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News » Eagles bench linebacker Gaither

Eagles bench linebacker Gaither

Eagles bench linebacker Gaither
BALTIMORE - It is a dramatic fall, tumbling from the Eagles' leader in tackles and quarterback hurries one season to a spectator with a sideline view of the action the next. And the landing hurts quite a bit.

Linebacker Omar Gaither now knows the feeling.

On a day of surprises at M&T Bank Stadium, Gaither did not expect to see Donovan McNabb join him in the gathering of benchwarmers watching the Baltimore Ravens have their way in embarrassing the nose-diving Eagles, 36-7, yesterday. But by halftime, when coach Andy Reid pulled his starting quarterback in favor Kevin Kolb, Gaither had already grown accustomed to the feeling of being yanked.

Even though most of the Eagles' problems have been on offense, Gaither lost his starting job as weakside linebacker as defensive coordinator Jim Johnson gave Akeem Jordan his first start.

Afterward, Johnson did not provide much detail about why Gaither had fallen out of favor, saying he wanted Jordan in the lineup to match up against Ravens running back Ray Rice on screen passes and because "we wanted more production out of our" weakside linebacker.

Rice "is a good screen guy, and I just wanted to give Akeem a chance and see how he would do in there," Johnson said.

The Eagles kept the move a secret from the media, but Gaither knew Tuesday he was going to be relegated to special teams. He said he was still trying to figure out why.

"I don't know. I thought I was playing well, but you never really know, I guess." Gaither said. "I guess I have to step back and look in the mirror. I thought I was playing well, but I guess they wanted to give Akeem a chance, and he's a good player. They just wanted to give him a chance and see what he's got."

In his third season, Gaither was moved to the weak side after playing middle linebacker last season, when he had team highs of 170 tackles and 14 hurries and was second in quarterback knockdowns with 14. Johnson moved Gaither to outside linebacker after putting the bigger, bulkier Stewart Bradley in the middle. Obviously, Johnson was not thrilled with the way Gaither was covering screen passes, so he turned to Jordan, who became a special-teams ace after he was promoted from the practice squad midway through last season.

Rice, the rookie from Rutgers, caught three passes for 42 yards, including a screen that went for 22. Whether that was a reflection on Jordan's play is something Johnson said he would figure out while watching the film.

"I can't say right now," Johnson said when asked how Jordan played.

Jordan said he felt comfortable in his first NFL start but declined to evaluate his performance. He led the Eagles with nine tackles, including two for losses.

Meanwhile, Gaither took his demotion with grace but said it was difficult watching.

"It ate me up inside, it really did," he said. "Your guys are out there fighting, and you want to be out there fighting with them. Last time I didn't play a snap on defense was the first few games of my rookie season [two years ago], so certainly it was a different kind of feeling."

Gaither, who had started 31 consecutive games, shook his head.

"I don't know. They just wanted to get Akeem on the field, I guess. He's a good player, so it's hard to keep a good player down. I thought I was playing well enough to be a starter, but it's not my choice. I just come to work every day and do what I'm told. I went out and played special teams to the best of my ability. I don't think I was playing terrible or anything like that. We'll see what happens from here."

Contact staff writer Ray Parrillo

at 215-854-2743 or rparrillo@phillynews.com.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: November 24, 2008

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