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Eagles have rotation they want at inside linebacker, not outside linebacker


PHILADELPHIA — Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis has one of those problems coaches like to have when it comes to his inside linebackers.

Davis has three inside linebackers vying for time in the team's 3-4 scheme. He distributed it as equally as it could in last Sunday's 20-19 loss to the Miami Dolphins, in which the defense played well enough to win.

DeMeco Ryans led the trio in snaps with 48, while Mychal Kendricks played 40 and Kiko Alonso, who missed six weeks earlier in the season with a knee injury, played 30.

"We're trying to get all three of them out there equally. We don't always dictate how it goes, sometimes it's based on the offense's personnel. But we want them all to play," Davis said. "With Kiko we're still bringing him along. It's tough to hit them all exactly the same amount. But I think we're getting them all in there."

Alonso, whom the Eagles acquired during the offseason from the Buffalo Bills in exchange for running back LeSean McCoy, has been eased back after the knee injury. Davis thinks now he's ready to go.

"We feel good about where he is, yes," Davis said. "He came out the last game, and we felt pretty good about where he is. He played well in the game."

The team hasn't been able to develop a rotation at outside linebacker, where starters Connor Barwin (64 plays) and Brandon Graham (51) are playing the vast majority of snaps. The third outside linebacker, 2014 first-round pick Marcus Smith, played just five snaps against the Dolphins after not playing at all the week before against the Dallas Cowboys.

"I don't think we're wearing those guys out," Davis said of Barwin and Graham getting a lot of snaps. "We want to be on a rotation there, too. You'll see Marcus get more snaps this week, we're anticipating that anyway."

Sunday, Davis' defense will see the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and quarterback Jameis Winston, the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. The Eagles coordinator has been impressed.

"As a rookie they're giving him some checks at the line and he's doing a good job with it. He's protecting the ball better, too," he said. "I just got done watching the Tennessee game, where he turned it over a few times. He's gotten better. He's learned."

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