The 2020 NFL season is quickly approaching and hype is at an all-time high. For Philadelphia, this couldn’t be more true; with all the exciting new pieces on the roster, fans cannot wait to get a glimpse of the new-look Eagles in action. However, with all the publicity and pomp surrounding the new guys in town, some exciting storylines have been cast to the shadows — none more so than the development of now top dog LB Nathan Gerry.
With former Eagle Nigel Bradham signing with the New Orleans Saints for an undisclosed amount, the new age of Philadelphia linebacking is finally upon us. Mychal Kendricks, Jordan Hicks, and Nigel Bradham — the three starters during the Eagles’ Super Bowl run — are out the doors. Thus, Nate Gerry is left to pick up the torch and become the new de facto leader of what is a very young corps of ‘backers. While T.J. Edwards was promising in his debut season and the Eagles have some young up-and-comers to add to the mix, the group’s performance will largely hinge on the continued development of the 4th year Nebraska man.
Gerry’s career up-until-now has been a mixed bag of highlight reels and missed tackles. He has done little to establish himself as a fan favorite, and yet, has done enough to curry the favor of the coaching staff. It has long been known that he is Jim Schwartz’ kinda guy, but we on the outside looking in are often left scratching our heads. What is it about the young man’s first three seasons that should leave us hopeful that he can usher in a new era of Eagles’ linebacking? Will he finally be able to take the jump the coaching staff have hinted at in 2020?
The good news for Gerry is that it isn’t solely dependent on his performance. He is but a cog in the machine of a very well oiled defensive group — a group that has added a ton of fascinating pieces this offseason. In front of him, Nate will have the benefit of a healthy Malik Jackson, the perennial Pro-Bowler Fletcher Cox, and new addition Javon Hargrave to go along with a bevvy of ultra-athletic defensive ends. Behind him, there is a new cast of versatile secondary pieces that will provide all kinds of problems for offensive game planners.
Gerry may not be the best athlete on the field, but with an unimpeded path to the football, there aren’t many more solid (more on those numbers later). Adding a potent three tackle front to the mix will only exacerbate problems for opposing offenses.
The versatility in the secondary will also bolster Gerry’s abilities as a playmaker. Nate himself is a very versatile athlete, not necessarily incredible in any one area, but well versed in all areas of the game. He played safety at Nebraska and has manned all three linebacker spots for the Eagles over the past three seasons. In fact, in 2019 he was one of just seven linebackers in the league to total 75+ tackles, two sacks, and two interceptions. He truly can do it all.
With Nigel Bradham being the go-to-guy in 2019, Gerry was asked mostly to fill in the gaps. Now as the veteran in the group, it follows that he will be a bigger part of the game plan in 2020. We will likely see more plays that are designed to capitalize on what Gerry does best and fill in the gaps around him. That is incredibly opportune when there are so many things he does well. This will add yet another wrinkle to the game sheet for opposing offensive coordinators.
The linebacker group as a whole has been overlooked. What the unit lacks in experience they more than make up for in athleticism. With an experienced coach at the helm, there is no telling what the ceiling can be for this group given the opportunity. Gerry spoke on the developing chemistry brewing between him and second-year LB T.J. Edwards, who he thinks has had an impressive start to his career. He also alluded to the young guys in the room:
I think a lot of people don’t really understand how much speed and athleticism that we do [have]. A lot of people talk about how young we really are, but we’ve all figured out the playbook and a lot of people haven’t seen our athleticism.
History can speak to what happens when the Eagles are underestimated.
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Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire