Eagles' Chaney confident in current group of LBs


Jamar Chaney hears what everybodys saying about the Eagles linebackers, and he understands it.

Doesnt agree. But he understands why everybody thinks this group of linebackers stinks.

Chaneys a second-year seventh-round draft pick playing a new position. Moise Fokou is a third-year seventh-round pick playing a new position. Casey Matthews is a rookie fourth-round pick playing a new position.

Put it all together and you have ... well, nobody really knows what the Eagles have.

People are going to talk, Chaney said before practice Sunday at the NovaCare Complex. People have to have something to talk about it, and right now theyre talking about how young we are and how inexperienced, but it is what it is. We come in here, we work, and at the end of the day were going to get the job done.

We dont have proven guys here, but every linebacker thats come into this league is unproven, so there isnt any linebacker who came into the NFL who they said, Hes going to be a Hall of Fame player, before he even got here. He had to go out on the field and prove it, and thats what were looking to do.

The last time three Eagles linebackers played the entire season without any changes? You have to go back a decade to the 2001 season, with Mike Caldwell -- currently the Eagles linebackers coach -- Jeremiah Trotter and Carlos Emmons.

The last time the Eagles went consecutive years with the same opening-day linebackers? Would you believe 1992 and 1993 with Seth Joyner, Byron Evans and William Thomas?

The last time the same three guys started all 16 regular-season games? That was the 1995 group -- Bill Romanowski and Thomas outside and Kurt Gouveia in the middle.

In Andy Reids 12 seasons, the Eagles have used 25 different starting linebackers and 42 different starting linebacker combinations. Fourteen different guys have started at least one game at weak-side backer.

The last Eagle linebacker to go to a Pro Bowl was Trotter in 2005. The last outside linebacker to make the trip was Thomas in 1996.

Chaney knows the history, mainly because he used to hear Omar Gaither talking about it. He knows the Eagles have all these Pro Bowl defensive linemen and all-pro cornerbacks and three nobodies at linebacker.

Its something that you think about, he said. You hear that a linebacker here hasnt been to the Pro Bowl in a long time or theres been I dont know how many different WIL linebackers, how many different starting lineups, but you cant worry about that. You can only worry about the guys we have ... and were going to have to prove ourselves every day.

We hear what the fans say, you hear about it, but its not on our mind. Were just making sure were doing our jobs every day.

Fokou has never started an NFL game on the weak side. Chaney has never started a game on the strong side. Matthews has never started a game, period.

So this unit -- No. 43 under Reid if youre scoring at home -- will go into opening day with zero career starts at the position the guys are now playing. If its still intact in three weeks.

Chaney, who played so well at middle linebacker at the end of last year, is confident theyll be ready. Hes confident this group will turn all the doubters into believers.

The first 42 groups probably felt the exact same way.

Once we get on the field and start winning and the defense starts doing good, all of that will go out the window, he said. But only time will tell. Once we get on the field and show people what we can do, until we put that talk to rest, people will continue to talk. We look forward to proving everybody wrong on the football field how good our linebackers are going to be.

The Eagles got steamrolled up front by the Steelers last Thursday, and the starters are expected to play three full quarters this coming Thursday against the Browns at the Linc. Since Reid never plays his starters in the final preseason game (at the Jets on Sept. 1), this weeks game will be the last dress rehearsal for opening day.

You have guys who are hungry and want to be good players, want to be great players in the league, so whether or not theres pressure on us, were going to continue to go out and get better every day, Chaney said. When the season starts and after all is said and done, people are going to know we have a pretty good young linebacker corps.

First-year defensive coordinator Juan Castillo isnt backing off his belief that this current group of linebackers -- average age 23 12, average NFL experience 5 12 starts -- is good enough to win a Super Bowl.

The linebackers will be ready to win the Super Bowl, Castillo said Saturday. Remember, it takes 16 weeks, and then really whoever is playing their best during the playoffs. So when you look at it, theres time to develop.

You can say that theres not, but the key is, whos playing or fundamentally whos the best come week eight, nine, ten, and during that crunch time. And over the years weve been pretty good during that time, and well continue to do that.

E-mail Reuben Frank at rfrank@comcastsportsnet.com

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