A fairly simple observation: Tight ends are tall. The Eagles’ linebackers are not tall.

The Eagles’ (debatable) projected starting linebackers this year are DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks, and Brian Rolle.  Their heights:

  • DeMeco Ryans: 6’1
  • Mychal Kendricks: 5’11
  • Brian Rolle: 5’10

Guys like Jamar Chaney (6’0), Casey Matthews (6’1) Keenan Clayton (6’1), and Moise Fokou (6’1) could also be competing for starting jobs and/or significant playing time, but as you can see, even with those players added to the mix, there isn’t a single Eagles linebacker that is over 6’1, unless you count Monte Simmons (6’3), who probably is not going to make the team.

Jason Witten is tall. And good.

At some point, all three LB’s are going to draw coverage on tight ends this season.  A quick list of some of the guys they’ll have to face:

  • Evan Moore, Browns: 6’6
  • Ed Dickson, Ravens: 6’4
  • Todd Heap, Cardinals: 6’5
  • Martellus Bennett, Giants: 6’6
  • Heath Miller, Steelers: 6’5
  • Brandon Pettigrew, Lions: 6’5
  • Tony Gonzalez, Falcons: 6’5
  • Jimmy Graham, Saints: 6’6
  • Jason Witten, Cowboys: 6’6
  • Fred Davis, Redskins: 6’4
  • Greg Olsen, Panthers: 6’5
  • Kellen Winslow, Buccaneers: 6’4
  • Jermaine Gresham, Bengals: 6’5

I guess it would have sufficed if I just said “Tight ends are tall.”

I suppose an argument could be made that the Eagles could have Nnamdi Asomugha (6’2) cover the better TE’s like he did last year against Dallas, but I count about 7 guys on that list (totaling 9 games since they’ll face Fred Davis and Jason Witten twice a piece) that are worthy of extra attention.  However, that thinking would of course clash with all the talk of keeping Nnamdi out on his own island at RCB.

The Eagles unquestionably got better at LB this offseason by adding Ryans and drafting Kendricks, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that opposing offenses are going to look to exploit the height differences this year.  I don’t have any answers on this one.  It’s something the Eagles are going to have to figure out.

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  15. trinieagle says:

    I was concerned about our LB size the last few years and their ability to defend the middle and Red Zone… Jason Witten made his name against our LB’s. Defending the TE is a topic bludgeoned to death around my Eagles… with the advent of the Power-Forward sized TE’s, HELL it seems like my Eagles could not protect the middle of the field and worse defend the Red Zone . Last season it appeared to me my Eagles defended Jason Witten better than I have seen in a few years… our ability to defend Witten was my first measuring stick..perhaps the tallest group of DB’s in recent Eagle history was the difference… the exception being Josilo Hanson. with Sheldon Brown and Lito replaced by guys that are 6’02″… Juan’s New Defensive Scheme drafting players like Casey Matthews guys with the Speed, Instincts, and Experience covering TE’s… additions like Demico Ryans and KendricKs… Physical players… Cox, Vinny Curry and a healthy Brandon Graham…” Fastball’s”… Pressuring QB’s is the name of the game, forcing them to throw the rock before they are ready… adding a Coaching talent like Todd Bowles…. The combination of all above should improve our coverage schemes and results. Andy may have found the solution to defending the giant TE’s that is in vogue in the N.F.L. these days. I can’t wait to see how how it all plays out on the field of play. Go Birds.

  16. E says:

    Silly.

    We were Great at covering TE’s last year and im pretty sure our LBs were even shorter than. Kendricks can jump 40 inches in the air and worse come to worse we put Nnamdi on the elite TE’s like we did last year

    thanks for writing an article….just for the sake of writing an article.

    1. They were taller last year. But thanks for being posting an inaccurate comment… just for the sake of posting an inaccurate comment.

      Also…

      Vertical leap is great and all, but unless we’re talking about fade patterns or deep balls down the sideline, it’s rarely ever a factor. I mean… How many times do you really see TE’s an LB’s in jump ball situations. If you’re throwing to your TE, it’s usually on a line, and the LB doesn’t have time to jump for a PBU.

      Dismiss it if you will, but the fact remains that on almost every Sunday, the Eagles will be giving up 7-8 inches to opposing TE’s. You’re delusional if you think that’s 100% irrelevant.

      1. E says:

        So if we put Nnamdi on the TE’s like last year what’ll happen??? The same thing

        and in instances when he’s not, just like last year, we’ll be fine.
        I’m not limiting my observations to a fade pattern. and if you’re throwing to a TE on a line, than you’re throwing to his chest, out stretched hands. Which would be pretty much level with our LB’s helmets, pretty sure the can defend that. And if you lift the ball over the LBs head, they put they’re hands up or leap. Im not saying he needs to use all 40 inches, 2-3 would be enough. you telling me a pro football player with instincts as good as our two new additions are touted to have, dont have the reaction time to leap 2 inches of the ground when they see a pass being thrown? that’s silly.

