After being carted to the medical tent in yesterday’s practice, Mike Garafolo reported that Kamu Grugier-Hill had suffered a grade 3 MCL sprain and is expected to miss between 6-8 weeks. The good news is that the injury could’ve been a lot worse. The bad news is, the Eagles will still be without Grugier-Hill, who was not only primed to see an increase in defensive reps this year, but has led the team in special teams tackles in both of the last two seasons. The question now becomes, who’s the next man up?
The other thing to keep in mind right now is that Paul Worrilow is absent from practice due to a knee injury that could be linked with his ACL recovery. Depth at the position is light behind Nigel Bradham and Zach Brown, but that third role, at least for the opening few weeks of the season, seems firmly up for grabs.
Gerry’s development has gone solidly under the radar for too long. The Safety-turned-linebacker has been molding his game in the vein of Malcolm Jenkins after carving a reputation at Nebraska as a Safety who flies down inside the box with a thunderous motor. Let’s not forget he allowed a stunning 54.5 QB rating when targeted back in college.
Gerry isn’t going to be a sudden breakout linebacker who shines in coverage, but he is a player who can storm into the backfield and blow up the run, screen passes, and any kind of play designed to take advantage of open pockets of space. Gerry has put on an extra 20 pounds this offseason, bulking for a transition inside. But with KGH sidelined a shift back outside with a thicker frame may be exactly what the doctor ordered. Gerry will probably see a heavier role on special teams, but don’t be surprised to see the Eagles bringing him down on blitz packages or lining him up one-on-one against running backs, somewhat filling Grugier-Hill’s role but without the responsibilities of traveling sideline-to-sideline.
The CFL Defensive player of the year in 2017 is a name to watch moving forward following a really impressive training camp so far.
After going undrafted in 2015, the 6’2, 232 lbs, linebacker bounced around NFL practice squads before landing in Calgary, where in three seasons he recorded 311 tackles, 4 sacks, one interception, and forced six fumbles.
Named a CFL All-Star in both of his last two seasons, he was also given the CFL’s ‘Most Outstanding Defensive player’ in 2017, leading the league in tackles one year later.
Why is this important for the Eagles, especially now?
The CFL field being wide than an NFL field means that off-ball linebackers naturally have further to travel and with the nature of players being able to motion before the snap, the reliance on that sideline-to-sideline speed is even more important. He’s not as fast as KGH, but hits like a freight train and reads the game exceptionally quickly, as evidenced in both Grey Cup appearances.
The other area KGH, of course, stands out is on special teams…an area where Singleton has 29 tackles in 2 years. 29.
Singleton may not emerge as a three-down backer, but the beauty of nickel packages is that he doesn’t have to be. But if he can take the zone coverage responsibilities away while Gerry handles man and blitz looks, it’s a combination that could negate the loss.
Finally, there’s former Steelers linebacker L.J Fort who joined the Eagles this offseason. The 29-year old was signed by the Steelers during the 2014 offseason after spending time with the Browns, Seahawks and Bengals. It took a while for Fort to become a prominent figure on the Steelers defense, but he recorded a career-high 48 tackles, garnering the first two starts of his career, including a dominant week 17 showing against his former team, Cincinnati. Alongside recovering a fumble recovery for a touchdown in week 5, he amassed a career-high 12 tackles in the team’s week 13 loss to the Chargers.
Fort has been a perennial special teamer throughout his career and will bolster Dave Fipp’s renowned unit. He played in 72.5% of the Steelers’ special teams snaps last year, more than any linebacker on the team. That in itself will stand out to the Eagles here, who will need someone to step up. It may be that Fort takes special teams snaps and is the reserve WILL linebacker, while Gerry and
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