The Eagles made a slightly surprising move yesterday in releasing LB Zach Brown. The 29-year old notably took shots at Kirk Cousins just days before being completely embarrassed by Minnesota’s ‘weak link’. His contract was only worth $1.5M, so it’s no big loss if the Eagles feel comfortable fielding other linebackers in his place who won’t be a PR headache…but that’s the tricky bit.
Brown sat third in total-team tackles, so the Eagles were absolutely getting their money’s worth. He also played in 277 snaps through six weeks, the tenth most on the team. The solid run-defender leaves a big void to fill and the Eagles have some roster flexibility. But is there anyone in-house who can immediately step in?
Obviously, with Nigel Bradham also injured, this has to be a vote of confidence in Nate Gerry and Kamu Grugier-Hill. Gerry leads the team in interceptions and is finally beginning to show real signs of development, while KGH’ has led the team in special teams tackles in back-to-back seasons now and has been eased back into the fray.
His snap % has gone from 16, to 34, to 49, since his return and we can expect that to rise. But there are three other linebackers who could see a larger role.
Riley was acquired in the trade that sent Jonathan Cyprien to Atlanta a little over two weeks ago. The 25-year old is a former third-round pick out of LSU who has plenty of special teams experience. He played in 78 ST snaps prior to the trade and has already appeared in a further 49 for the Eagles.
Losing L.J Fort obviously stung, but instead of poaching a free agent linebacker, the Eagles acquired someone with a proven track-record, giving up an excess DB in exchange.
Riley had 16 starts in 32 games prior to becoming an Eagle, and 81 tackles in that span. He tallied a stunning 12 tackles against the Saints last season and has a high upside as someone that can contribute in this defense. He may be the first in line to see some defensive action as a result.
One of this year’s preseason standouts, Edwards currently has a spot on the 53-man roster. The UDFA is a two-time All-Big 10 honoree, and a four-year starter with 367 tackles, 37.5 tackles for loss, 8 sacks, 10 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, and an All-American title.
Over the course of 3 preseason games, T.J. Edwards ranked as the 10th best rookie during preseason, per PFF. He might be athletically limited, but he delivers secure tackling and a very high Football IQ, which may be why the Eagles paid him so handsomely.
Edwards tallied 10 tackles and one for a loss in the preseason finale against the Jets, setting the bar to raise if he does get his first taste of defensive action.
If he does see time on defense, it should be at the MIKE spot. He doesn’t have the range or speed to go sideline-to-sideline and combat curl/flat responsibilities, but his tackling, processing and positioning could come in handy during situations where Bradham is absent.
The man going toe-to-toe with Edwards all preseason long may be in-line to once more. 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.
In preseason, Singleton was far more visible than Edwards on special teams, which may give him the inside-track to some extra snaps if he’s called up from the practice squad.
On defense, he one-upped Edwards in an enthralling finale, too. Singleton finished that game with 15 tackles and a fumble recovery.
Whether or not he gets called up will likely come down to how comfortable the team feel with all the names (including KGH and Gerry) on this list, but ultimately if they’re not, they’ll likely seek outside help as opposed to bringing someone up with a lack of NFL experience. If depth remains light but the Eagles are comfortable with what they have, that’s when the former Stampeder may get his chance.
Mandatory Photo Credit: Ryan Kang via AP