        Furthermore, if i recall correctly i said ” pretty sure” which obviously indicates I dont know for sure, this isn’t a definite statement.

        Not saying its 100% irrelevant. but that its not as big a deal as you’re making it out to seem

        1. “So if we put Nnamdi on the TE’s like last year what’ll happen??? The same thing”

          Then who plays RCB?

          “Not saying its 100% irrelevant. but that its not as big a deal as you’re making it out to seem”

          The freaking title says “A fairly simple observation.” Who’s making a huge deal out of it?

          If it’s not 100% irrelevant, then let’s lay off the “writing an article for the sake of writing it” nonsense. Be respectful.

          1. E says:

            1. Hanson, Boykin, Marsh…should i keep going? we have very capable 3/4th CBs

            2. I’ll give you that. the deadskins/cowgirls fans in my area have been hounding me about this “issue” and i may have brought that into the previous comment. my apologies

    2. I also disagree that they were “great” covering TEs last year. They mostly played against crappy ones, and when they played Dallas, Nnamdi largely covered Witten. The good ones they did face:

      Gonzalez 7-83-2
      V Davis 4-45-1
      F Davis 6-95-0
      Hernandez 6-62-0
      Gronk 4-59-1
      Keller 3-73-0

      5 games, 30 catches, 417 yards, 4 TD.

      Is that “great?”

      1. E says:

        Holding V Davis, who’s probably SFs leading reciever to 45 yards is great.
        Holding Future HOFer Gonzalez to 83 yards is pretty good. (You gotta give him those tds, he gonna get those regardless, just gotta accept that)
        Holding Hernandez to 62 and no TDs is pretty damn good
        Holding GRONK to 59, definitely great. he got a TD yea, but its Gronkowski.

        Im only really upset with the Fred Davis numbers and the Gonzalez TDs but again, he’s gonna get those.

        All in all i’d say yes that is a damn good job, if not great. especialy from “Short” LBs, when you consider their “deficiencies”

        As for the witten thing, like i said earlier You put Nnamdi on a TE and let him shut-em-down, while our capable 3rd CB covers a WR, which obviously worked.
        OR
        You let our undersized LBs cover the TE which, as the numbers YOU provided me show, works pretty damn well to.

        Are they short? yea. Are you wrong for bringing it up? no. But are you overreacting to its potential problems? IMO, definitely.

        1. Those TE’s per game averages:

          Gonzo: 5- 54 – 0.4
          V Davis: 4.2 – 49 – 0.4
          Hernandez: 4.9 – 57 – 0.4
          Gronk: 5.6 – 83 – 1.1
          F Davis: 4.9 – 66 – 0.3

          Totals: 245 for 309 and 2.6 TD

          And again, here’s what they did against Philly:

          30 for 417 and 4.

          And keep in mind, the Pats game was the “Fire Andy” blowout game, when the Pats ran the ball 36 times because they had a huge lead, which likely hurt Gronk’s and Hernandez’s numbers.

  17. ian says:

    height has very little to do with the ability to cover a tight end. speed, athleticism, technique, and vertical leap are far important than height. Most tight ends are just simply taller than almost every linebacker they face. assuming height did mean a lot, the difference of 5’11 to 6’3″ would not matter when trying to cover a 6’7″ tight end. if height really meant this much, then you would see 6’10″ tight ends or wrs in the nfl. even on jump balls, height does not mean a whole heck of a lot. if a player is in good position, they will more often then not win the battle. most tall linebackers suck in coverage, because they don’t move well. finding a tall lb who can really move well like brian urlacher is extremely rare. look at the careers of london fletcher, derrick brooks, and sam mills. height is pretty much irrelevant for a linebacker.

    1. “the difference of 5’11 to 6’3″ would not matter when trying to cover a 6’7″ tight end.”

      Are you serious?

      1. ian says:

        absolutely. 6’7″ is obviously still 4 inches taller than 6’3″, so if height is all that mattered in covering a tight end a 6’3″ lb would still be unable to cover 6’7″ tight end. stewart bradley was 6’3″ and he was awful in covering tight ends. chris gocong was 6’2″ and he sucked at covering tight ends. since the eagles have replaced those taller slower linebackers with smaller faster guys, they have improved in covering tight ends.

  18. Peter says:

    Titling this “a fairly simple observation” is good; the height disparity is worth noting, but I wouldn’t necessarily say it should be worrying. Defensive players are almost always at least a bit smaller than the guys they’re covering.

    I don’t know that this has ever officially been said, but Keenan Clayton is an OLB/S hybrid that’s supposed to be able to cover TEs, right? I expect that if he doesn’t show he’s able to do that in camp, he won’t make the team.

    1. ian says:

      clayton has looked good every chance he has gotten, especially in the preseason. he must really suck in practice, because in the games he always seems to be around the ball making plays. they used him some in the nickle package, and i think he did well. he’s not a lock to make the team, but this is not a great group of lbs he has a to beat out. i think rolle, ryans, kendricks are obvious locks, and the rest will all have to fight for a roster spot.

