The Philadelphia Eagles reportedly signed Wisconsin linebacker T.J. Edwards as an undrafted free agent following the 2019 NFL Draft.
In order to learn more about Edwards, I reached out to SB Nation’s Wisconsin blog: Bucky’s 5th Quarter. Badgers writer Owen Riese (@RieseDraft) was kind enough to answer my questions.
1) Can you sum up what his college career was like?
T.J. Edwards was a four year starter at Wisconsin, but the first couple of seasons he was more of A name than THE name, if that makes sense. With guys like Jack Cichy, T.J. Watt, Vince Biegel and Joe Schobert around him, they garnered the attention from the media while Edwards would quietly go about his business, leading the team in tackles. However, in 2017 and 2018, Edwards made himself stand out by being extremely opportunistic and flying around making tackles. He ended up with 10 career interceptions, which is pretty impressive for a linebacker, and was often the guy to make the big play for the Badgers as his career went along. Over the past two seasons he’s really been the heart and soul of this Wisconsin defense, especially this past season, when he took his role as a leader very seriously, even being down on himself after games, feeling like he’d let teammates down by not having them prepared. Wisconsin’s team motto is “Smart, Tough, Dependable”, that is T.J. Edwards.
2) What are his strengths?
Edwards is at his best in the box stopping the run. I’ve often said, somewhat tongue-in-cheek that he’s 2019’s EJ Henderson. Crazy tackle numbers and a very tough, disciplined run defender in the box. Edwards’ ability to recognize and react are also impressive, as he displays his processing speed consistently, allowing himself to get to places where normally his athleticism wouldn’t allow him to get to. He’s also proven extremely effective as an underneath zone coverage linebacker, as I mentioned earlier with the interceptions. He’s going to be a special teams demon, as well.
3) What are his weaknesses?
You’ll notice I made sure to mention zone coverage specifically. He simply hasn’t been asked to cover backs out of the backfield and tight ends in-line in man coverage, and projecting from what his athleticism is, the forecast for that isn’t ideal. Honestly, that’s about my only gripe with Edwards’ game. He doesn’t miss tackles, he’s sound in his gap responsibilities, he’s been durable, and produced like crazy. However, that one blemish is a pretty relevant one moving forward to the next level. He doesn’t have long speed, and while he’s a good open field tackler, he’s never been asked to do much else in coverage than playing zone.
4) Are you surprised he went undrafted?
I am. While Wisconsin fans seem to struggle to take off the Cardinal and White colored glasses, I have been much lower on Edwards’ NFL prospects for a couple of years now. However, I was shocked he didn’t end up in Mobile for the Senior Bowl, and I was shocked he didn’t end up drafted. He seemed like the quintessential 6th-7th round draft pick to me. A “culture” fit if nothing else, and someone who was a sure thing late in the draft, a fairly uncommon entity in that stage of the draft.
5) How do you see his NFL career playing out?
While I don’t think T.J. has an overwhelming amount of upside, I think he’s going to scratch and claw and do everything he can to make himself very tough to cut. He just doesn’t really screw up. There are going to be situations that don’t favor him, but I think he’s going to stick somewhere, if not in Philadelphia, and have a nice 5-7 year career as a backup inside linebacker and special teams guy. I think he’ll end up at the Michael Kist [MIKE] linebacker spot, in an attempt to shrink the space he’ll be asked to defend.
6) Anything to know about him off the field?
T.J. is a really nice kid. He’s always been patient and courteous with the media, and I think you guys will enjoy covering him. He played QB in HS that’s a narrative college analysts used ad nauseum, if you’re into that kind of thing. I said the same thing about Ryan Connelly with the Giants’ SB Nation blog, but I’m going to sincerely miss watching T.J. Edwards play for Wisconsin. I hope he plays well enough for y’all to stick around in Philly and join his old teammate Corey Clement.
Pro Football Focus ranked Edwards as one of their top 10 undrafted free agent signings:
LB T.J. Edwards, Wisconsin – Philadelphia Eagles: Among off-ball linebackers in the 2019 class with 400-plus defensive snaps played this past season, Edwards ranked fifth in overall grade (90.8) and 12th in coverage grade (84.8). The flaws in his game stem from his burst to the ball and lackluster play recognition. His teammate Ryan Connelly, who went to the Giants in the fifth round of this year’s draft, blew Edwards out of the water in terms of instincts and play recognition – that likely steered many teams away. He’ll need to improve mentally to make up for an average change of direction and burst, but his size and experience should put him in a position to compete for a backup spot early.
Relative athletic score:
T.J. Edwards went undrafted in the 2019 draft class.— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 30, 2019
T.J. Edwards posted a V.Poor #RAS with Poor size, Poor speed, Poor explosiveness, Good agility at the LB position.#Eagles pic.twitter.com/23ZYH8BPEn