Eagles Coach Sounds Off on Struggling LB: ‘Keep Our Evaluations In-House’

Nate Gerry

Getty Eagles LB Nate Gerry has struggled in coverage through four weeks in 2020.

It’s been tough sledding for Nate Gerry over the first four weeks, at least for the “outside-the-building” experts. His overall player grade from Pro Football Focus is 40.4, thanks largely to giving up the third-most catches while allowing opposing quarterbacks to post a passer rating of 148.2 against him in coverage. The stats, on the surface at least, do not look good for the starting middle linebacker.

But stats don’t mean everything, right? Especially not arbitrary grades doled out by a third-party analytics website, not in the film room or the locker room every day. According to Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, Gerry has been a “very solid player for us” and “helped us win a lot of games.” Schwartz keeps his own evaluations on his players and confirmed that Gerry has graded out well, although he wouldn’t dare share those numbers with the public.

“I tend to try to keep our evaluations in-house and just work on improving in our own building,” Schwartz told reporters on Tuesday. “And I would just caution this: There’s probably a lot of plays that people outside of our building think might be his fault; that he just happens to be the closest guy when someone else made a mistake, and I think they end up blaming him a lot of times. He’s sort of the closest guy just from plays, and I mean that’s just sort of the way the ball bounces.”

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Do Eagles Have Linebacker Problem on Defense?

Gerry has 33 total tackles for the Eagles this season in four games, but he’s often looked lost in coverage. It isn’t always his fault as Schwartz pointed out that sometimes other guys, namely safeties and cornerbacks, are sometimes out of position. Still, the numbers for opposing tight ends are telling:

  • Week 1, Washington: Logan Thomas, 4 catches for 37, 1 TD
  • Week 2, Los Angeles: Tyler Higbee, 5 catches for 54 yards, 3 TDs
  • Week 3, Cincinnati: Drew Sample, 1 catch for 1 yard, 0 TD (however, he appeared to get beat against WR Tee Higgins on a touchdown)
  • Week 4, San Francisco: George Kittle, 15 catches for 183 yards, 1 TD

Look, no one could stop Kittle on “Sunday Night Football.” He’s arguably the best tight end in football and it’s hard to find anyone in the league capable of shutting him down. Eagles linebacker Duke Riley was caught looking back at him in Week 4, as well as safeties K’Von Wallace and Marcus Epps. It was a fact fully acknowledged by Schwartz.

“We were trying our best to stop him. We didn’t have very much success,” Schwartz told reporters. “He’s an outstanding player. We tried a lot of different things. None of them really had much effect.”

‘Rare Tight End’ Kittle Can Do It All

Gerry wasn’t numb to the challenge of matching up against Kittle when asked about it last week. He openly admitted that he would need help containing the All-Pro, one of the “rare tight ends who can do it all.” The gameplan heading into Sunday was to crowd him with as many live bodies as possible. Kittle still torched the Eagles for 183 yards.

“He’s one of the rare tight ends who can do it all,” Gerry told reporters last week. “He’s really good when it comes to run blocking. He’s really good when it comes to pass-catching, running routes, being vertically fast. So I think we have a pretty good scheme schematically for him, we just have to stick to what we know and what we do best. We’ll get a lot of bodies to the ball when he catches it.”

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