Why the Eagles have to start valuing the linebacker position


“Eagles don’t value LBs”. While all things point to that statement being true, it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t change. The Eagles linebacking corps may actually be among the worst in the NFL and it’s being picked on by opposing offenses as a result.

League leaders…in missed tackles

Pro Football Focus measured missed tackles in ratios to number of tackle attempts, hence avoiding over-exposing missed tackles among LBs that tackle a lot. In their measurements, Eagles LBs ranks as follows:

  • Nate Gerry: 15 missed tackles, 4.8 tackle attempts per missed tackle (ranks 4th worst of NFL LBs)
  • Nigel Bradham: 8 missed tackles, 6.3 tackle attempts per missed tackle (ranks 17th worst of NFL LBs)
  • Kamu Grugier-Hill: 8 missed tackles, 3.9 tackle attempts per missed tackle (ranks 2nd worst among NFL LBs)
  • T.J. Edwards: 0 missed tackles (tied first among NFL LBs, note only 93 snaps).

For a team that has been dominant against the run, especially early in the season, these numbers speak volumes to the effort and compensation provided by the defensive line.

Lost in the drafts

Here are the draft picks spend on LBs in the past 10 drafts:

PlayerRound selected
2017, Nathan Gerry5
2016, Joe Walker7
2016, Alex McCalister7
2015, Jordan Hicks3
2012, Mychal Kendricks2
2011, Greg Lloyd7
2011, Brian Rolle6
2011, Casey Matthews4
2010, Jamar Chaney7
2010, Ricky Sapp5
2010, Keenan Clayton4

Mychal Kendricks and Jordan Hicks are the only day-2 selections on the list, and while none of them are currently on the team, a case can be made they had good careers in Philadelphia.

Hicks was the leader on the field in his 4 years here. Well, when he was on the field, that is. Injuries derailed his chances of a long term contract, but the Eagles let him walk into free agency and are watching him ball out in Arizona as punishment.

Kendricks earned an extension with the team, and after multiple soft tissue injuries and up-and-down play, he finished with a Superbowl win in 2017.

Notable free agents

Since 2012, Eagles have signed the likes of Corey Nelson, Duke Riley, LJ Fort, Zach Brown, Darnell Ellerby, Don Cherry, Najee Goode, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Stephen Tulloch, Demeco Ryans, Emmanuel Acho, Paul Worrilow, and Nigel Bradham.

Of that large group, Nigel Bradham and Demeco Ryans had the most success, both being leaders on the defense and earning contract extensions. However, both were draft picks from other teams, were expensive, and mostly past their prime.

Then, there’s Zach Brown. Yeah…we won’t go there.

Let’s not forget L.J Fort, who after spending the offseason with the Eagles, was cut prior to the beginning of the 2019 campaign. He’s now having a fantastic year as a member of the Baltimore Ravens.

T.J. Edwards a hidden gem?

In a relatively small sample size of 95 snaps, Edwards has been among the best LBs in the league against the run. Further, despite his 4.77 forty-time and alleged limited athleticism, he grades very respectfully against the pass. A big part of this is his ability to read the play quickly, helping compensate for that lack of speed by getting a faster start to his marker.

With KGH out for the remainder of the season, Doug Pederson said TJ Edwards will get more playing time moving forward. An opportunity to see if they actually have a good LB on their team.

What happens next?

KGH is out for the rest of the season and is a pending free agent, while Nigel Bradham could be subject to a contract restructure. However you look at the position, it needs a remold. The truth is, the Eagles probably won’t draft a linebacker in the first two days of the draft unless they go through a shift in mentality, leaving the fate of the position to free agents and young underdogs, something which continues to be both a blessing and a curse.

Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports