What does Eric Wilson’s arrival mean for the other Eagles linebackers?

NFL: SEP 08 Falcons at Vikings
MINNEAPOLIS, MN – SEPTEMBER 08: Minnesota Vikings Linebacker Eric Wilson (50) runs to the sideline during a game between the Atlanta Falcons and Minnesota Vikings on September 8, 2019 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, MN.(Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire)

The Eagles have a very young and inexperienced linebacker corps but arguably one that is loaded with unharnessed potential. From undrafted heroes like Alex Singleton and T.J Edwards, to last year’s draft selections in Davion Taylor and Shaun Bradley, there’s certainly a lot of upside for new defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon to play with. But how does the addition of Eric Wilson impact those players already on the roster?

The most important thing to understand is the role that Wilson will play. Traditionally a starting MIKE (middle) linebacker, Wilson will likely fill that very empty void in Philadelphia as someone who thrives in coverage, is familiar with new LB Coach Nick Rallis and can provide an injection of ball-production. The depth chart at the minute looks a little like this:

Eric Wilson
T.J Edwards
Joe Bachie

Shaun Bradley
Genard Avery
Rashad Smith

Alex Singleton
Davion Taylor

It’s worth noting that Nate Gerry previously filled the SAM role which is why that position in particular looks a little light.

We can assume that the Eagles will be pressing for a linebacker in the Draft, but they no longer need an immediate answer at MIKE. Instead, they can lean on Eric WIlson to hold things down while they look to add competition to a group that might be the most unproven of all at the strong side.

Shaun Bradley flashed plenty of promise when afforded an opportunity in 2020, but the sixth-round draft pick shouldn’t realistically be launched into the deep end unless there is a ton of confidence from the new coaching staff. Genard Avery’s move to linebacker is an intriguing one that does make sense given his athletic skill set, but he has proven very little outside of a few flashes that were promptly darkened by a confusing lack of playing time.

Alex Singleton has proven more than enough to earn a starting role ahead of Davion Taylor in 2021, regardless of the fact Taylor was a third-round pick. Singleton racked up 120 tackles despite only starting in 11 games and showed that he can be an absolute cannon ball when bursting into the backfield. There’s no need to doubt what the team have in the former CFL star and while it will be fun to watch Davion Taylor grow, he was extremely raw coming out of college and is a firm second in command here for the time being.

Realistically, the Eagles may decide to try T.J Edwards at the SAM spot. He’s had experience playing in that role as a rookie. He’s an efficient run-stopper and may be among the most impressive linebackers the Eagles have when it comes to pursuit, block-shedding, and gap discipline.

The issue with Edwards comes in the way of coverage. As a strong side linebacker, he’ll be matched up on tight ends fairly regularly, but he may actually be better suited to learning the coverage ropes there than as the team’s only hope over the middle. Eric Wilson has a contrasting skill set, where his coverage is absolutely outstanding, but his run support is lacking. Kicking Edwards out to the strong side may give the Eagles a firm starting trio to run with if they do decide not to add another name in this year’s Draft.

There’s a long way to go between now and the start of the regular season and Training Camp will undoubtedly act as a proving ground for just about every name mentioned. But it’s absolutely plausible that the team opt to enter the Summer without adding another substantial name in any of the opening three rounds of the NFL Draft now that Eric Wilson can take the reins at the heartbeat of the defense.

Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire