New Falcons Chaney, Gaither adjusting to new setting

BY foxsports • September 18, 2013

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- During his three-plus seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, linebacker Jamar Chaney, signed by the Falcons on Tuesday, passed through a dizzying number of defensive coordinators and positional coaches -- so much so that he had trouble remembering all of their names. Along with eight-year veteran Omar Gaither, Chaney was signed to provide linebacker depth at a position that was eviscerated by injuries on Sunday in a 31-24 win over St. Louis. They were two of the four linebackers the Falcons worked out on Tuesday. Head coach Mike Smith would not reveal the identity of the fourth, the third was Chase Thomas, who was signed to the practice squad. In Sunday’s game, Kroy Biermann, a starting outside linebacker when the Falcons use a 3-4 alignment, was lost for the season with a torn Achilles. Sean Weatherspoon, another starting outside linebacker and the Falcons' top player at that position, was lost for the next eight weeks with a foot injury and on Wednesday starting middle linebacker Akeem Dent was limited in practice with a shoulder injury. According to the team's unofficial depth chart, the starting linebackers on Sunday will be Stephen Nicholas, Dent and Joplo Bartu. "In terms of the new guys they've got a lot of catching up to do," Smith said. "… The new guys’ heads are swimming and we're going to try to get them up to speed as soon as we possibly can." Based on that statement, it would seem that Chaney and Gaither probably will not play much on Sunday at Miami. However, that could change once they are more familiar with the Falcons' system. The more intriguing player is Chaney, a seventh-round pick in 2010 by Philadelphia. He started all 16 games in 2011, totaling 104 tackles with one sack and three interceptions and 10 passes defensed. With his running ability, Chaney appears adept at filling the role vacated by Weatherspoon in terms of defending pass coverage. As Smith said, Chaney's head might be swimming now but it also swam during his three years in Philadelphia. As a rookie, Chaney's defensive coordinator was Sean McDermott. McDermott was fired following that 2010 season. Then the Eagles installed former offensive line coach Juan Castillo in that role. Castillo made it briefly into the 2012 season but was fired early. That's where Chaney's memory started to fail him -- on coordinator No. 3. "Dang, what's the defensive coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals?" he asked a couple of media members and paused for a moment. "Todd Bowles." Last was Bill Davis, hired by new head coach Chip Kelly, who replaced Andy Reid this year. Davis changed from the 4-3 alignment the Eagles used in Chaney’s first three seasons to 3-4. During all of that time, Chaney's position was constantly evolving. "When I first got in the league, I was a (weakside linebacker) during minicamp," Chaney said. "I was a (middle linebacker) during training camp. Played 'mike' the whole season. Ended up starting the last five games, including the playoff game versus Green Bay." "They moved me to the (strong-side) 'backer," Chaney said of 2012. "'Sam' ‘backer half that season. Moved me to the 'mike' for the rest of the season. Following season -- Year Three -- came in as the 'will'. Played 'will' almost half the season. Last five games, moved me to the 'sam'. So I was always moving around." While some in Philadelphia felt that Chaney was cut because he had trouble making the transition from the 4-3 to an 3-4 inside linebacker, he said 2011 and '12, when the Eagles brought in defensive line coach Jim Washburn, made his job the toughest. Washburn, fired midway through last season, is a disciple of the "Wide Tackle 9" technique in which the defensive ends don't try to defend the run much at all but instead take a wide angle and head straight for the quarterback on almost every play. "Compared to what I played my second and third year -- with the 'Wide 9' -- I mean, the 3-4 was way better than that for linebacker-wise," Chaney said, "because the lineman were actually taught to eat up players. The linemen in front of you, in the 'Wide 9', they're just taught to go." Smith was asked if he thought an atmosphere of stability would benefit Chaney. "I don't know all his history but I do know when he was coming out he was a very athletic player and can run," Smith said. As far as Gaither, he seems as if he were acquired more for depth -- sort of the grandfatherly role that Mike Peterson played in his final few seasons in Atlanta. Even he seemed unsure of what his role will be. "I don't know," said Gaither, who was honest about being "inexpensive". "They just brought me in. I’m just here to do whatever they want me to do. Whatever I can do to help this team win whether that be practicing hard and helping the young guys out on game day or whatever it may be. I'm happy to be here. "Obviously, I wasn't on a team. It sucks to watch. If I had to pick, the Falcons were one of the organizations I would want to be a part of simply because they do have Super Bowl aspirations."

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