Ellerbe States His Case at MLB
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - With the punishing Marshawn Lynch on the docket and the winter weather engulfing the Delaware Valley, the Eagles decided they wanted a more physical presence at middle linebacker on Christmas night.
Enter veteran Dannell Ellerbe, the former Super Bowl winner in Baltimore who has also made starting stops in Miami and New Orleans.
The ascension of Ellerbe, who was signed on Nov. 12 and has been trying to pickup the nuances of Jim Schwartz's system ever since, turned Joe Walker into a healthy scratch, and let Najee Goode focus on his main job as one of the teams top special teams players.
Ever since Jordan Hicks went down with a torn Achilles, the Mike LB on the Eagles defense has turned into a sub-package role with Nigel Bradham and Mychal Kendricks handling the three-down workload.
Ellerbe, 32, had played just one defensive snap before starting in the 19-10 win over Oakland that clinched the No. 1 seed in the NFC for 13-2 Philadelphia.
Against the Raiders Ellerbe participated in 27 snaps (39 percent of the defense's total), more action that Walker or Goode had been seeing in the same role.
The 6-foot-2, 245-pounder also produced, making four tackles, one of those for a loss when he stuffed Lynch.
"Nothing against really Joe and [LB] Najee [Goode]. I felt like it was a great opportunity for Ellerbe to get in there and see what he could do," coach Doug Pederson said. "He's a big, physical guy that gives you a little presence in the run game. He made some plays last night and showed up. It was good to see him play."
On paper the Eagles have been lights out against the run throughout the season, coming into Week 16 allowing an NFL-low 71.5 per game but with the weather turning and the running game being more important as the sprint toward the finish line begins, the Eagles feel Ellerbe offers something that has been missing.
Pederson, however, stopped short of saying Ellerbe is the Mike LB moving forward.
"He did well in the game," Pederson said. "It's hard to say right now that the job is his. Joe is still fighting through a little bit of that injury and working himself back. Najee has played well in there."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen