Eagles’ Gocong enters make-or-break year

By John McMullen  |   Monday, July 07, 2008  |  Comments( 8 )

Philadelphia Eagles
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Andy Reid detractors like to point out that the Philadelphia Eagles head coach doesn't care about linebackers.

Of course, your average football fan never allows facts to get in the way of a good argument.

Sure, Reid has often used premium picks in the NFL draft to try and fill his perceived holes at the position. But they never work, so he must not care; flawed thinking, eh?

While Reid and the rest of Philly's brain trust have struggled to properly evaluate linebackers in the past, Chris Gocong hopes to avoid being added to the list of failures this season while rehabilitating Reid’s tarnished LB reputation.

The 6-foot-2, 263-pound Gocong was the 71st overall selection in the 2006 draft after starring as a pass-rushing defensive end at Division I-AA Cal-Poly, a school where football is an afterthought and academia is king.

The Eagles liked Gocong so much that they moved up five places to snare him and immediately announced their intention to move him from end to linebacker. The transition wasn't exactly going smoothly in training camp during Gocong's rookie year, when the Birds shut him down after he suffered a neck stringer.

While painful, a neck stinger is hardly considered to be a season-ending injury. The prevailing thought was that Gocong simply wasn't picking up his new position and the Eagles stashed him on injured reserve while concentrating on guys who could help them in 2006.

Then a funny thing happened; before the 2007 season, Philadelphia released its starting strongside linebacker, Dhani Jones, and anointed Gocong as the heir apparent. Of course, the Eagles did install a safety net by grabbing Stewart Bradley in the third round of the 2007 draft and talking up special teams standout Tank Daniels as possible competition.

Gocong finally got to see live bullets last year, with the results going as expected: He occasionally flashed his vaunted athletic ability but also seemed confused at times. Gocong applied pressure when given the opportunity but spent most of the time over the tight end and in coverage.

"There are still a few things that I was so hyped up about the game that I forgot about certain things," Gocong said last season. "I think as I get more reps, it will slow down a little bit."

A player with limited experience at linebacker like Gocong needs as many reps as possible. He also would be better served on the weak side, where his natural rushing skills could be better utilized. However, with Bradley now earmarked for the middle linebacker spot and Omar Gaither set to move to the weak side, Gocong will be back on the strong side.

Hopefully for the Eagles, Reid and defensive coordinator Jim Johnson will not be as vanilla with Gocong in 2008. Another year wasted in coverage and the third-year pro will likely join the long list of Eagles busts at the linebacker position.
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About John McMullen

John is the managing editor of The Phanatic Magazine, the assistant managing editor of The Sports Network and the co-host of the highly rated 'Johns on Sports' radio show on WTBQ in New York. Every Saturday from 6:30-9 p.m. (et) you can hear John along with his co-host, John Gottlieb, talk to the...
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CommentsComments: 8  |  Sign Up  View all comments
03:38 PM
First of all vanilla and Jim Johnson are not two words I ever put together until the last line of this article. That said, I'm...
04:15 PM
nhartman as an Eagles fan I have to disagree with whatever the D coordinator or Reid is upto that our job as fans. Linebackers...
05:42 PM
Philly's D is always going to be flying to the ball no matter who's wearing the jersey, that's Jim Johnson's defense. What I...
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