In a five-part series from Monday to Friday, Eagles insider Geoff Mosher and columnist Reuben Frank preview five Eagles flying “under the radar” as the team heads into training camp and the 2014 season. These unsung Eagles have a chance to make a bigger impact this season than people may expect. Camp opens July 25.
Position: Inside linebacker
Acquired: Free agent (2013)
The Eagles claimed Goode, a former West Virginia standout, off waivers before the start of 2013 and after the final roster cutdown date. He played 14 games in the regular season, starting one in place of an injured Mychal Kendricks. The week before his first start, he played well after Kendricks left the game, helping to hold Green Bay to just 99 rushing yards and an average of 3.3 yards per carry in a 27-13 win at Lambeau. Goode also sacked Robert Griffin III for his first and only career sack and returned a botched long snap against the Giants for a touchdown.
Fans were initially ticked off when the Eagles acquired Goode and cut Emmanuel Acho after Acho performed well in the preseason and Goode had just been let go by the Buccaneers. But the staff liked Goode’s coverage abilities and believed he offered more on special teams and in sub packages than Acho (who came back to the practice squad later in the season). Goode looked really good against the Packers, coming in after Kendricks left with a knee injury and joining a defense that held Eddie Lacy to just 73 yards. Now that he’s had a whole year and his first offseason in Chip Kelly’s program, Goode is primed for an expanded role. Defensive coordinator Bill Davis already said he’s looking to scale down snaps for DeMeco Ryans, who played the most snaps of any NFL defensive player last year. In certain nickel downs, Davis can substitute Goode for Ryans and get a little quicker and more athletic across the middle, which is where the Eagles were picked apart last year.
He can really run, and that’s the one edge Goode has on the Eagles' other linebackers, and that’s why Davis and Rick Minter will find ways to get Goode onto the field situationally on defense this year. Goode opened some eyes with the way he played against the Packers in his first NFL start last year, but the thing about Goode is that he wasn’t even with the Eagles during the offseason or training camp, so Davis and the other coaches expect a big jump in what will be his first full year in this defense. Goode’s dad played in the NFL in the mid-1980s -- they’re actually the first father-son combo in Eagles history -- and Najee has that intelligence and savvy of a kid who grew up around the game. Will he ever be an every-down linebacker? Tough to tell. But he’s smart, fast, physical and has good size at 6-4, 244 pounds. Ryans played more snaps than any defensive player in the NFL last year, and Davis has already promised those numbers will go down. Most of those snaps should go to Goode.