After the string of trade backs, the Eagles were able to push their original sixth round pick into the bottom of the fifth round, and in doing so, selected Nebraska Safety/Linebacker, Nate Gerry.
After being named third-team All-Big Ten in 2016, with 68 tackles, four picks and eight pass breakups, Gerry looked set to compete at the next level. His 6’2, 218 lbs, frame certainly fits the prototype and his ball skills only add to the value of this pick. So, as with all of our instant analysis pieces so far..it’s time to ask, what does this mean for the Eagles?
The Eagles Safety spot is all but cemented for the foreseeable future, with Maclolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod anchoring down the position, but with Jaylen Watkins only bought back on a short-term extension, building for the future is certainly worth bearing in mind, with Safety being among the more “veteran” positions on the roster. In the case of a surprise trade or an injury, Gerry gives the Eagles some flexibility at the position.
What you notice most about Gerry, are his ball skills..and his drive to get down and dirty wherever possible. From his 13 career interceptions, to his 5.5 tackles for a loss in 2016, Gerry is everything you want in a Safety, and bears the same raw traits as a certain Malcolm Jenkins. His willingness to make a big hit, charge downhill and get involved with the run game, and adapt in slot coverage situations make him a great fit for the tenacious Jim Schwartz Defense.
As mentioned above, the strong-safety is far from a reliability when playing in zonal looks or working out of the slot. He isn’t the cleanest defensive back in terms of body movement, nor is he the most fluid..but his great instincts could see him play in a slot role if needed. With Patrick Robinson, Jalen Mills and arguably Rasul Douglas the current favorites for that spot, it never hurts to add some flexible depth.
It’s worth noting that the Eagles also drafted a Safety in the sixth round (although this pick was bumped up) last year, in Blake Countess. The team love finding value in the later rounds, especially for players who are willing to grind it out on special teams units. As a backup to the safety spot, Gerry has the raw potential to come in and contribute on the prestigious Eagles special teams unit..something they have seemed to focus on extremely prominently with their last three picks.
The Hidden weapon:
While the pick was announced as a Safety, the Eagles were very quick to correct what was shown on television and state that Gerry was drafted as a linebacker. This speaks volumes about how he could be used as an in-the-box weapon under Jim Schwartz. In a very Jabrill Pepers esque’ role, Gerry has the frame, skill set and aggression to play as a coverage linebacker when needed, charge down into the run game..or simply sit back as a Safety. He may be the Eagles most versatile defensive weapon drafted in this years class..and that brings with it a LOT of excitement.
Two birds with one stone:
It’s no secret that the Eagles need some linebacker depth. Behind Hicks and Bradham, only the often shopped Mychal Kendricks, and Joe Walker sit as backups to the spots. This alone forced the Eagles to run with a nickel formation more often than not, due to Jenkins offering far more efficiency in coverage than the pass rush specialist, Mychal Kendricks. Bringing in a Safety who can play in either position and potentially develop into that “Peppers” type role, gives the Eagles depth at Safety..but also finally bolsters a linebacker unit in desperate need of a third face.
Mandatory Credit: Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports