Where Does Tulloch Fit with Eagles?
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Sometimes two and two really does equal four and the logical conclusion of veteran linebacker Stephen Tulloch reuniting with Jim Schwartz finally came to fruition Monday as Doug Pederson confirmed the signing at his morning press briefing before practice.
The question now is where does the 31-year-old natural middle linebacker fit on a team with three clearly defined starters and little depth.
The general assessment for those who really don’t understand how an NFL roster is built is that Tulloch, who signed a one-year deal with $1.75 million in guarantees and could earn up to $3M with incentives, was brought in as insurance for Hicks, the emerging starter at the Mike position who has a history of injuries dating back to his days at the University of Texas.
However, as Pederson explained backup linebackers need to be impactful players on special teams.
“Linebackers and tight ends in general play the bulk of the special teams so it’s something we have to consider,” Pederson admitted.
As a long-time starter in both Tennessee and Detroit, Tulloch hasn’t seen much special teams works since his days at North Carolina State.
“This is a team sport and everybody has to play a big role,” Pederson admitted. “In (Tulloch’s) past he hasn’t played in a lot of areas (on special teams) but if he can come in and give us just one special teams unit right now to begin with and then we will see from there.”
Or could Tulloch be the starter at the Mike spot with Hicks moving to WILL, perhaps his best position from a skill-set standpoint, and either Mychal Kendricks or Nigel Bradham handling the SAM position?
“I think (Hicks) is good enough and athletic enough (to move) but right now that’s not the plan,” Pederson said.“Right now Jordan is the starter (at MLB) and that goes without saying.”
Part of the issue could be concerns over the health of Tulloch, who tore an ACL back in 2014 and is also coming off offseason ankle surgery.
“We are going to have to see where he’s at and where is health is here when he gets here,” Pederson said of Tulloch who is scheduled to arrive at the NovaCare Complex tonight.
The mechanics of making Tulloch, who projects as only a two-down player at this point, would keep the communication device for defense on Hicks anyway because the second-year player is the team’s every-down linebacker in that he will be the one on the field when Schwartz implements his nickel and dime defenses.
So in a lot of ways you would have the best of both worlds. Tulloch, who has a PhD in Schwartz’s system getting people lined up correctly on early downs, and Hicks still being able to learn on the fly with Schwartz in his ear on game day.
For now, though, it remains about competition and replacing a rookie in Walker who caught the coaching staff's eye.
“Joe was actually playing well and doing some nice things for us,” the coach claimed. “...Obviously (Tulloch) is familiar with coach Schwartz’s defense. At the same time, he’s coming in to compete for that spot.”
-With Tulloch set to arrive the Eagles moved on from linebacker Deontae Skinner, announcing the move before practice began.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen