Another day, another change at linebacker.
Casey Matthews is in and Jamar Chaney is out on the first nickel, both linebackers said after practice Thursday.
This will be the fourth different nickel defense the Eagles will use this year. They started with Chaney and Matthews, then Brian Rolle replaced Matthews, then Keenan Clayton replaced Rolle, and now Clayton and Matthews will be the linebackers in clear passing situations.
When youre 4-8, youre going to have changes, Chaney said. When youre 4-8 and youre not playing defense the way youre supposed to, thats going to happen.
Matthews started the first two games this year at middle linebacker, then one at weak-side linebacker, before getting benched three games into the season. Hes been limited to goal-line defense formations since then.
Obviously, were 4-8, theyre going to keep changing stuff up, Matthews said. Its another opportunity to go out there and show what I can do. I need to take advantage of it this time.
Chaney will remain the starting middle linebacker, with Rolle and Akeem Jordan outside. The Eagles have used four different starting linebacker combos this year.
I was surprised, but I understand the situation, Chaney said. When youre 4-8 with the expectations we had coming into the season, youre going to have changes. We havent been playing defense like were supposed to be playing, with consistency, and I guess theyre just trying to see if they can spark a fire. Youve got to find something that will work.
Matthews, a rookie fourth-round pick, said he feels a lot better about where he is now than the first month of the season, when he was thrown into the starting lineup with very little preparation.
I feel a lot more prepared, he said. When B-Rolle was put out there, I was able to kind of step back and get an actual grasp of the defense. During camp, when I was first in there, everything was on the run and I was just trying to learn on the fly, and it was tough. But being able to have eight weeks to pick up the terms and the defense as a whole has helped me to right now be able to understand it better.
Its very exciting to get back out on the field other than short-yardage reps. You want to feel like youre part of it and help the team out. Really, just being patient for the last eight weeks and still coming here and putting all the work in, the coaches noticed that and theyre giving me another opportunity to play.
Chaney, a second-year seventh-round pick, has probably been the Eagles most productive linebacker this year. He leads the team with 90 tackles, including five for loss, and has two interceptions and 10 pass knockdowns. Matthews has 17 tackles, one for loss, this year.
Its been a tough year for Matthews, who became a real focal point of fan disgust early in the season. He said he doesnt mind getting booed but said some fans went over the line when they harassed his family.
Im trying to win them over, but its hard, he said. One of the earlier games, they harassed my family and made my fiance cry.
Matthews said he didnt remember at which game that happened.
He added: Well, she had a Matthews jersey on so that didnt really help. My aunt and little cousin were here. Just hearing about that was frustrating.
Its tough. Its frustrating, but thats how they are here. If you win, they love you, so I guess weve got to turn things around and start winning here.
E-mail Reuben Frank at email@example.com