chaney and the linebacking core can fully expect to be challenged until they prove to be a run stopping unit.