Eagles’ Linebacking Unit Ranked as One of League’s Worst By PFF
The Eagles linebackers have been a weak point on the defense for the past few seasons.
This year doesn't seem to be any different, according to Pro Football Focus’ analytics which rated Philadelphia’s linebacking unit as one of the worst in football this season, ranking them as the league’s 27th best group.
"There is no question, on paper, they don't have one quality starter, that's the way the league sees it," explained NFL insider Adam Caplan during 'Football At Four' on The Sports Bash.
Its a unit that has added some new faces, none of which have much of a track record, but the Eagles are hoping that they can surprise the doubters.
There’s a new look to the Eagles' linebacking unit as they added speed this offseason and will have a few new faces competing for playing time.
Nathan Gerry returns after playing 669 snaps last season — including the playoffs — and posting a career-high 62.2 overall grade. Gerry hasn’t been as effective in coverage as you’d expect to see from a college safety, and tackling has also been an issue given that he's missed 17.8% of his attempts, ninth-worst in the league.
T.J. Edwards is the name to watch in this group as the former undrafted free agent has played well when called upon — he earned a 77.6 overall grade in the preseason and an 83.4 overall mark on 122 regular-season and postseason snaps. Edwards is below average athletically, and there may be some coverage limitations, but he’s been a productive player since his freshman year at Wisconsin.
Duke Riley came over from the Falcons last season to play 37 snaps, but he now has a 47.0 career grade across 688 snaps. Jatavis Brown is another new addition who did his best work as a rookie in 2016 when he graded at 77.6 overall. He’s slowly regressed since then, bottoming out with a 29.4 grade on just 94 snaps last season, but he’s an explosive blitzer who is worth a second look as a sub-package player.
The Eagles added more athleticism in the draft with Davion Taylor in the third round and Shaun Bradley in the sixth. Taylor is still developing as a player, but he has 4.39 speed and played a challenging role in Colorado’s defense. Bradley has man-coverage skills and can add value covering running backs out of the backfield.
The Eagles’ linebacking corps has plenty of question marks but also plenty of potential answers, and it’ll be worth watching how they deploy some of their new weapons.
Gerry and Edwards figure to see most of the snaps, with Riley and Bradley two names to keep an eye on.
"Edwards is about 240, a thumper, a run-stuffer, but is really only a two-down linebacker," Caplan explained. "Duke Riley started out really well in his career, then he got benched and didn't handle it well and was never able to get back in the lineup.
Third-round pick Davion Taylor is a very raw, athletic prospect that should help out in year one on special teams.
"They believe by year three he will be a starting nickle linebacker," Caplan said about Taylor. But nobody is expecting him to play anything but special teams in 2020, same thing with Shaun Bradley."
Caplan says the teams lack of talent at the position is more of a resource issue than a coaching issue, the team hasn't really added much at the position in the draft.
"Mychal Kendricks was the last second-rounder they have taken in the draft and that was eight years ago," said Caplan.
This is more of an organizational philosophy, to put their resources into high-end positions and linebacker doesn't fall into that category.