Spikes Doesn't Solve The Linebacker Issues

The Eagles' acquisition of linebacker Takeo Spikes speaks volumes about how concerned the Eagles were - and still are - about their entire linebacking corps.

Takeo Spikes doesn't fit the profile of the kind of veteran player the Eagles normally go after. He's older (turned 30 in December), has a major injury in his recent past (ruptured Achilles tendon in '05) and is expensive ($4.6 million salary for '07.

But head coach Andy Reid knew he had to do something to try and upgrade a unit that did not play very well last season.

Strong-side linebacker Dhani Jones has been a liability for two years now, and 30-year-old middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter's knees are wearing down and limiting how many snaps he can be on the field for and remain effective.

Spikes, a two-time Pro Bowler, has played all three linebacker spots. Ironically, he probably will end up at the spot where the Eagles least need help right now - the weak side. Omar Gaither played well there last season as a rookie after replacing injured Matt McCoy. If Spikes plays on the weak side, then Gaither will move inside and compete with Trotter for the middle linebacker job.

It's uncertain what's going to happen on the strong side. Jones isn't likely to be back, but the Eagles are bullish on '06 third-round pick Chris Gocong, a 260-pound college defensive end who is trying to make the transition to linebacker. They also like the potential of second-year linebacker Torrance Daniels, who spent most of last season on the practice squad. It's also possible Spikes could end up on the strong side.

"I don't know exactly where Takeo is going to play at this point," said Reid, who also picked up backup quarterback Kelly Holcomb in the trade with Buffalo. "We'll see how things work out as we go.

"That's a position that we need to play better at. I'm not making promises to anybody right now. That's open competition there. Wide open."

Spikes started 11 games for the Bills last season, all on the strong side, missing four games early in the season with a hamstring injury.

"I thought as the season went along, he played better," Reid said. "I thought he got stronger and had more trust in his leg."

While he only has 20 career sacks, Spikes is regarded as a very good blitzer, which was one of the appealing things about him to the Eagles, who didn't blitz their linebackers much last season.

Notes From The 'Nest

  • Coach Andy Reid said he thinks quarterback Donovan McNabb, who is recovering from a torn ACL, will be ready for the start of training camp, but added that it will be "close." Reid acknowledged that McNabb's uncertain situation was a big reason why the Eagles got veteran Kelly Holcomb in the Takeo Spikes deal with Buffalo. Jeff Garcia's departure left A.J. Feeley as the only veteran quarterback on the roster besides McNabb. "Yeah, that was part of it," Reid said. "A.J.'s still the number two guy and Kelly's there as a solid (number three) backup."
  • Reid said offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg will call the plays next season, just as he did the final seven games of last season. "I'll probably let Marty call them again," he said. "I thought he did a nice job there. I've got a lot of trust in him. You've got to remember, Marty and I go way, way back."
  • New Eagles linebacker Takeo Spikes thinks he will be back to Pro Bowl form this season now that he's put two years of distance between himself and the ruptured Achilles tendon he suffered in '05. "They told me that it would take a year - not from the time that I tore it, but a year from the time when I actually started rehabbing," he said. "I can definitely feel a big difference, very big. By the end of last season, I felt real strong."
  • Reid said the Eagles' decision not to make an offer to quarterback Jeff Garcia had nothing to do with fear over how Donovan McNabb would react to his presence and everything to do with money. "We knew Jeff was going to get some money (in free agency)," Reid said. "It's hard to pay your second guy as much as what he - and we - felt he was going to get on the open market. You can't sign that many quarterbacks for that much money. So I decided to let Jeff go and re-sign A.J. (Feeley), a younger quarterback who I think can win a lot of football games for us (if Donovan McNabb gets hurt)."

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