On Flippin’ The Birds’ season two debut, we talked about the Dillard “issue”, Byron Jones, and the deficiencies on the roster, namely linebackers.
We were very lucky to interview one of the more popular linebacker prospects Justin Strnad (pronounced “stir-nad”).
Late round gems are what the Eagles will probably be looking for, and Strnad fits that narrative.
In 41 career games, he produced 244 tackles, 22.5 for loss, 8.5 sacks, and four interceptions.
He has a high IQ, was the leader of the Wake Forest defense, and can cover exceptionally. Strnad can shoot the gaps and ticks every box on the Eagles’ list.
He’ll most likely fall to the fourth round, maybe even fifth, due to other linebackers in front of him and other teams’ needs, but the Eagles would get an absolute steal if they can nab him.
Here’s what we talked about:
Was it always football? Did you start out in another sport and moved over?
“So I grew up playing baseball and football, that’s something my family has been big on my whole life. Like my brother grew up playing baseball and football but in middle school he unfortunately had an injury that forced him to stop playing football, so he focused mainly on baseball. I was kind of the opposite, played baseball and football all the way to high school. I played travel [base] ball a lot so I ended up having ulnar nerve surgery going into high school so I kind of stopped playing baseball and focused mainly on football. My high school coach, his son is one of my best friends and he would just inch me to come out my freshman year and play for the football team and eventually it clicked and we haven’t looked back since.”
So growing up as a Bears fan, obviously you play linebacker, did you model your game after Brian Urlacher? (Also Bucs fan, so Derrick Brooks?)
“I wouldn’t say I modeled my game after him but Urlacher and Briggs were two guys I grew up watching and my uncle and dad were big Bears fans so I watched them growing up and they’re great players so that was something I looked up to growing up.”
“Absolutely D-Brooks. That Super Bowl run, yeah D-Brooks is a legend”
**Justin also brings up Brooks’ and Joe Jurevicius’ (71 yard catch) names in regards to the Eagles/Bucs game but we’ll forgive him for now**
We’ve seen the highlights, how you fly around the ball. Is there one aspect that you love doing? Is it a total thing or is there one thing you like more than the other?
“No I mean I just love to compete. I love playing. I grew up competing my whole life so just being able to go out there each and every week and play against some of the best players in the world. It’s been awesome. I wouldn’t say there’s one thing I like more than the other. But I enjoy learning our 3rd down package on a week to week basis, we install new things, and being able to effectively implement that in a game whether it be showing something and then doing something else and kind of throwing a team off rhythm and making a big play on third down. I think that’s something pretty fun to do.”
Gee, a player who loves making stops on third down., That could’ve been helpful in 2019.
With all that defensive stuff you just talked about, was there one or two guys that was super difficult to plan for?
“I’d say in my career I’d say Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson were the two guys that were the most dynamic players. Deshaun was somebody that our coach [current Texas A&M defensive coordinator Mike Elko], he made a crazy third down package for Clemson but [Watson] just check things at the line of scrimmage and just dot it up and convert just about every third down. He was one of the more impressive guys for sure” Was he looking for number 23 (Strnad’s number) at all times? “Yeah a little bit but Lamar will remember 23 for the rest of his career. I had a nice day against him”
During Wake Forest’s 42-32 win over Lousiville on October 28, 2017, Strnad had nine tackles, 2.5 for loss, 2.5 sacks, and a forced fumble. He wasn’t lying.
Is there a difference to you between preparing for mobile QBs and a straight pocket passer?
“I just say you’re most likely calling defenses that give you an ‘extra hat in the box’ when you’re facing a running quarterback like when you’re facing a guy like Lamar you’re going to need that extra hat whether it be a safety, corner, somebody, you’re going to need to add somebody to the box to help you. Along with that, when you’re facing a dual threat, in a zone concept you’re going to have to make sure you get to your drop but also make sure you have your eyes at the quarterback because they can take off at any moment and gas you. You have to be ready to get after the ball.”
More comfortable in man or zone?
“I’m pretty comfortable in both. I played safety in high school and I’m comfortable playing man to man. I didn’t have to play a ton of man at Wake [Forest] but it’s something I’m comfortable in doing.”
What do you think is really difficult about playing your position?
“I just think being able to read and react pretty quickly. There’s so much going on in a play whether it be formational, like in college it’s tempo with everything so you have to be able to get lined up and see formation. Coming into the game you have to be able to know tendencies. Just being able to do all that and do that at a really high level and fast. I think that’s the key in the NFL, to think and play fast.”
Continued on the page below.
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Matt Patterson