Jim Schwartz was asked a pretty direct question Tuesday afternoon.
Is newcomer Dannell Ellerbe going to compete with Joe Walker for the middle linebacker position in the Eagles' base defense?
Not surprisingly, Schwartz wasn't in a hurry to give Ellerbe any kind of definite role.
"Yeah, I think we'll start him probably learning all three positions," Schwartz said. "Then also the nickel and the nickel Sam position, and we'll see where it goes."
Ellerbe, 31, has played in the NFL for eight seasons and has played multiple linebacker spots during that time. But he's never played for Schwartz before, so there's still a learning curve.
So why teach him all three spots to start instead of bringing him along slowly?
"If he was a rookie, it might be different," Schwartz explained. "But he's a veteran player and he's played all of those positions in the past. When you come in halfway through the season, he's going to have to be available wherever it comes up, and we'll see where that takes us.
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"But I think the thing that gives us confidence there is there is nothing that we are going to ask him to do that he hasn't done somewhere along the line. There's nothing he is learning for the very first time. It's all a matter of getting terminology down and getting in football shape. Those are really his challenges."
Ellerbe was with the Saints for the past two years and was with them this summer until he suffered a foot injury and was then released. He's been a productive player throughout his career but has struggled to stay healthy (see story). He's played fewer than 10 games in half of his NFL seasons.
The Eagles will need to get Ellerbe back into "football shape," but once he is, the former Super Bowl champion should bring some veteran leadership to the defense.
Of course, adding depth at linebacker was a need because of Jordan Hicks' Achilles tear. Hicks suffered his injury Oct. 23, but luckily the Eagles still have Nigel Bradham and Mychal Kendricks. Walker has been filling it at the MIKE in the base package. It seems possible Ellerbe could eventually take over that role.
"We'll let that play out and see where it goes," Schwartz said. "But it's good to have a veteran player there that has a lot of experience, and he's got both of those."