Linebacker wasn't always an annual question mark.

In 1982 the Eagles sent two homegrown 'backers to the Pro Bowl: Frank LeMaster, a 1974 fourth-rounder, and Jerry Robinson, a first-round pick in 1979, the last linebacker the team has taken in the NFL's opening round.

It was the only Pro Bowl appearance for either, and the next year the team began a drought at linebacker that would seem familiar to fans today. After '82 the Eagles went nine years without a linebacker in the NFL's all-star game, but they eventually broke the streak with Seth Joyner, an eighth-round pick in 1986 who would grow into one of the central pieces of Buddy Ryan's defenses. He began a string of homegrown linebackers who thrived.

Chosen 208th overall (which would make him an early seventh-rounder today), Joyner made the Pro Bowl in 1992 and 1994. He teamed in Philadelphia with Byron Evans, a fourth-round pick in 1987. William Thomas, drafted in the fourth round in 1991, inherited the Pro Bowl role and went to Hawaii in '96 and '97, and then came Jeremiah Trotter, a four-time Pro Bowler the team developed after drafting him in the third round in 1998, the year before Andy Reid arrived as head coach.

That's not to say Philadelphia was a linebacker utopia before Reid's hire. Second-round picks James Darling (1997), Jessie Small (1989), and Alonzo Johnson (1986) made little impact.

And it's also not true that Reid hasn't invested in the position. His second pick ever, after choosing Donovan McNabb second overall in 1999, was linebacker Barry Gardner, chosen in the next round. He used a second-round pick in 2005 and third-rounders in 2006 and 2007 to draft Matt McCoy, Chris Gocong, and Stewart Bradley. It's just that Reid has missed.

Recently his linebacker picks have come in later rounds, including Keenan Clayton (fourth), Brian Rolle (sixth), and Jamar Chaney and Moise Fokou (seventh).

None has broken a Pro Bowl dry spell that dates to Trotter's last appearance, after the 2005 season.

It has been six years, not quite as long as fans once waited, but getting close.

Contact staff writer Jonathan Tamari at 215-854-5214, jtamari@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @JonathanTamari.