Eagles Breakdown: TJ Edwards is quietly becoming one of the best linebackers in football
One of the many goals for the Eagles this past offseason was to bolster their lackluster linebacking corps. For years, the Eagles linebacker position was a revolving door, with the likes of Nate Gerry, Eric Wilson, and Alex Singleton getting substantial playing time, even though they were special teams players at best.
During free agency, the team acquired 26-year-old LB Kyzir White on a one-year deal and followed that up with the selection of Georgia’s Nakobe Dean in the third-round of this year’s NFL Draft. At last, the Eagles had fixed their linebacking woes.
Through three games, that sentiment reigns true, but not necessarily because of the acquisitions the front office made over the offseason.
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TJ Edwards, an undrafted free agent who’s been with the team since 2019, finally got an opportunity to start this season. Even with two known commodities in Dean and White in the fold, Edwards has taken the primary starting gig and hasn’t looked back.
Edwards has racked up 27 combined tackles this season, most of any Eagles defender. He’s tallied three tackles for a loss, second-most on the team, all while posting the second-best Pro Football Focus grade of any linebacker in football with an 84.9 mark.
He’s quietly becoming one of the best linebackers in football and he’s only getting started.
During his career, the biggest weakness on Edwards’ resume has been his coverage ability. He’s flipped the script this season.
Edwards has allowed just 5.8 yards per completion and 4.7 yards per target in 2022, both are career-best marks. His 79.9 PFF coverage grade is eighth-best among 72 qualifying linebackers.
Not only has Edwards taken a major step forward in the coverage department, he’s been an absolute menace when rushing the passer.
Jonathan Gannon has sent his MLB on 12 blitzes this season. On those blitzes, Edwards has recorded seven pressures, two QB hits, four hurries, and one sack. His 90.5 pass rushing grade is the best among 50 qualifying linebackers, per PFF.
A lot has been made about the Eagles stout cornerback group and their ferocious pass rush, but Edwards is the player who brings it all together and allows the rest of the defense to flourish. He currently has the highest PFF defensive grade of any Eagles starter.
He’s never been the most physically gifted linebacker in the league, but Edwards more than makes up for it with his outstanding instincts. He flows to the ball with ease, his play recognition is second to none, and his ability to get from sideline to sideline is impressive despite his so-called lack of athleticism.
Philadelphia has been searching for a game changing backer for the past decade or so. Little did they know, that undrafted LB from Wisconsin that signed with the team in 2019 was going to be just that.
The Eagles have stars at nearly every position, especially on the defensive side of the ball with Darius Slay, Fletcher Cox, among others. It’s about time we start including TJ Edwards in that conversation. He’s earned it and his Pro Bowl-level of play shouldn’t subside any time soon.
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Mandatory Credit: NBC Sports Philadelphia