Four questions the Eagles still have to answer at Linebacker

LANDOVER, MD – DECEMBER 15: Washington Redskins quarterback Dwayne Haskins (7) runs for a first down and is brought down by Philadelphia Eagles linebacker T.J. Edwards (57) on December 15, 2019, at FedEx Field in Landover, MD. (Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire)

The dust is finally settling on what’s been a tumultuous offseason for the Philadelphia Eagles. As we finally turn our attention to Training Camp, it’s time to take a look at the questions that the team will have to answer over the course of the Summer and beyond.

Where will Davion Taylor fit into the rotation?

The Eagles drafted Davion Taylor in the third round of last year’s NFL Draft and it was made evident from the get-go that he was going to be a project. He had limited football experience in comparison to the majority of draft prospects due to his religious beliefs and while possessing a freakishly athletic skillset, lacked the polish of many.

One year later and the jury is still out. He played in just 32 defensive snaps as a rookie, featuring in 40% of special teams opportunities. But with a new defensive coordinator, a different scheme, and plenty of competition, there’s no guarantee that Taylor will be ready to make the jump needed to secure the role that many hoped he’d be ready to.

There’s no questioning that this is going to be a big offseason for Taylor and his roster spot is by no means in jeopardy. However, a third-round pick should be expected to contribute on more than just special teams by his second season, giving new LB coach Nick Rallis quite the task.

Is there still hope for former Eagles DE Genard Avery?

The Eagles made a surprising move at the 2019 trade deadline in acquiring Genard Avery for a fourth-round draft pick. The defensive end was in his second NFL season where he transitioned to defensive end. This is where the Eagles used him initially, but he appeared sparingly after making an impressive Eagles debut and little has been seen from him since.

However, Avery is now moving to linebacker. He’s most likely going to be deployed as a standup edge rusher and he does have the speed to drop back into coverage and cover running backs if needed. What’s interesting is that in his rookie campaign, Avery amassed 4.5 sacks and 40 tackles. This outweighs anything he’s done in Philadelphia since

Can JaCoby Stevens break the mold?

Drafted after an impressive career where he roamed the LSU backfield, JaCoby Stevens will join the Eagles as a linebacker. He’s not the first player to do this and chances are he won’t be the last. Picking up from where Nate Gerry left off, Stevens is the latest in a line of DB converts looking to make their presence felt inside.

He had played just about everywhere in LSU’s defense over the past two years and spent most of their national championship-winning campaign as a box safety, pressing at the line of scrimmage and snuffing out the run. Although he dropped back to a deeper role in 2020, he still picked up 6 TFL, only 3 less than the season before, highlighting his efficiency when playing down inside the box.

Whether it’s to replace the role left by Jalen Mills and formerly Malcolm Jenkins, or potentially work down as a (rotational) MIKE linebacker as Nate Gerry once did is unknown at this time, but versatility is going to be the name of the game. It’s not like Nate Gerry left Eagles fans with a lot of reasons to be positive. It’s down to the physical LSU product to break the chain.

Can T.J Edwards cement a role on the Eagles defense?

Once upon a time, T.J Edwards and Alex Singleton locked heads for what was a preseason battle of epic proportions. If we fast forward two seasons, it’s actually the CFL product who has gone on to lock down a permanent role on this defense, breaking out in a big way and surpassing the 100-tackle mark.

Edwards is a solid run defender and possesses a similar skillset to Singleton, showing an ability to scrape well and penetrate. The issue is that he’s likely not going to win out a starting role over his former preseason rival, who ripped the NFL to shreds last year and proved he belongs.

In a defense where we could see two linebackers and a DB as the base set, Edwards may find himself fighting an uphill battle to even make the roster given the drafting of three players – JaCoby Stevens, Shaun Bradley, and Davion Taylor over the past two years.