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Philadelphia Eagles will benefit from linebacker depth

NFL Total Access" continues with its "32 teams in 32 days" series. We decided to score some brownie points by writing an accompanying post each night. We'll focus on one goal that each team needs to accomplish before Week 1.

Even with an unhealthy and less effective Michael Vick, offense was not an issue for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2011. The team ranked in the top 10 in rushing, passing and scoring offense. The band is back together in 2012, with both of Philadelphia's two biggest weapons -- running back LeSean McCoy and receiver DeSean Jackson -- receiving long-term extensions in the offseason.

The defense is loaded with talent along the front line, and any secondary with Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie roaming the backfield is bound to be above average. What that unit needs, and has needed for quite some time in the Andy Reid era, is better play and leadership from the linebacker position.

Last year, the team experimented with inexperienced, late-round linebackers -- 2011 fourth-round pick Casey Matthews opened as the starting middle linebacker. The results were disastrous, and the Eagles had to devote considerable resources to upgrading the position in the offseason.

They acquired a veteran leader in the huddle by trading with the Houston Texans for three-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans. The Eagles than used the 46th overall pick on Mychal Kendricks, a strong, fast linebacker from Cal who is expected to start on the strong side.

During training camp, the Eagles need Ryans to take ownership of the defense and for Kendricks to earn the strong-side job. Both are three-down linebackers who can provide much-needed stability and big-play capability to the defense. The New York Giants might be defending champs, and the Dallas Cowboys might be everyone's preseason darlings, but the Eagles are arguably the most talented team in an NFC East that should be wide open in 2012. Better play from the linebackers might make the difference.

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