Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson recently turned some heads when he said Stephen Tulloch was competing for the Eagles’ middle linebacker job. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz poured a little bit of cold water on that idea on Tuesday.
After the loss of seventh-round rookie Joe Walker, the Eagles predictably went out and signed Tulloch, who they had been linked to for weeks. But with Jordan Hicks seemingly entrenched as the starter after his impressive first season, it appeared as though any addition would be purely for depth.
Based on Schwartz’s comments, that still appears to be the case. While he wouldn’t go so far as to suggest Tulloch couldn’t ascend to starter, the implication was that Hicks is not in jeopardy of losing his spot to the 11th-year veteran anytime soon.
“He’s not here to replace anybody,” Schwartz said of Tulloch. “He’s here to add to our group, and I think that as coaches our job is to find out what guys do the best and what guys bring to the party.
“Everybody’s got something different that they bring to the party. We embrace that and try to find a role for all of those guys, but what role he’s going to play is yet to be determined.”
It sure sounds like the plan is for Hicks to start in the middle for the Eagles, flanked on either side by Mychal Kendricks and Nigel Bradham. At this stage of his career, a 31-year-old Tulloch probably isn’t an effective three-down player anyway.
Then again, it sure sounds like in any of the three struggle, or if Tulloch shows he has quality football left in the tank, it’s not impossible for Tulloch to crack the rotation, particularly on running downs. And in reality, injuries also figure to play a role in deciding who is on the field.
Hicks has the athleticism to shift outside if need be, leaving open the possibility for both he and Tulloch to be on the field at the same time.
Hicks was the Eagles’ best playmaker at linebacker in 2015, and Kendricks has filled that role in the past. Like Tulloch, Bradham knows Schwartz’s system well and had his best season in 2014 when he played in that system with the Buffalo Bills. All of which makes Tulloch serving primarily as a depth player the most likely scenario.