Eagles Position Coach Defends Struggling Starter: ‘Understand the Situation’

Nate Gerry

Getty Eagles LB Nate Gerry has been under intense scrutiny for a variety of reasons this year — on the field and off the field.

Maybe the reason there has been so much criticism hurled at Nate Gerry is that everyone is missing what he does best. Eagles linebackers coach Ken Flajole defended the injured starter by saying Gerry’s “unnoticed production” is what makes him so valuable. The MIKE linebacker has gotten the team out of a lot of “bad downs” with his calls at the line of scrimmage.

Just like Batman, Gerry is a dark-winged ninja in the night. Sometimes unseen, almost always getting the job done. When the Eagles need to adjust the front or get into the right call, the 6-foot-2, 230-pounder is there to answer the bat signal.

Gerry has been very valuable to the Eagles in 2020, according to Flajole. Pro Football Focus has him ranked 41st overall among qualifying NFL linebackers, including a dismal 48th in coverage.

“I like Nate. I know he’s caught some criticism, but you’re not going to hear it from me,” Flajole told reporters on Tuesday. “I really think the guy’s been valuable for us, and more ways than what has been shown out on the field. It’s unnoticed production by him, but again from the coaching staff we understand what his role is and he’s done a nice job.”

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Steelers Play: ‘Understand the Situation’

What about that play against Pittsburgh? The one where Ben Roethlisberger seemed to stare Gerry down and flip the script. The Steelers quarterback saw an empty set with speedy rookie Chase Claypool lined up one-on-one versus Gerry.

Roethlisberger audibled and hit Claypool for an easy six points after Gerry bit on a stutter step. It may have looked like a clear mismatch to outsiders — former Jets linebacker Jonathan Vilma was calling the TV broadcast and roasted Gerry — but Flajole said it wasn’t necessarily Gerry’s fault.

“You have to understand the situation. If we didn’t get off the field there or prevent a field goal, the game was going to be over anyhow,” Flajole said. “I know there’s been a lot of people who paint Nate in a different light. But I’m going to stand up for the guy because he helps us in a lot of different ways that aren’t necessarily shown on game day.”

It’s debatable whether the game would have been over in Pittsburgh. Claypool’s touchdown came on a 3rd-and-8 with 2:59 left in the fourth quarter so it did put it out of reach. But if the Eagles had held the Steelers to a field goal there — remember, the ball was on the 35-yard line — then it would have been a five-point game.

Assessing Philly’s Young Linebackers

Everyone can see T.J. Edwards’ ascension up the depth chart in Philly. The undrafted kid out of Wisconsin is turning into a star, arguably the best linebacker on the roster. The Eagles also have two rookies who are slowly earning the trust of the coaching staff. While Shaun Bradley and Davion Taylor didn’t see any defensive snaps in Week 8, they are making “great strides,” per Flajole.

“I think they’ve ascended well,” Flajole said. “I think they’re both getting better.”

Taylor, the third-round pick out of Colorado, was drafted as a project player due to his lack of experience. He barely played high school football and only spent two years at the Division I level. Bradley (sixth-rounder) is the more polished of the two following a four-year career at Temple. He has seen 47 defensive snaps this year to 11 for Taylor.

“I’ve been impressed with Shaun’s instincts,” Flajole said. “He finds ways, a lot of the time, to slither to the ball through blockers and he’s done a nice job in the role we’ve had him in.”

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