Can the Philadelphia Eagles trust T.J. Edwards in 2020?
This offseason, the Philadelphia Eagles decided to stick with the youthful approach at linebacker by saying goodbye to Nigel Bradham and adding a couple of younger guys in the most recent NFL Draft and free agency period. The front office usually isn’t willing to spend big at the position. They’ve trusted Ken Flajole to develop talent, and he has done just that.
Kamu Grugier-Hill was a sixth-round pick and solid special teams contributor, but in recent years, he’s become a reliable starting linebacker. Nathan Gerry was a fifth-round pick who was asked to make a transition from safety. He didn’t see the field too often at first, but now he’s arguably the best pass-coverage linebacker on the roster. Not to mention, despite the fact that he missed a lot of tackles in the run game, he was still second on the team in total stops. Even Duke Riley made some plays towards the end of the most recent NFL regular season.
With that being said, there’s no reason that T.J. Edwards can’t be Flajole’s next successful project. He’s shown flashes of what he could offer in 2019. T.J. was a dependable player at Wisconsin too, so this should come as no surprise. While he isn’t the greatest athlete and will have to improve his technique, the bottom line is he can make plays when given the opportunity, and he’ll get plenty of opportunities in 2020. Here are two reasons why he’ll make good on the chance.
1. For Philadelphia Eagles fans, it’s always about the numbers.
At Wisconsin, Edwards started for four straight seasons after redshirting during his first year, and he immediately became an integral part of the defense. He earned a First-team All-American nod in 2017 and First-team All-Big Ten honors in 2017 and in 2018. In his outstanding 2017 season, Wisconsin finished with a record of 13-1 thanks in large part to T.J. being a huge part of their overall success.
It’s also worth noting that he missed just one game out of a possible 53 appearances. In those other 52, he collected 366 tackles (37.5 for loss), eight sacks, ten interceptions, 15 pass deflections, one forced fumble, and one defensive touchdown. The production was there to back up the All-American and All-Big ten nods.
2. Take note here Philadelphia Eagles fans. The prototypical size is there, and so are the intangibles.
Size isn’t a major issue. He’s listed at six-foot-one and 241 pounds. For comparison, Nigel Bradham is six-foot-two and tips the scales at 241 pounds. Nathan Gerry is six-foot-three and 230 pounds and Kamu Grugier-Hill is six-foot-two and weighs in at 230 pounds.
At Edwards’ pro day, one of the concerns was that he ran a pedestrian 4.77-second forty-yard dash but think about this. Los Angeles Chargers’ inside linebacker Denzel Perryman ran a 4.78 and was picked in the second round. He’s gone on to be a very solid starter in Los Angeles. Another concern might’ve been the 112-inch broad jump Edwards turned in, but Perryman’s was only 113 inches. Lastly, Edwards’ turned in a 32.5-inch vertical jump while Perrymnan’s was just 32 inches.
While athleticism is important, it’s not the end all be all. Linebackers can be successful without the perfect measurables as long as they can recognize a play as it develops and get physical on the interior. Edwards did just that in his rookie season with the Eagles. He didn’t play a large number of snaps, but he did his job when he was on the field, especially in the run game.
Edwards played a key role in boxing up Ezekiel Elliott in the week 16 win versus the Dallas Cowboys. For the season, on just 112 total snaps, he collected 30 total tackles and an approximate value of three more. Pro Football Focus also gave him an impressive 86.6 grade for the 2019 season which is an accomplishment that should not be taken lightly.
T.J. Edwards has had a full year under this coaching staff and the talented linebackers coach, Ken Flajole. He knows the playbook and the scheme and should be ready for a big 2020 season when the Eagles return. He did see action in all 16 games last year as well, so the fact that the Eagles kept him around likely means that they were grooming him for a bigger role in year two.
If they had any intention of re-signing Bradham, it likely would’ve happened by now. Philly is putting plenty of trust into Edwards, and that’s evident seeing as how they have done much seemingly to replace him. The Eagles were patient with Grugier-Hill and Gerry, and this doesn’t feel any different with T.J. Edwards. 2020 could be a breakout season for the 23-year-old. don’t be surprised when it is.