Weakside Linebacker Situation

With Barry Gardner moved back to his more natural position of middle linebacker, the battle is on to see who will replace the departed Mike Caldwell as the weak-side linebacker.

The race should prove to be an interesting one between Ike Reese, former Redskin Shawn Barber, and 2001 second round draft choice Quentin Caver.

Reese was penciled in as the starter at the beginning of training camp last season, but Mike Caldwell's play was hard to overlook. Caldwell is in Chicago now, and Reese once again has the opportunity to prove he can start. He has excelled on special teams, but has gotten few attempts at sustained play at linebacker.

Shawn Barber is returning from a right knee injury that saw him placed on the Injured Reserve list for all but three games in 2001.Barber was an underrated contributor as a member of the Redskins defense, but was not resigned after turning down an offer early on in free agency. The Skins signed Jessie Armstead, which in turn saw Barber come to Philadelphia.

Perhaps the early lead in the race for a WILL backer belongs to Quentin Caver, the only one of the three to participate in the recent mini-camp. That fact will give Caver a slight advantage as the off season progresses. The Eagles would really like to see Caver take the spot, after using the 55th selection overall in 2001 to get the services of the versatile linebacker. Caver is lanky, and undersized, but big enough to play on the weak-side. He may also be counted on to be the reserve middle linebacker behind Barry Gardner.

Only time will tell who will win the spot, but the battle to find a starter should be a spirited one. There is a lot of young talent in this linebacker corps, which now includes N.D. Kalu to backup Carlos Emmons at strong-side linebacker. Kalu is being given a shot at linebacker after spending his entire NFL career as an undersized defensive end. Kalu took snaps at mini camp as a linebacker. It should all be very interesting to watch.

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