Philadelphia Eagles training camp is right around the corner! Players are scheduled to report to the NovaCare Complex on July 27. 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.
ERIC WILSON, ALEX SINGLETON, T.J. EDWARDS, SHAUN BRADLEY, DAVION TAYLOR, JACOBY STEVENS, RASHAD SMITH
Wilson was an intriguing signing; the 26-year-old is coming off his first season as a full-time starter. He sure filled the stat sheet with 122 tackles, nine quarterback hits, eight passes defensed, three interceptions, three sacks, two fumble recoveries, and one forced fumble. Then again, his production came while playing for an uncharacteristically bad Vikings defense and Minnesota didn’t exactly make a big effort to retain him. Wilson very well might continue to ascend in Philly. He has a reputation for being strong in pass coverage, allowing just a 74.3 passer rating when targeted last year. But there are concerns about his tackling efficiency after 17 missed attempts in 2020. It’d be nice to see Wilson flash some playmaking ability in practices and/or preseason games.
Singleton might be the new Greg Ward in that he’s being overvalued because he offered mere competency at a spot where the Eagles were really struggling. He’s also the anti-Wilson in that there are concerns about his coverage abilities (102.8 passer rating when targeted last year) but is a tackling machine. Maybe Jonathan Gannon can find a way to play to his players’ strengths.
As a limited athlete, Edwards fits more of the Singleton mold. The former UDFA signing has mostly been a role player and special teams contributor to this point. Will that change under the new coaching staff? Maybe. We’ll see if he can earn more playing time.
Bradley had a decent training camp last year and he also flashed in some limited playing time on defense. Maybe there’s something here with this guy. Good under-the-radar player to watch this summer.
Taylor predictably struggled as an especially inexperienced rookie. He needs to take some kind of step forward this season, even if he’s just limited to being a good special teams player.
Stevens is making the transition to linebacker after being listed as a safety at LSU. The 2021 sixth-round pick isn’t guaranteed a roster spot. He’ll need to show why he deserves to be on this roster.
Smith is a long shot to stick around as he enters his first camp with Philly. Might max out at making the practice squad.
GENARD AVERY, JOE OSTMAN, PATRICK JOHNSON
I created a separate category for these three players who are essentially undersized edge rushers. Based on some early indications, it looks like Jonathan Gannon could have them playing some kind of Anthony Barr role.
Avery had a bad training camp last year but made the team anyway in part because the front office didn’t want to give up on him after trading a 2021 fourth-round pick for him. Avery justified his roster spot with a strong showing against the 49ers before disappearing the rest of the season. It’s very possible the new coaching staff might trust him a lot more than the previous one did. Avery switching from traditional 4-3 defensive end to a situational linebacker role might also help his case.
Ostman, like Avery, was seen working out with the linebacker position group in OTAs. He’ll compete for a roster spot as he transitions to a new role.
The Eagles’ final pick in the 2021 NFL Draft could have his work cut out for him when it comes to making the team. It’ll be interesting to see if Johnson can flash at all this summer.
HOW WILL IT PLAY OUT?
Wilson and Singleton seem like the favorites to start, though Edwards could be in the mix there. At least one, if not two, from the pass-rushing group should make the final 53. Overall, it’s hardly the most inspiring linebacker corps in the league. The realistic hope is that it can be passable.
WHO COULD BE A SURPRISE CUT?
Taylor could be gone after just one year with the Eagles if he still looks totally lost this summer. Stevens might not make the team. Avery getting cut shouldn’t be a shock but would be noteworthy.