Philadelphia Eagles

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

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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

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1 comment

  • Dave says:

    Just some thoughts….any group the Eagles assemble will be far better by not having Nate Gerry in the line-up. The fact that we had to trot him out last year as a starter was a horror show. The Birds-Steelers game was on replay last night and after watching it, I am so glad the Eagles finally smartened up and let him go. The guy simply could not cover. I think one of things that will benefit the Eagles is the fact that Gagnon is now DC instead of Schwartz. Jim Schwartz was a dinosaur when it came to D schemes. His philosophy of the DE/DT’s getting home on every play left the Eagles back end to be picked apart. Everybody knows (it seems except Schwartz) that keeping the QB off balance is the key. Sacks are great, but just disrupting the QB’s timing either by pushing the pocket or a well timed blitz or 10, so that it keeps the QB from getting into a rhythm. The fact the Eagles will play more zone than man coverage will also be an improvement. But a starting 3 of Wilson, Singleton and Edwards will be fairly decent. Maybe they at times play a 4-2-5. There is really no telling exactly what Gagnon will do because the draft hasn’t happened and the lineup isn’t set.

    Prior to the trade back from # 6 to #12, I was salivating over the choice the Eagles would have with that pick, particularly Pitts. But with the recent market for Ertz being as cold as ice, it seems they already have 2 great TE’s. I am now hoping the the Birds use a pick on Surtain or Jaycee Horn with the 1st pick. Our CB situation is the most vulnerable for sure. I don’t really think Slay is all he is made out to be, but he is absolutely the best CB we have on the roster. After Slay, the talent level falls off a cliff. Surtain is the most pro ready CB in the draft. He would be a plug and play guy who understands the game, has the physical skills, the size, and almost every single person who posts a mock of talks about CB’s always rates Surtain as the best. If we have any hope of winning games, we need a guy like him or Horn along side Slay. Our CB’s were incredibly vulnerable last year and every OC and QB in the league knew it. There are a ton of talented receivers in this league, and a bunch more about to be drafted. Think of the top 5 WR in this draft and think, who is going to cover these guys. We have to also think about TE’s and slot guys where coverage by the LB’s is just as important.

    The Eagles need players in several areas….CB being the top need, DE, backup OL. They have 11 picks. Knowing Howie, we will not pick all 11. There will be picks that will be packaged to move up, and a move back is not totally out of the question. Maybe a pick and a player to be gained by moving back a few slots. You don’t really know until draft day. Already the maneuvering has begun in earnest, with QB seemingly being the preferred target, followed closely by WR, TE and CB, OT not necessarily in that order. We know the players, but where they fall, nobody can predict. I think the fact that the Eagles cleaned house with the coaching staff is an indication that change is coming. Philosophy will be different…players will actually get a chance to really compete with each other and the best 11 get fielded on game day. Contract status won’t matter. Lane Johnson was recently interviewed and his response is what we all hoped Wentz would have espoused ……Johnson ” “If you’re 4-11-1, hey, you better rebuild; you better come up with some kind of phrase, to get better,” he said. “As far as where I’m at in my career, I’m at a sense of urgency. I want to hit my prime the next four or five years, and then see where I’m at, finish this out strong.

    The Eagles star right tackle is no dummy and he’s aware that Nick Sirianni has preached competition, while draft experts have linked Philadelphia to some of the top offensive tackle prospects.
    “They may draft another offensive tackle. They got guys coming for me,” Johnson said of the Eagles in a recent interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer. … “That’s the name of the game; it’s all about competition. Those guys push you, they develop you, and it’s just part of the nature of the business.”
    The Eagles’ three-time Pro Bowl right tackle also would like to see Howie Roseman draft a wide receiver or two in the draft.

    This is a guy who understands where it’s at. He welcomes all comers and may the best man win. Now, if we can get 10 others to join him on offense and 11 on D, we just might start to make some headway. It will certainly be a completely different attitude.

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