T.J. Edwards could be the Eagles’ long-term solution at Middle Linebacker
After a standout game on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints, the Eagles locked up linebacker T.J. Edwards on a one-year extension through 2022. Edwards has recently moved into the LB1 spot for the Eagles in the last few weeks and has flourished in the role. While the group isn’t great yet, they are far better than Alex Singleton and Eric Wilson were when they led the team.
For the longest time, the Eagles have had a massive hole at middle linebacker. Jordan Hicks was the answer, but injuries prevented him from being the man every week. Since then, it has been a carousel with Nate Gerry, Nigel Bradham, and Singleton all starting in the middle. None had proven they were worthy of being the guy, with the closest being Bradham, who fell off in his final seasons in Philadelphia.
Against the Saints, the 25-year old had seven solo tackles, an interception, and two pass defelctions in a career game. Looking at the entirety of 2020 compared to just four stats, the improvement is jaw-dropping.
T.J. Edwards’ last two seasons compared:
|Season||Snaps||Tackles||Interceptions||Tackles for loss||Pass deflections|
|2020 (12 games)||491||70||1||5||1|
|2021 (4 starts)||385||44||1||4||3|
Crazy to think that he has seen so much more time in the course of just a few games, but the numbers are effective. He was productive last season, but Jim Schwartz didn’t give him much of a shot for whatever season.
While it’s way too soon to deem T.J. Edwards the answer, things are trending in the right direction. Week 8 is Edwards’ first game where he saw a majority of the snaps and has looked great in each showing. The significant issue with all the previous linebackers is they were critically flawed in a specific area. For example, Hicks’ injuries, Singleton and Gerry’s coverage issues, and Bradham’s tackling ability.
Eagles LB grades since 2019 (per PFF):
|Player:||Rush Defense:||Tackling:||Pass Rush:||Coverage:|
|Nigel Bradham (2019)||48.3||42.5||56.9||73.2|
|Nate Gerry (2020)||58.2||70.3||70.9||38.6|
|Alex Singleton (2021)||57.2||50.8||70.6||43.4|
|T.J. Edwards (Since Week 8)||68.9||72.2||59||67.6|
While he didn’t sweep, none of the other backers come close to being that good across the board as T.J. Edwards. So far, with Edwards, he has yet to display an Achilles heel as a starter under Jonathan Gannon. His tackling ability is perfect, and he doesn’t get lost in coverage like his predecessors. The bar is low in Philadelphia, and there are definitely stars who could be drafted early on that could take over instantly.
Even so, T.J. Edwards is the perfect backup linebacker and is fully capable of starting for this team on any given week. With how Howie Roseman is and the Eagles’ cap situation with several other extensions looming, I don’t think a major upgrade is coming to the position.
Sometimes Howie Roseman’s theory of spending low amounts on linebackers is correct, but it’s few and far between. But with Edwards, it’s a situation that could work. With everyone else, they were critically flawed to the point where the Eagles defense couldn’t stop anything because of how opposing teams would attack the backers.
Instead, with Edwards, he’s well rounded that he can get the job done and be average in coverage and reading his keys in the run, allowing for that money to be spent elsewhere. Few situations like this occur and if this play keeps up, that extension is going to get a lot more expensive after 2022.
So, unless a total collapse occurs, I don’t see why T.J. Edwards can’t be the Eagles’ top LB for several years if he continues to produce at this rate.