Eagles Starting LB Expects ‘Sloppy’ Week 1 Games Across the NFL

Nathan Gerry

Getty Nathan Gerry has been getting a lot of attention from both the Eagles and Patriots coaching staffs in recent days.

A lack of preseason games took away those real-game reps that NFL players thrive on. Get ready for the trickle-down effect.

There has already been a rash of soft tissue injuries around the league, including a very minor one to Carson Wentz. While the Eagles have done their best to simulate real-game situations during “thud” practices and live scrimmages, it’s not the same as staring down an opponent. Week 1 will be the first crack at live tackling and those games could be a “little sloppy.”

“Around the league, I think the first game may be a little sloppy, just because we weren’t able to have the preseason games,” Eagles linebacker Nate Gerry told reporters on Wednesday. “With live tackling, you can only do so much in practice, with being able to stay healthy on your team but obviously without getting those real-game reps. Going into this first game, there’s going to be a lot of communication, especially on the defensive side, really not knowing what to expect from Washington when it comes to offensive scheme.”

The Washington Football Team announced that Dwyane Haskins would be their starting quarterback for the season opener on Sept. 13. He threw for 261 yards and two touchdowns last year in his only start versus Philadelphia. Haskins is a dual-threat who can run the speed option, something he showed off on a 23-yard scramble for a first down in that one.

“I know last year he made some pretty big conversations on us,” Gerry said. “I know he ran a speed option on us one time. I think he took it to the house or he took it for a big gain, so we know he’s mobile when it comes to himself outside the pocket and inside the pocket. He didn’t really have much experience at the beginning of the year but you could see, as you watch the tape, every game he got better. When it came to making the right reads and throwing on the run even so we got our hands full when it comes to being prepared for him.”

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From Long Snapper to Starting Linebacker

Gerry has played MIKE linebacker in spot duty over the past couple of years in Philly. He started four games there last year and served as the defensive play-caller when Nigel Bradham was hurt. It’s not a new role, but the 25-year-old has never had job security like this before. Despite playing in 39 games (15 starts) in his first three seasons, Gerry wasn’t the undisputed starter in the middle.

“Nothing has really changed for me,” Gerry said. “Last year, I knew going in at the beginning of the season, I knew that my role was to back up Nigel and know all the other spots of the defense when it came to linebackers so I feel like I’ve been preparing myself for this for the past couple of years.”

Gerry sat behind Bradham in 2019 and former Eagles linebacker Jordan Hicks before him. Snake, as Jim Schwartz calls Gerry, spent those years learning one of the most difficult positions in football. He was relegated to special teams his rookie year before Schwartz starting putting more responsibility on his plate, finally turning him loose last year. The Eagles defensive coordinator uses Gerry as an example to the younger guys on how to earn more snaps.

“Guys like Snake weren’t at that point when he was a rookie,” Schwartz said. “But eventually, they will all get there.”

Gerry was a college safety at Nebraska when the Eagles selected him in the fifth round in 2017. Prior to that, he was a jack-of-all-trades at Washington High School in South Dakota. Gerry played everything from “long snapper to punter,” while setting the state track record in the 200 meters (21.52 seconds).

“I’m a football player and that’s how I was raised,” Gerry said. “Coming from South Dakota, in high school, I played just about every position you could possibly think of, from long snapper to punter and then offense and defense. It’s just another challenge for me that I knew I wanted to overcome [playing linebacker in the NFL].”

How Will Parks’ Injury Affect Eagles Defense?

The injury to do-it-all safety Will Parks was an under-the-radar blow to the defense.

The team’s third safety — the key cog in their big nickel package — was set for a big role in his first season taking the field for his hometown Eagles. Now they may have to tweak their base defense, according to Gerry, and use more three linebacker sets. The leading candidates would be Gerry, T.J. Edwards and Duke Riley in that scenario.

“I don’t know if we’re going to go a little more base with three linebackers, with two linebacker sets or whatnot,” Gerry said. “We have a lot of versatile players on our defense that can move around and play two different spots for us.”

It’s important to note that Gerry was just speculating since those decisions are up to Schwartz. The Eagles did place a huge emphasis this offseason on acquiring hybrid-type players, like Parks. They could simply ask slot cornerbacks Cre’Von LeBlanc or Nickell Robey-Coleman to move around the formation. Or put more on rookie safety K’Von Wallace’s plate.

“The mentality that we’ve always had around here is that if one man goes down, it’s the next man up,” Gerry said. “So it could go both ways. We could put an extra linebacker in or we just bring another DB up to play his position, obviously, now we can do both.”

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