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Taking stock of the Eagles’ linebacker corps heading into training camp

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Eagles training camp position preview: Linebacker.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles-Minicamp Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Eagles training camp is almost here. Players report to the NovaCare Complex on Wednesday, July 24. 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 position. Previously: Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | Offensive line | Defensive end | Defensive tackle.

The players

NIGEL BRADHAM

With Jordan Hicks gone, Bradham could be the favorite to replace him in the middle of the defense. We know Bradham can handle this role based on how he’s had to fill in for the oft-injured Hicks over the past two years.

After an up and down 2018 season, the Eagles will be hoping to get more consistency out of Bradham in 2019. It remains to be seen if that’ll be the case. Bradham turns 30 in September and he missed all of OTAs/minicamp with what’s believed to be the thumb injury he played through last season. Maybe being healthy will make a difference.

ZACH BROWN

The Eagles signed Brown about a week after the 2019 NFL Draft. At the time, Brown had been on the market ever since Washington released him back in March.

The signing brought some intrigue since Brown has had good flashes in the past. Film junkie Doug Farrar recently ranked Brown as the sixth best linebacker in the league. Pro Football Focus, meanwhile, had Brown graded as their third best off-ball linebacker last season.

But if Brown is so good, why did Washington cut him?

One could suggest that Washington doesn’t know what they’re doing, which certainly isn’t baseless. Still, it’s not like Brown was a super hot commodity once he became available. There’s some thought that he isn’t always the most assignment-sound player (see: freelancing). He also doesn’t have experience calling the defense as a middle linebacker usually does. Brown is not unlike Mychal Kendricks in these last two respects.

In any case, it seems like Brown will end up playing a good deal next to Bradham. The Eagles really only use two linebackers most of the time since they’d rather get extra defensive backs on the field as opposed to their base defense.

Then again, Brown wasn’t running with the first team in spring drills. Maybe the coaching staff was just getting him up to speed with the backups before he moves into the starting lineup.

From afar, I always thought Brown looked good when I watched Washington’s defense play. I’ll be interested to see if that’s the case for the Eagles as well.

KAMU GRUGIER-HILL

Obligatory: Kaaaaamuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu!

Grugier-Hill emerged as a mere backup/special teams contributor last year to become the Eagles’ WILL linebacker. He only played about a third of the team’s total defensive snaps since, again, the Eagles don’t often use their base defense. Still, he showed the making of a solid defensive role player. Grugier-Hill also led the team in special teams tackles for the second year in a row. That’s fitting since he was named the Eagles’ special teams captain ahead of 2018. I’d expect Grugier-Hill, who took most of the first team reps along Gerry in spring drills, to pick up where he left off last year. It’s an important season for Kamu since he’ll be a free agent in March 2020.

NATHAN GERRY

One might think Gerry would be on the roster bubble at this stage in his career. The 2017 fifth-round pick has contributed on special teams but he’s failed to stand out as a defender. Despite this, Gerry’s status seems relatively safe heading into Year 3. The 24-year-old took a lot of first team reps in spring practices. Now, yes, Bradham was out ... but Gerry was still ahead of Brown on the depth chart. In addition to this, Eagles linebacker coach Ken Flajole was raving about Gerry during a media session. Flajole allegedly said something along the lines of: “It feels like [Gerry] knows more than I do.”

Gerry has now had over two full years to transition from playing safety to linebacker. Maybe he takes some kind of step forward in Year 3? I’ll believe it when I see it ... but I do think he makes the roster.

L.J. FORT

The Eagles signed Fort shortly after free agency began back in March; Howie Roseman specifically said Fort was a “target free agent” for the team. Fort, who largely ran with the second team defense during spring practices, offers versatility and experience at the linebacker position. He should also be a key contributor on special teams ... assuming he makes the roster (more on that later).

PAUL WORRILOW

Worrilow is back after missing the entire 2018 season with an ACL injury. Not unlike Fort, Worrilow offers versatility, experience, and special teams contributions. He’ll be in the mix to compete for a roster spot.

T.J. EDWARDS

Edwards is arguably the Eagles’ undrafted free agent signing with the best chance to make the 53-man roster. Many thought Edwards would be selected in the 2019 NFL Draft and he notably flashed during Philadelphia’s spring practices. Now we’ll get to see how Edwards looks when the pads go on. He should at least make a strong case for being on the practice squad.

ALEX SINGLETON

One of the more interesting long shots to keep an eye on this summer. Singleton earned the Eagles’ attention by being a tackling machine in the Canadian Football League. He’s earned some praise from the coaching staff this offseason.

JOEY ALFIERI

Can’t see this undrafted rookie free agent out of Stanford being more than a camp body.

How will it play out?

Barring injury, Bradham and Brown should lead all Eagles linebacker in snaps played. Grugier-Hill seems bound to resume his weakside linebacker role in addition to being a special teams ace. Beyond that, it seems like there are fourth, fifth, and/or sixth spots up for grabs. The coaching staff likes Gerry. The front office seems to like Fort. Worrilow is going to try to push for a roster spot, as is the rookie Edwards. Training camp and preseason game performances could determine who makes the final cut.

Overall, I think the Eagles have enough at linebacker to at least get by. Bradham rebounding would be nice. Brown being as good as advertised would be exciting. We’ll see if it shakes out that way. I’m kind of in wait-and-see mode with this spot; there’s some uncertainty here.

Who could be a surprise cut?

There’s been some thought that the Eagles might cut Fort (or veteran safety Andrew Sendejo) to preserve a 2020 fourth-round compensatory pick. That seems a little hard to believe, though, given what Roseman has said about Fort. Not to mention how the Eagles gave Fort $1.9 million guaranteed. Trading Fort is more financially realistic since it’d clear $1.11 million in cap space with $291,666 in dead money. Is anyone trading for Fort, though? Well, maybe. He did reportedly have multiple suitors earlier this year. Trading Fort for even just a 2020 seventh-round pick would really be like trading him for a seventh AND a fourth because of the comp pick considerations. Would you trade a backup linebacker for a fourth and a seventh?

Cutting Brown would create more dead money ($1.4 million) than cap savings ($1.1 million). Trading Brown, however, would save $2.1 million while only creating $400,000 in dead money. I don’t think the Eagles will be trading Brown and I don’t think teams will be lining up to trade for a player who sat on the free agent market until early May. But if the Eagles are feeling good about their linebacker situation and some desperate team comes calling ... it’s not impossible. Just unlikely.

Poll

On a scale of 1-5, what’s your confidence level in the Eagles’ linebacker position? (5 being the most.)

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    5
    (56 votes)
  • 37%
    4
    (532 votes)
  • 51%
    3
    (722 votes)
  • 6%
    2
    (93 votes)
  • 0%
    1
    (7 votes)
1410 votes total Vote Now