Eagles Rookie Responds to Philly Linebackers Being Called ‘Weak’

New York Giants Showing interest in NFL Draft Prospect Shaun Bradley of Temple

Getty Linebacker Shaun Bradley of Temple

The Eagles invested two draft picks into the linebacker spot, plus added an undrafted free agent to shore up the position.

Was it enough? There are many so-called experts who still see “plenty of question marks” on the unit, too many to feel confident in trusting for a full 16-game slate. The projected starting tandem (Nate Gerry, TJ Edwards) brings a combined four years of NFL experience. Add training camp darling Duke Riley to the mix and the bar gets raised ever so slightly: 35 combined professional starts.

Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz didn’t deny his unit’s inexperience when he cited a lack of “household names” at linebacker. Then again, Schwartz and head coach Doug Pederson both expressed unbridled excitement over the youthful energy in the group, a happy sentiment that grows stronger every time sixth-rounder Shaun Bradley lays the wood or whenever Riley or Edwards makes a leaping interception in padded practices. Dante Olson is another guy flashing promise.

“They have a lot on their plate, not just with defense but with special teams, and all those guys have shown some really good things in training camp so far,” Schwartz said of the linebackers. “It’s just a matter of being up against the clock and how quickly they can have complete command, not just mentally but then command physically to be able go in and play the position for us.”

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Bradley: ‘We Know What We Can Do’

Pro Football Focus ranked the Eagles linebackers as the sixth-worst unit in the league, at No. 27. It wasn’t all bad as the analytics-driven website pointed out that “it’ll be worth watching how they deploy some of their new weapons.”

Bradley, one of those new weapons, dodged a loaded question on Tuesday about whether the linebackers felt disrespected. He refused to acknowledge the perception out there about the unit. However, the former Temple standout did reveal what the opinion inside the room is.

“I’m assuming we’re aware of it [the criticism], I mean from the media and the things that are posted,” Bradley said. “But, nah, we don’t take into account any of that. We know what we can do in that room. We know what we are going to do this year. We have the utmost confidence in each other, and we’re just going to be ready to go and show what we can do honestly.”

Schwartz has been experimenting with having his linebackers blitz the quarterback in practice, a rarity in his defensive scheme. Maybe it’s the new normal considering the insane amount of speed all over the field. Third-rounder Davion Taylor ran a 4.49-second 40, followed by Bradley (4.51) and Riley (4.58).

“His pure athleticism and athletic ability, dude can run,” Edwards said of Taylor. “He can run with the best of them. Once he gets more comfortable with the scheme and gets more natural with those things, he’s going to be very dangerous.”

Nate Gerry Stepping into Leadership Role

Gerry is now the elder statesman. Weird since he only has three years and 39 games (15 starts) under his belt. But no matter which Eagles teammate you talk to, the 25-year-old has taken ownership of the linebackers room. Credit Gerry’s blue-collar work ethic, knowledge of the game and natural leadership.

“He’s like one of the best linebackers that I’ve seen, like when it comes to watching film, even in the virtual meetings,” Taylor said. He’s still asking questions like he’s still a rookie and that’s one thing I admire about him.”

Edwards, an undrafted free agent in 2019, called Gerry the leader of the group.

“He’s a guy that we look to if we have questions or anything like that, very very solid mind when it comes to football,” Edwards said of Gerry. “One of those guys that knows just about everything there is to know about defense, so having him around the room and being able to lean on him, and talk to him and have him help us see what he sees on the field, it really helps a lot.”

Although there was one huge miscommunication between the two early in camp. Gerry referred to Edwards as “Terrence” on a Zoom call with the media. That’s a big no-no for the Illinois native.

“I did not give him permission to call me that,” Edwards said. “I’m going to start calling him Nathan to get back at him.”

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