Philadelphia Eagles training camp 2017 is almost here. The first practice starts on July 24. The Eagles' entire training camp schedule, including information on practices open to the public, can be found by clicking here. As we count down the days together, Bleeding Green Nation will be previewing every position on the Eagles roster. We continue today by taking a look at the linebacker corps.
Jordan Hicks, Nigel Bradham, Mychal Kendricks, Najee Goode, Joe Walker, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Don Cherry, Nathan Gerry
Hicks is one of the most underrated players in the NFL. Eagles fans (and Cowboys fans) know just how good he is, but Hicks hasn’t fully received the respect he deserves from a national audience. That changes this year. This is the year where people realize that Hicks is one of the best players at his position in the league. Hicks should have an easy time finding the spotlight because he’s shown a penchant for making big plays at a Hall of Fame pace. He’s excellent in coverage which makes life harder on quarterbacks who love to throw over the middle of the field.
After an impressive 2016 campaign, will Jordan Hicks be an elite linebacker in 2017? pic.twitter.com/ii3RMCPicV— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) June 16, 2017
I was a little concerned about how Hicks would fit into the Eagles’ new defensive scheme under Jim Schwartz last year. That change didn’t turn out to be a problem, however. The only concern with Hicks moving forward is his health. He played all 16 games last season, which is good. Thankfully the hand injury he suffered on his honeymoon wasn’t too serious.
Bradham was quietly a really good addition for the Eagles last year. The 27-year-old linebacker finished the 2016 season with 67 tackles, five passes defensed, two forced fumbles, two sacks, and one interception. PFF graded him out as their ninth best linebacker (Hicks was fifth).
The Eagles defense was noticeably worse when Bradham missed some snaps in the Detroit game last year. Philadelphia will hope Bradham doesn’t get hit with a suspension after some off-field issues last year.
Kendricks is the “third linebacker” on this team but that doesn’t mean a whole lot. He only played 26.8% of the Eagles’ defensive snaps in 2016. It seems unlikely that Kendricks’ playing time will suddenly increase, although the Eagles might want to hold on to him if they feel like Bradham might miss a few games.
Goode is a goode veteran backup who can play all three linebacker spots and also contribute on special teams. He finished second on the team in ST tackles in 2016 with nine.
Walker is kind of an intriguing guy as far as depth players go. The 2016 seventh-round pick showed some promise last preseason before going down with an ACL injury. It’ll be interesting to see if he can bounce back and stand out this summer. Walker could be a nice backup MLB to have behind the injury-prone Hicks.
After being drafted by the Patriots in the sixth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, Grugier-Hill was cut by New England last summer. The Eagles picked him up on waivers and kept him on the roster as a special teams contributor. KGH finished third on the team in ST tackles last year with six. He could stick around yet again.
Cherry spent the entire 2016 season on the practice squad. The Villanova alumnus could end up there again in 2017.
Gerry’s situation is interesting since he’s converting from safety to linebacker. He definitely showed some potential in coverage during spring practices this offseason. Now he needs to prove he can handle the physicality of the game.
How will it play out?
The Eagles rostered six linebackers last year. Hicks and Bradham are locks as the main starters. Kendricks might stick around if he’s not traded. Goode, Walker, and Grugier-Hill could all make the team due to their special team contributions. Plus the Eagles need depth anyway. Philadelphia could try to stash Gerry on injured reserve if he gets hurt this summer. The 2017 fifth-round pick is on the roster bubble.
Who could be a surprise cut?
Kendricks likely won’t be cut but there’s still the possibility he gets traded.
The Eagles could cut Goode if he doesn’t have a great summer and the young guys step up. I think he stays, though.
Gerry isn’t necessarily a lock to make the final roster despite being selected in the fifth round.