Eagles Address Linebacker Problem, Not Many ‘Household Names’

jim schwartz eagles coach

Getty Jim Schwartz.

Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has heard the knocks on his linebacking unit. On paper, it looks like the most glaring hole on the roster. He doesn’t care or see it that way.

Philadelphia has never really valued the linebacker position in general, with Jeremiah Trotter arguably being the last truly great one they employed. Nonetheless, Schwartz is excited about the unit heading into the 2020 season thanks largely to a purposeful infusion of youth and speed at the position. T.J. Edwards and Nathan Gerry are the projected starters on the 53-man and there will be dedicated roles for Duke Riley, Jatavis Brown, and rookies Shaun Bradley and Davion Taylor.

“I think as far as household names, there’s not a lot of that at that position but we’ve had a lot of guys who have put a lot of time on the grass and in the meeting rooms,” Schwartz told reporters. “It’s time for us to see if those guys can play. Whether it’s T.J. Edwards or Nate Gerry … he’s already played a lot of defense for us. We’ve had a couple of draft picks this year, too, or a guy like Duke Riley who we traded for last year. All those guys are in the mix. All those guys we’re excited about.”

There had been a growing sense that the Eagles needed to upgrade at the linebacker spot. Names like Mark Barron, Clay Matthews, Alec Ogletree and even Mychal Kendricks had been tossed around. Nope. The Eagles are content to roll with the guys they have on the roster, including intriguing undrafted rookie free agent Dante Olson.

“We made a point to add speed and I think we’re a faster group than we’ve been in the four years previous so I’m excited about that and I think there’s going to be great competition in training camp,” Schwartz said. “Great opportunities for those guys. We’ll come up with great matchups. We have some young veterans and we have some rookies. Again, not a lot of household names, but we’re confident in their abilities and we’re excited about what that group possesses right now.”

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Davion Taylor Ready to Make Impact on Defense

Taylor was one of the impact guys Schwartz mentioned by name. The Eagles invested a third-round pick on the raw talent out of Colorado and he has an opportunity to make his presence felt immediately.

Taylor, if he puts the work in, could find himself landing a starting role come September. Recently, he talked about the challenges of learning the defense in an abbreviated training camp and how his relationship with Eagles linebackers coach Ken Flajole has developed.

“I learned all the plays and he [Flajole] had to be patient with us [the Eagles rookie linebackers] because he knew we weren’t able to be in the facility or on the field,” Taylor said. “So he had patience with us every day, taking it little by little, just making sure we were getting the playbook and learning every single detail so we’ll be ready when we came out here.”

Taylor admitted that it’s been “difficult” to adjust to the weird circumstances surrounding this COVID-19-tainted season. Players have had to rely on a lot of virtual training, instead of actual grass time and in-person instruction. He prefers the “hands-on” approach in the classroom and on the field but that just hasn’t been possible.

“I’m more of a hands-on guy, but I had to adapt to the situation,” Taylor said. “I had to make sure I was spending extra time in my playbook, make sure I was spending extra time watching the film so I could just take those reps and prepare myself for when training camp actually starts. I am really just taking this opportunity as a blessing.”

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