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What the Eagles should do at linebacker

Eagles roster outlook: position-by-position.

Washington Football Team v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Today we continue our Philadelphia Eagles roster outlook series by examining the linebacker position. Previously: Defensive end | Defensive tackle.

THE PLAYERS

ALEX SINGLETON

STATS: 748 defensive snaps, 298 special teams snaps, 120 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 pass defensed, 1 interception, 1 defensive TD

REVIEW: Singleton played sparingly before taking over as a full-time starter in Week 6. He never looked back from there, proving to be a tackling machine in the NFL just like he was in the CFL. Singleton finished 15th in tackles in 2020 and he might’ve led the league if he started the entire season.

OUTLOOK: Singleton is an exclusive-rights free agent this offseason, which means the Eagles will offer him a minimum contract and he’ll have to take it. Singleton offers some level of competency to an Eagles linebacker corps that sorely lacks as much. He’s no spring chicken considering he turns 28 this year and he has some limitations in coverage. But he deserves to have some kind of role in the defense in addition to contributing on special teams.

MY TAKE: Stay.

Poll

Alex Singleton: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 98%
    Stay
    (3530 votes)
  • 1%
    Go
    (67 votes)
3597 votes total Vote Now

DUKE RILEY

STATS: 569 defensive snaps, 255 special teams snaps, 55 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 1 pass defensed, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble

REVIEW: After mostly playing on special teams in 2019, Riley saw an expanded defensive role in 2020. He certainly didn’t prove himself as a good starter, grading out below average in coverage and missing 12 tackles. According to Pro Football Focus, Riley had the third-worst tackling efficiency in the NFL last year.

OUTLOOK: Riley will be a free agent this offseason. If the Eagles want to bring him back on a minimum deal to compete for a roster spot, that could be OK. He seems to be a good locker room guy with the energy he brings and he can contribute on special teams in addition to providing linebacker depth. But not an ideal starter. Wonder how Jonathan Gannon will value his skill-set.

MY TAKE: Go.

Poll

Duke Riley: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 26%
    Stay
    (830 votes)
  • 73%
    Go
    (2292 votes)
3122 votes total Vote Now

T.J. EDWARDS

STATS: 490 defensive snaps, 257 special teams snaps, 70 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 pass defensed, 1 interception, 2 forced fumbles

REVIEW: Edwards was mostly used as a run defender as a rookie in 2019. His defensive role expanded in 2020. Edwards wasn’t anything remarkable but he wasn’t as bad as some of his peers were.

OUTLOOK: Edwards is never going to be a standout coverage guy due to his athletic limitations. But he has a role on this team as a defensive role player and special teams guy.

MY TAKE: Stay.

Poll

T.J. Edwards: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 86%
    Stay
    (2664 votes)
  • 13%
    Go
    (429 votes)
3093 votes total Vote Now

NATHAN GERRY

STATS: 479 defensive snaps, 62 special teams snaps, 57 tackles, 1 sack, 2 passes defensed

REVIEW: Gerry was the poster child for the Eagles’ linebacker struggles in 2020. He got absolutely eaten alive in coverage, allowing four touchdowns and a 146.4 passer rating when targeted. Everyone will remember Gerry getting toasted by Chase Claypool in Pittsburgh, which wasn’t entirely his fault, but still. Gerry was seemingly stealth-benched with the Eagles unexpectedly putting him on injured reserve in October and never activating him the rest of the season.

OUTLOOK: Despite his apparent struggles, Jim Schwartz and Ken Flajole always spoke highly of Gerry. But they’re no longer part of Philly’s coaching staff. Gerry might opt for a fresh start with a new team in free agency. The Eagles obviously won’t be giving him any kind of gaudy contract.

MY TAKE: Go.

Poll

Nathan Gerry: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    Stay
    (190 votes)
  • 94%
    Go
    (3045 votes)
3235 votes total Vote Now

SHAUN BRADLEY

STATS: 76 defensive snaps, 284 special teams snaps, 15 tackles

REVIEW: In a very small sample size, Bradley graded out well in run defense but poorly in pass coverage. The rookie from Temple showed occasional flashes of promise, though not enough to earn serious playing time.

OUTLOOK: Bradley will have to earn his spot on the 2021 roster with a good offseason. With the position unsettled, there’s a chance he could push for playing time.

MY TAKE: Stay.

Poll

Shaun Bradley: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 84%
    Stay
    (2417 votes)
  • 15%
    Go
    (456 votes)
2873 votes total Vote Now

DAVION TAYLOR

STATS: 32 defensive snaps, 178 special teams snaps, 10 tackles

REVIEW: Taylor graded out as PFF’s third-worst linebacker in 2020 (182nd out of 184 players). He looked lost out there, which wasn’t totally surprising given his lack of football experience.

OUTLOOK: Taylor is only 22 and he seems to have a good attitude so maybe there’s hope he can develop into a good player. But that’s far from a given. He has a long way to go and there’s a reasonable chance the 2020 third-round pick will never amount to much in the NFL. The Eagles will probably keep him around longer than they should to try to see if he can develop into anything. Taylor needs to show some kind of progress this offseason.

MY TAKE: Stay.

Poll

Davion Taylor: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 78%
    Stay
    (2223 votes)
  • 21%
    Go
    (605 votes)
2828 votes total Vote Now

RASHAD SMITH

STATS: 23 defensive snaps, 12 special teams snaps, 3 tackles

REVIEW: The Eagles added Smith, a 2020 undrafted rookie free agent, to their practice squad during the season. He saw some limited playing time.

OUTLOOK: Smith has some athletic ability. Maybe he’ll stand out in offseason practices. He’ll need to do so in order to have a chance to make the team.

MY TAKE: Go.

Poll

Rashad Smith: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 21%
    Stay
    (481 votes)
  • 78%
    Go
    (1738 votes)
2219 votes total Vote Now

JOE BACHIE

STATS: 18 defensive snaps, 56 special teams snaps, 2 tackles

REVIEW: The Eagles signed Bachie off the Saints’ practice squad ahead of their game against New Orleans. And it totally paid off since they beat Sean Payton! Seriously, though, Bachie didn’t play all that much.

OUTLOOK: Bachie will have a chance to compete for a spot on the 2021 roster. Probably a deep backup and special teams contributor at best.

MY TAKE: Go.

Poll

Joe Bachie: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 17%
    Stay
    (360 votes)
  • 82%
    Go
    (1744 votes)
2104 votes total Vote Now

FREE AGENCY OR TRADES

Not sure if the Eagles will be able to afford him but Colts linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. is a name to watch due to his familiarity with Philly’s new defensive coordinator. The Eagles are going to have to add some kind of veteran body or two if they’re letting both Riley and Gerry walk. Otherwise, they’re counting on Singleton and Edwards as their starters again.

NFL DRAFT APPROACH

I’ll bet you any amount of money the Eagles aren’t drafting Micah Parsons at No. 6. It’s just not happening. The organization clearly doesn’t value this position like that. There’s a case for them to draft one at any point after the first round. Gannon might be looking for his version of Darius Leonard, who was a high second-round pick a few years ago.