Philadelphia Eagles were right to pass on Avery Williamson
By Hunter Doyle
Wait! We’re still discussing the Philadelphia Eagles’ quandary at linebacker?
On Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers made a move before the trade deadline adding linebacker Avery Williamson. The New York Jets shipped him and a 2022 seventh-round pick to the Steelers for a 2022 fifth-round pick. The Philadelphia Eagles need linebackers but this move makes a lot more sense for Pittsburgh. They’re undefeated and could use a strong tackler like Williamson in their defensive scheme.
For the Eagles, while they are young and inexperienced at the position, they do have some run stoppers. T.J. Edwards continues to develop right before our eyes and had a career day this past weekend with 13 tackles and a strip-sack. The coaching staff has also seen major growth from Alex Singleton who has 28 tackles in his last four games and has also played 79 percent of the defensive snaps in the past three games. Shaun Bradley has been clogging running lanes when he’s been on the field and had five tackles in just 14 snaps through the first five weeks. Overall, he has seven tackles and one tackle for loss on the season.
The Philadelphia Eagles made the right decision concerning Avery Williamson.
Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz often likes to commit to stopping the run and stacking the box. Outside of the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers potent run schemes, the linebackers have gotten better in the run game during the year. Opposing running backs have run 154 times for just 531 yards (3.4 yards per rush). It’s not perfect yet and the big plays need to be limited. They will continue to develop with time though. Avery Williamson would’ve enhanced the run defense, but he wouldn’t have fixed the pass coverage issues for this linebacker core. That’s been the biggest problem for them.
Williamson has been targeted 33 times and has allowed 31 completions for 314 yards and a 93.7 pass rating. In 2018, he was targeted 67 times and allowed 48 completions for 513 yards and three touchdowns. If you aren’t a fan of numbers, watch the film or ask a Jets fan. Pass coverage is easily Williamson’s biggest weakness.
Adding a 28-year-old linebacker who is below average in pass coverage for a fifth-round pick wouldn’t have made sense for the Eagles. If Williamson hasn’t grown in the passing game at this point in his career, it’s likely not going to happen at all. The ‘Birds’ need to focus on developing their young linebackers in pass coverage and let them grow with more experience this year.
While the team’s goal is still to win the NFC East and get a spot in the playoffs, getting rid of a draft pick for a second-half rental and interfering with the growth of the linebacker core is not the right move. Even though Eagles general manager and vice president Howie Roseman hasn’t made a ton of great decisions on draft night, Over the Cap projects the Eagles to be 65 million over the NFL salary cap. They’re going to have to drop plenty of big contracts this offseason, and they need to focus on the youth on the roster and in the draft.
Could the Eagles still have traded for a linebacker at the deadline? Yes, they should have. They still have a need, but Williamson just wasn’t the right fit based on his skillset and the Eagles’ current situation.