No one is exactly calling Kyzir White, T.J. Edwards and Haason Reddick the next coming of John Bunting, Frank LeMaster, Bill Bergey and Jerry Robinson, or Seth Joyner, Byron Evans, and William Thomas, but it seems, after decades, the Eagles finally have a linebacking corps of game-changing playmakers.
Hopefully, Kyzir White’s interception against the New York Jets in what was nothing more than a lively scrimmage against a bad team on Friday is a precursor of what it is to come this season.
White, Edwards, who by all indications is having a great training camp, and Reddick all seem capable of being more than what the Eagles have had at the second level since Joyner, Evans, and Thomas.
What makes this linebacking corps that much more intriguing is the depth. After the starting three, Nakobe Dean, Shaun Bradley, and Davion Taylor, returning from surgery to repair a torn MCL in his knee last November, add a solid back-up nucleus, giving the Eagles great flexibility on special teams and the ability to provide breathers for the starters.
Dean, Bradley, and Taylor have not reached the stage where they’re interchangeable with White, Edwards and Reddick, though some experience and continued health could get them there. They’ve shown flashes.
With Dean, it seems, it’s a matter of reps and becoming more comfortable with the defense. The same could be said for Taylor, who’s been rehabbing for nine months and is entering his third year as a pro.
The Eagles liked his athleticism coming out of Colorado in 2020, though he had very little football experience since he played in one high school game. Bradley, too, has shown glimpses of what he’s able to do on special teams.
The starting three appears set.
In Edwards and White, the Eagles will have two speedy linebackers that can peel off into coverage, which shown against the Jets. In Reddick, they have a proven edge rusher who can bend back the pocket.
Of the top six, the question is Dean, who was second on the team with five tackles, four solo, against the Jets. More importantly, it appears Dean can make defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon’s calls. Dean admits that he’s still learning, and he says he’s getting there.
All of this bodes well for a team that has had a miserable recent history at the linebacker position, mostly due to an organizational philosophical neglect.
Maybe the Eagles have finally realized after so many Alex Singletons and Nathan Gerrys, linebackers are vital to a defense.
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who has written feature stories for SI.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com, MLB.com, Deadspin and The Philadelphia Daily News. In 2006, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for a special project piece for ESPN.com called “Love at First Beep.” He is most noted for his award-winning ESPN.com feature on high school wrestler A.J. Detwiler in February 2006, which appeared on SportsCenter. In 2015, he was elected president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.