  19. ICDogg says:

    Well, they’re probably either going to be too short or too slow to be ideal. I think it will hurt the Eagles at times, but you can’t have everything.

  20. Juz Sayin says:

    Boykins & Mychal Kendricks are midgets.

  21. [...] is a follow-up to a post I wrote this morning about how tight ends are tall, and the Eagles’ LB’s are not.  A number of you asked how the Eagles compared to the rest of the LB’s around the [...]

  22. Anders says:

    According to FO, we was 3rd best at covering TEs last year.
    http://footballoutsiders.com/stats/teamdef

    Also a guy like Kendricks got the jump skills to defend TEs. He had a higher VL then any of the listed TEs. Also if Boykin or March proves to be good enough we could put NA on the TE from time to time

    1. I won’t deny that Kendricks is an amazing athlete. However, in today’s NFL, especially with timing-based passing attacks, how often will a TE ever have the chance to sky for a PBU?

      1. RogerPodacter says:

        i’m with jimmy. kendricks might have a shot at the jump ball to the end zone, but a timing route over the middle would definitely be difficult. especially if he’s got his eyes on the TE and not the QB… how would he even know he has to jump at all??

        1. Anders says:

          How would any person be able to defend if they dont have eyes on the ball?

          1. RogerPodacter says:

            at least a tall guy would be able to get his arms up and has a better chance to deflect the ball on its way in. i imagine that a shorter guy that puts his arms up to get in the way of the catch would not be nearly as effective as a taller guy. that said, there will always be ‘perfect passes’ that are going to be caught no matter what the defender does…

            i’m not trying to knock the LBs at all. i think they are going to be better this year than in recent memory. i dont think the height thing is really that big of an issue, to be honest. i’m mostly just trying to think of reasons why it *could* be a problem.

          2. RogerPodacter says:

            i guess what i’m trying to say is…..
            kendricks may be short, but he makes up for it by being very athletic, both in speed and jumping ability.
            the downside to this is when the TE has position on him (can’t use the speed to make up ground) and the ball is thrown or the route is run in such a way that does not allow him to make a jump on the ball and has to make a play on it without jumping. in that situation, i would think a taller defender would be at an advantage over a smaller one.

            i’m thinking about a defender with his back to the QB, facing the TE running downfield. TE brings his hands up to make the catch and all the LB can really do is put his hands up. the taller LB would likely have longer arms and a higher reach without jumping, giving him a better shot at defending the play.

            then again…i might be crazy so who knows…lol

            1. matt says:

              Arm length is also important:

              for example.
              luke kuechly 6’3” arm length 31”
              kendricks 5’11” arm length 31.625”

    2. Davesbeard says:

      We haven’t got any shorter at LB and they managed 3rd best against tight ends. Whereas RBs who are often short were our nemesis last year ( Eagles were in the low 20′s against RBs from what I remember). We have only gotten better, more athletic players.

      Height wasn’t an issue last year so it won’t be this year, and we can now match-up better with those pesky backs.

  23. rage114 says:

    Get to the QB and make them stay in and block. Or get to the QB before they can throw it.

    Either way, I think the Eagles are hoping to get to the QB.

  24. tuna83 says:

    I was going to say the same as Mr. Electric. Of course while the TE is taller than most LBs I do think the gap is larger between the Eagle’s LBs and the TEs we will face this year.

    Hopefully it will not be an issue. Not trying to claim our LBs are Revis, but that dude has got to be sub 6 foot and I wouldn’t fear him covering any WR in the league. Some of which are tall too. Calvin Johnson is what, 6’6?

    Preventing things like a free release and such will go a long way. Hopefully talent does too.

  25. Mr.electric10 says:

    What’s the average height of LBs for the rest of the NFC East. It seems to me that most TE are taller than LBs.

    1. Tough to compare Cowboys and Skins, because they run a 3-4, but here are the Giants:

      Michael Boley (6’3)
      Mathias Kiwanuka (6’5)
      Keith Rivers (6’2)

      1. …although I’d be surprised if that wasn’t the tallest group of 4-3 LBs in the league.

        1. Mr.Electric10 says:

          I’d be curious to see what the average height of LBs in the 4-3 are and what the average height of the Eagles LBs have been in the past.

          1. deg0ey says:

            A quick bit of Wikipedia research indicates that the Browns, Eagles, Giants, Falcons, Raiders, Rams, Vikings, Bears, Panthers, Bengals, Jaguars, Titans, Lions, Buccaneers, Saints, Seahawks, Broncos, Bills and Dolphins all played a 4-3 last season.

            If you look at the linebackers on the 53-man roster of each of those teams in 2011, the average height works out at a shade under 6’2.

            There were only 8 guys under 6’0, and Rolle was shortest as the only player listing 5’10.

  26. deg0ey says:

    Let’s just hope that one or more of these LBs can jump really really high :p

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