Eagles Hope ‘Eller-beast’ Shows Up Down the Stretch
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) — When it comes to the NFL calendar you don't often find starters on the street in November but the Eagles are hoping Dannell Ellerbe is the exception to that rule.
The veteran linebacker was a Super Bowl champion with the Baltimore Ravens back in 2012, a player his teammates took to calling "Eller-beast," according to safety Corey Graham, who was with Ellerbe back in the Charm City.
"He was a dominant player," Graham remembered.
"Was" being the key word in that declarative statement as Ellerbe has since had stops in Miami and New Orleans, struggling with injuries along the way.
Ellerbe has played just 16 out of a possible 48 games over his last three seasons, most recently struggling with a broken foot with the Saints last season.
“When he’s healthy, he’s very explosive,” said receiver Torrey Smith, another former Ellerbe teammate in Baltimore. “He understands defenses very well, and he can be a great playmaker."
The resume supports Smith's thesis as Ellerbe has amassed 10 1/2 sacks, three interceptions and two forced fumbles in 42 career starts and added another INT and a forced fumble in significant playoff experience.
Although no role has been identified for Ellerbe in Philadelphia just yet he's obviously here to push second-year player Joe Walker as the mike linebacker in the base defense.
Since Jordan Hicks went down with a torn Achilles, Walker has been the replacement in the base defense, playing 53 snaps over the last three games (27 percent of team's defensive snaps).
Prior to the injury, Mychal Kendricks had served in the third LB role from the Will position and his floor was 37 percent of the reps in the season-opener against the Redskins.
Everything is predicated on what the offense is doing from a personnel standpoint but it's clear Schwartz has lost at least a little bit of confidence in his base unit without Hicks versus his nickel and dime looks.
Ellerbe's presence could eventually change that mindset.
"He's a veteran player. He's played different positions. He's played different schemes. So a lot of times, getting those guys up to speed is a matter of getting terminology right and things like that," Schwartz said when discussing Ellerbe's addition. "He hasn't been on the field for a pretty long time, so there's a semblance of getting back in football shape too. We'll let that play out and see where it goes. But it's good to have a veteran player there that has a lot of experience, and he's got both of those."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen