With Eagles turning to ‘the next man up’, is Nate Gerry primed for a breakout?

Who could forget the story of the 2018 season in Philadelphia? A decimated secondary, the rise of underdogs, and another playoff upset. The Eagles went on a late surge, sending shockwaves through the NFL and did so without a single starting member of their secondary. You could say that after breakouts from Rasul Douglas and Cre’Von LeBlanc, that the Birds are used to leaning on the ‘next man up’, and Nate Gerry is waiting in the wings.

Kamu Grugier-Hill suffered a grade-3 MCL sprain and will be out for a window of 6-8 weeks. This stings massively, but it’s not the end of the world. The Eagles should be able to get through the opening two games without the young linebacker, especially if Gerry can step up in his place.

Playing in 59% of special teams snaps and 12% of defensive snaps last year, Gerry has started to develop nicely in the vein of Malcolm Jenkins. The former Nebraska Safety has bulked out this offseason which should only aid that growth, but even that isn’t new. Gerry won the team’s offseason award for weightlifting and conditioning one year ago, after adding 15 pounds, going from 215 lbs to 230 lbs. While he may be more physical and dependable to get off blocks than ever, let’s not forget his ballhawking skillset as a former Safety.

WIth 23 tackles and a pick in his second season, Gerry not only saw more action, but showed more prowess off the ball and in coverage. An area that will become fundamental in camp and beyond now.

Entering the 2017 draft, Gerry was Pro Football Focus’ second-rated overall safety behind only first-round pick Jamal Adams. He also received a 90.7 coverage grade (2nd best among draft-eligible safeties), and was the 3rd best run-stopping safety in FBS. Three years removed from those eye-popping stats, and the Eagles are seeing the fruits of their labor.

“We won some important games down the stretch last year with [LB] Nate [Nathan] Gerry as a starting linebacker for us.” Jim Schwartz explained. “So we’re certainly confident putting him in games, and he has confidence in himself. One thing about him is you know he’ll be ready.

But, yeah, short-term cost of having injured guys or having injured guys out and playing inexperienced guys, there are some start-up costs to that. But once you make it past that you’re able to gain from their experience.

From Nate’s case, Nate played a lot of snaps for us in the opener last year when [LB] Nigel [Bradham] wasn’t available. And then when [former Eagles LB and current Cardinals LB] Jordan [Hicks] got injured down the line, played some really important snaps.

So I don’t know how much — we haven’t paid that much of a price for him being on the field. He’s helped us win. He’s made some big plays. Like I said, he was a key part of the winning those games down the stretch that was able to get us to the playoffs.”

The Eagles have become renowned for developing young talent in recent years, or acquiring talent that is stacked with potential. This can even be echoed by the fact that three players waived by the Eagles in the last week were poached by other teams within a day.

Gerry is a former-fifth round pick who has seen progressively more playing time in each of his first two years. With the versatility to play just about anywhere in, above, or even to the side of the box, Gerry is in line to see a ‘bulk’ of playing time in KGH’s absence. But is he ready for the test? All signs are pointing towards a player on the edge of fighting for a much bigger share of the cake than we maybe anticipate.

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