PHILADELPHIA — Eagles linebacker Jamar Chaney doesn’t much care what position he plays just as long as he’s on the field.
Since joining the team as a seventh-round draft pick in 2010, he has lined up at all three linebacker positions. He is expected to make his second straight start at weakside linebacker (WILL) on Sunday in Pittsburgh.
“I’ve learned that the more things you can do, the better it is,” Chaney said. “I’ll play wherever they need me to play to help the team win and get to the Super Bowl.”
Chaney began his NFL career as a middle linebacker (MIKE). When starter Stewart Bradley got hurt late in Chaney’s rookie season, the 6-foot, 242-pounder started the last two games of the regular season and a playoff loss to Green Bay.
The 25-year-old opened last season as the starting strongside linebacker (SAM) but slid back inside to replace struggling Casey Matthews after just two games. Chaney led the Eagles last season with 104 tackles. He also grabbed three interceptions, the most by an Eagles linebacker since William Thomas had three in 1996.
When the Eagles traded for DeMeco Ryans in April, Chaney found himself competing with Brian Rolle and Akeem Jordan for the starting weakside job but was slowed in the preseason by a strained hamstring.
Rolle held the spot when the preseason began but was demoted and eventually released on Monday. Jordan took over and also suffered a strained hamstring two weeks ago. Chaney started last Sunday night against the New York Giants and posted four tackles in the Eagles’ 19-17 victory.
“Brian texted me and told me he was (being released), but I thought he was just playing (around),” said Chaney, who is also a distant cousin of Rolle’s. “Then I saw him cleaning out his locker later and knew he was being serious. I talked to him and just offered some words of encouragement. Considering he was a starter for us, I would think he’ll get picked up (by another team) pretty fast.”
Chaney has spent the past two weeks developing a bond with fellow linebackers Mychal Kendricks and Ryans. All three have unique personalities and talents they bring to the defense.
Kendricks, a rookie second-round draft pick, is the most vocal member of the group. He is the one usually getting his teammates revved up in the huddle and talking trash to an opposing player. He’s also off to a solid start on the field with 20 tackles, two tackles for losses and three pass knockdowns.
“We all bring something to the table,” Kendricks said. “I bring enthusiasm, energy and a whole lot of heart. I still have so much I can get better at and that excites me. But as far as effort is concerned, I don’t leave anything on the field.”
Ryans, a former Pro Bowler with the Texans, caught some heat in the preseason for a lack of production but really stepped up his game when the regular season began.
He leads the team with 34 tackles, including 30 solo stops, and has six tackles for losses, a sack and an interception.
“We have three wins,” Ryans said Wednesday. “That’s the biggest number for me that matters. It’s the wins. The stats are nice to have, but wins are a lot nicer.”
Ryans’ biggest contribution is as a leader, however.
The seventh-year NFL veteran is in charge of bringing the entire defense together for every play, just as quarterback Michael Vick does for the offense.
Ryans relays the calls from defensive coordinator Juan Castillo in the huddle, then aligns the defensive line and linebackers before the ball is snapped.
There’s also the challenge of calming down excitable players such as Kendricks and safety Kurt Coleman.
“He’s our quarterback on defense,” Kendricks said. “He brings the guys together, and he makes sure we’re cool, calm and collected.”
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