Gocong Could Become a Very Pleasant Surprise

The Philadelphia Eagles believe that they may have found an official sleeper when they drafted Chris Gocong out of Cal Poly. Gocong will come into camp making a position transition and has the chance to win a starting job.

Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson is intrigued by Gocong, who notched a remarkable 42 sacks the past two seasons at Cal Poly. They are going to see if the 6-2, 263-pounder can make the switch to linebacker and give him a chance to win the starting strong-side linebacker job from incumbent Dhani Jones.

"It'll be interesting to see how he adapts to the linebacker position," Johnson said. "He's a smart kid. He's an engineering major. His test scores were really high. He's got the speed (to play linebacker). It's just a matter of learning the (technique) and making all the coverage checks and playing man coverage and stuff like that. That'll be the hardest thing for him."

The least that the Eagles expect is that Gocong will fit in well enough to become a pass-rush specialist in what looks like it will be a revamped defensive unit. Since the Eagles had just 29 sacks last season, any help will be welcome and Gocong figures to fit in well.

Gocong has made adjustments already in his career and his last move is what got teams to notice him. As a nose guard, Gocong was nothing to brag about. He was one of those good players that seem to come along pretty regularly, but when he moved to defensive end, his star started to shine. In his first season as a defensive end, he led the nation with 17.5 sacks and had 22 tackles for losses (second in the nation). He built on those number last season and quickly started to be noticed by NFL scouts.

So, with all of his success as a defensive end, why do the Eagles want to move him to the linebacker spot? Johnson believes that Gocong has the smarts to learn his intricate system and that his speed will allow him to make the switch without much difficulty. Plus, the Eagles aren't enamored with Dhani Jones and if nothing else, they figure that a challenge from Gocong will light at least a bit of a spark under their incumbent strongside linebacker. "He can do a better job than he did," said coach Andy Reid speaking about Jones' 2005 season.

Odds aren't good for Gocong to steal Jones' job, but finding some playing time at the expense of Jones isn't out of the question. Especially on passing downs, Gocong could be inserted in some situations to put even more of a rush on opposing quarterbacks. He'll also figure to see some time on special teams while he learns the defense and works to increase his playing time there.

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