‘Outstanding Young’ Eagles LBs Progressing Slowly, Tough Roster Decisions at Safety

Grayland Arnold

Getty Grayland Arnold went undrafted in the 2020 NFL Draft but could prove to be a steal for the Eagles.

Jim Schwartz keeps stressing that linebacker and safety are the two toughest positions for rookies to learn.

The Eagles defensive coordinator doesn’t want that point to fall on deaf ears, especially not with a shortened offseason and lack of grass time. He compared it to driving a car, in that you have to think every minute detail through the first few times behind the wheel.

Little things like flipping the turn signal and positioning your feet. Then, it just becomes automatic and normal. Same thing for young players learning the tiny nuances of his defensive scheme. Slow process.

“It’s hard when they first get that playbook, and they are like, oh, my gosh, this is so much. Then, they go, yeah, I got this,” Schwartz told reporters on Wednesday. “Then they go out, the offense starts motioning, flying guys around, there are different checks and calls, their heads start spinning. Then they get it, their temperatures can decrease a little bit.”

Schwartz loves using thoughtful analogies during his Zoom calls with reporters, adding a fun anecdote about a college economics professor. His point being, you have to get past the “rudimentary stuff” before the real learning begins. His rookie linebackers — Shaun Bradley (sixth round), Davion Taylor (third round) — aren’t quite there yet. They are still looking for the turn signal.

“None of our rookies are at that point yet. Guys like Snake [Nate Gerry] weren’t at that point when he was a rookie,” Schwartz said. “But eventually, they will all get there.”

Bradley has flashed quite a bit in “thud” practices where he’s delivered the lumber. Taylor has had a tougher time adjusting due to his limited college experience, but he’ll get there. The two rookies are viewed as future cornerstones of the defense, guys who should see a majority of their reps on special teams this year.

“He’s going to be an outstanding young player for us,” Schwartz said of Bradley. “Him and Davion, really good additions for our team there, guys that can run, guys that have some size. We’re really lucky to have both of those guys.”

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Young Safeties Doing ‘Really Good Job’

Speaking of safeties, Schwartz credited the rookies for doing a “really good job” throughout training camp. Again, he prefaced his comments by reiterating how hard the position is to learn on the fly. This virus-shortened offseason did them no favors.

“It’s a very difficult situation for safeties,” Schwartz said. “There’s a lot to learn, a lot of moving pieces. They don’t have many opportunities to get chances to sort of get their feet under them.”

The injury to Will Parks only expedites the timeline as they will be counted on heavily for the first quarter of the season. The Eagles defensive coordinator has seen enough out of them to walk away impressed.

He specifically called out K’Von Wallace (fourth round), as well as two undrafted rookie free agents in Grayland Arnold and Elijah Riley. All three players have shown the ability to perform while showing good instincts, work ethic, and the biggest intangible: heart.

“All of those guys have shown really well,” Schwartz said. “All those guys have all those characteristics.”

Schwartz was quick to add that the team is going to have some really tough roster decisions to make. Cuts are due into the league office by 4 p.m. on Sept. 5.

“We’re going to have some real tough decisions at a lot of positions,” he said, “but particularly our safety position.”

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