The Eagles’ defense was a real patchwork in 2019, so you’ll be forgiven if you can’t name every defender who suited up in midnight green.
But if the noise building in NFL circles is any indication, you’ll want to write down one player to remember come September: linebacker T.J. Edwards.
NFL.com’s Cynthia Frelund chose Edwards as the Eagles’ most underappreciated player this week, quite an honor for a second-year player who saw just 110 snaps as an undrafted free agent rookie in 2019.
Here’s why Frelund thinks Eagles fans should be excited about Edwards this year:
This undrafted free-agent rookie signing last season paid huge returns for the Eagles’ defense in the form of the highest tackle rate among linebackers with a minimum of 100 snaps in the NFL (20 percent, or 22 tackles on 110 defensive snaps) and the second-best run defense grade among linebackers in the NFL per PFF’s grading system (90.3). A fun note here: His salary ranks 297 among 350 linebackers, per Over The Cap — but that will not be the case in his next contract, should he continue this level of production.
And Frelund isn’t the only one who likes Edwards’ ceiling in 2020.
Earlier this month, Pro Football Focus tabbed T.J. Edwards as a potential second-year breakout candidate, calling him “an exceptionally productive linebacker at every level we have seen” despite being relatively unproven in the NFL:
2nd-year breakout candidate: Eagles LB T.J. Edwards pic.twitter.com/KSaxXytji6
— PFF (@PFF) May 9, 2020
It’s not just outside analysts and observers who love Edwards and his potential.
Eagles defensive coordinator Schwartz had nothing but great things to say about Edwards this past October. Schwartz lauded Edwards’ skills when it became apparent the rookie would see increased snaps amid lingering injuries:
“All that kid has done when we put him in the game is make the plays that have come to him,” Schwartz said. “He has been physical, he has been a sure tackler, and he has been assignment sound. Those are all three good things to be said about a linebacker.”
Despite cutting ties with Nigel Bradham and not making any splashy acquisitions, the Eagles’ linebacker outlook for next season isn’t awful. Our Andrew Kulp looked at the position as it stands right now, and determined the Eagles seem better at linebacker in 2020 than they were in 2019, including Edwards as a starter.
Earlier this offseason, NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Dave Zangaro examined the Eagles’ frugal approach to the linebacker position. Long story short, they don’t really invest many resources at the position:
“Roseman basically admitted it’s up to his college and pro scouts to find him some bargain bin options at linebacker.”
It’s a risky approach, and you often get what you pay for, but the diamond-in-the-rough concept just might’ve paid off with Edwards.
If you’d like to get to know Edwards better, I can’t recommend enough reading last year’s “Surviving Camp” series from Zangaro, which tracked Edwards on his journey through 2019’s training camp.
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