PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Joe Walker was on his way to making the Eagles' 53-man roster as a rookie seventh-round pick last season when an ACL tear in the preseason cut short his inaugural NFL campaign.

A long rehab is in the rear-view mirror and the University of Oregon product has been a full go since the start of training camp, running Jim Schwartz's second-team unit as the mike linebacker.

Jordan Hicks is one of the Eagles' top playmakers and the unquestioned leader of the defense but he's been limited early in camp by a broken pinkie finger suffered on his Honeymoon in Greece. Hicks has been working in individual drills and 7-on-7s but sits out team work.

It's an interesting setup because when Hicks is on the field with the base defense, Walker is his backup with Najee Goode handling the weak side. When Hicks sits, however, Goode, a jack-of-all-trades who can play all three LB positions, handles the first-team work in the middle.

As Walker gets healthier and gains more confidence in his surgically repaired knee expect him to be Hicks' understudy on a full-time basis. Goode is undersized and can get caught up in the wash while Walker is the far more instinctual run defender.

“I expect to be better than I was last year before I was injured," Walker explained after practice Tuesday. "...This last week has been good to get back onto the field and into football. My body feels good. I am not even thinking about the injury.”

Tuesday was the first time Walker was in a live environment since the injury, another hurdle from both a mental and physical perspective.

“I haven’t done any live stuff for about a year now," he said. "There’s a lot to work on. I feel a lot better being back on the field."

-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at jmcmullen44@gmail.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen