After losing starting linebackers TJ Edwards and Kyzir White, I was anxious to see who the Eagles brought in. Nicholas Morrow has had an interesting career path up to this point and I enjoyed watching him for this piece. He’s quite a fun player! He is number 53 in all clips below.
The first number that stood out to me is the snaps played last year. Availability is a talent in itself and at a position like linebacker, it is important to have someone durable who can stay on the field at all times to help lead the defense. The rest of the numbers are not great overall, which probably tells the story as to why the Bears moved on from Morrow.
+ Played both MIKE and WILL last year. Played 99% of the snaps which shows he was trusted on all downs and was always available.
+ You can immediately see he is fast. His former safety background is obvious in his acceleration and movement skills. He can cover ground quickly and can get to short/screen passes quickly.
Look at the acceleration on this play He has the speed to be really useful against any type of screen or short pass in the backfield. He flies around the field and you notice his speed on film. pic.twitter.com/HO2QTfQLim— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) March 29, 2023
+ He was much better at taking on blocks than I expected him to be considering his size. He’s able to get off blocks and make plays in the backfield.
Nick Morrow thread! He is number 53. He's undersized but he can take on offensive lineman and get off blocks to get to the ball carrier. He's versatile and is probably suited to the WILL but he can also play the MIKE as he shows here. pic.twitter.com/0pRCHDtJat— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) March 29, 2023
But, he can get off blocks too as I said earlier. He does a fantastic job getting off. Look at the strength he has here to shove the offensive guard off him and make the tackle. This is the stuff I wanted to see from him when I saw his weight. pic.twitter.com/Fh3cU0vUYn— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) March 29, 2023
+ I know the data says the opposite, but I thought he was a pretty sure tackler in the games I watched. I have some thoughts on this later.
+ He looks like a pretty strong dude. He’s undersized but you will see offensive players (including Jalen Hurts!) bounce back off him and not gain any extra yards by falling forward.
Let's end on a high. He was fantastic against the Eagles, which is a really positive sign. Look at him disengage from Stoll here easily and completely stonewall Jalen Hurts. This shows a lot of strength because you rarely see Hurts bounce backwards after a hit like this. pic.twitter.com/oJF43BPOvE— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) March 29, 2023
+ He has the quickness and change of direction skills to avoid offensive linemen and still get to the running back.
However, he also has the instincts and speed to avoid offensive lineman if possible. As an undersized player he does want to stay clean if possible and he's pretty good at avoiding blocks in the first place. He makes a lot of tackles in the run game with plays like this. pic.twitter.com/MSY3K1RcG6— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) March 29, 2023
This was one of my favourite plays. It's not easy to have the speed and athleticism to run around a tight end and still be able to get back to the running back and make the tackle. A lot of linebackers will end up running past the ball carrier as they can't redirect this quickly. pic.twitter.com/NBnZsxblr1— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) March 29, 2023
Here's another good example of him using his speed and acceleration to avoid the offensive lineman. He reads this play quickly and gets to the running back quickly. I thought he was pretty good overall against the run. pic.twitter.com/Ybsh1Q8a3b— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) March 29, 2023
+ He was trusted to carry receivers/tight ends down the seam (often in Tampa 2) and he looks athletic enough to do this comfortably.
This is a good sign of his athleticism and speed. The Bears trusted him to be the deep zone defender in Tampa 2 quite a few times and he looked pretty comfortable dropping into the middle of the field. This is always a really tough ask for a linebacker, especially against a WR. pic.twitter.com/FSBZJD2yxc— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) March 29, 2023
+ He was fantastic against the Eagles last year, who were an elite offense with an elite running game. He was a key reason the Eagles averaged under 4 yards a carry.
- Chicago chose to prioritize other free agents (including TJ Edwards) over Morrow at linebacker which highlights that they have concerns and think he needed replacing.
- I didn’t see the obvious issue with missed tackles that the PFF data shows. But he does have an issue with taking bad angles and not getting good contact on players, which obviously still counts as a missed tackle.
He had a high missed tackle % but I don't think tackling technique was the issue actually. He wraps up pretty well overall. I thought the issue was the angles he takes sometimes causes a missed tackle. He does fly around the field so it's not surprising you see plays like this pic.twitter.com/oGJc126gCg— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) March 29, 2023
- He can be quite aggressive in zone coverage which means he can be moved by a quarterback's eyes. I noticed this a few times on film and teams seemed to run a lot of Hi-Lo concepts to target him.
I also noticed he was quite aggressive in zone coverage and can definitely get targeted when in zone. I saw a few Hi-Lo reads where he jumped on the shallow route and the ball went over his head. His instincts in zone are not the best. pic.twitter.com/LT6WpMqBkr— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) March 29, 2023
You can see his aggressiveness being used against him with play-action here too. He's slow to get to his drop which allows Jefferson to find a ton of room in behind him. pic.twitter.com/SMmyYfaSAV— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) March 29, 2023
- Showed a lack of awareness when in zone coverage to receivers behind or around him at times.
Despite the speed, as I mentioned earlier, there were a few other examples where I'd like him to be a bit more aware of what's around him in zone coverage and try to make things harder for the QB. He's moved by the QB's eyes here, despite having no-one around him. pic.twitter.com/h3G1v1SHbb— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) March 29, 2023
- His size shows at times, especially in the open field. He has plays where he gets moved like a defensive back, not like a linebacker, and ends up on the ground.
I've said this a lot already but you can see he is undersized quite a lot on film. Sometimes he gets moved and he looks like a defensive back, not a linebacker. He ends up on the ground a bit too often for my liking at times. pic.twitter.com/88M5st7utc— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) March 29, 2023
In that exact same game he showed strength too, he also got moved like this. I know it's just one play but you don't really want your linebacker getting moved in this way too often. When he's off balance he doesn't have the weight to put up much of a fight against a lineman. pic.twitter.com/BNzixGGIvG— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) March 29, 2023
I’ll probably end up being horribly wrong when he gets cut in training camp but I quite liked Morrow’s film. TJ Edwards is a better player and Morrow is unlikely to be anything special, but I think he’s a pretty good linebacker who has some decent traits.
I do have a few concerns about the Nakobe Dean and Morrow partnership if they end up starting together. In theory, having two really fast and undersized linebackers is perfect for the modern NFL and will help the Eagles’ defense against the pass. But, they are also going to have to rely on the defensive line (especially Jordan Davis) to plug some gaps and keep them as clean against the run as possible or the Eagles will come across as pretty lightweight in the box. I imagine teams who want to ‘establish the run’ with a power-heavy run game will look to test out Morrow and Dean a lot next year. Having a good run defense is a lot more complicated than having good linebackers but that of course does make a big difference.
Despite this, if Nakobe Dean develops as we hope and becomes a good starting linebacker, I think the Dean and Morrow partnership could be a pretty decent one. We know the Eagles do not value the linebacker position as a premium position and they were not going to bring back TJ Edwards due to his price, but I think Morrow can replace Kyzir White’s role in the defense and the Eagles may have saved themselves some money without losing too much production.
We just have to accept that Howie is going to rely on a lot of stopgaps at linebacker, and I think (and hope) Morrow will be able to be an average starter and not end up like Eric Wilson, Zach Brown, or ‘insert failed Eagles linebacker here’. I’m cautiously optimistic about Morrow, despite the very low cap number. I think if he is asked to start he will do a good enough job for the Eagles next season. But the Eagles are going to have to rely on Nakobe Dean to take a huge step forward, or the linebacker room will take a pretty big step back.