‘He’s Probably Our Best Linebacker’: Eagles Coach Addresses Improved Unit

TJ Edwards

Getty Eagles LB T.J. Edwards is turning into a viable starter and breakout star in Philly.

Second-year linebacker T.J. Edwards was arguably the Eagles’ MVP in their pre-bye victory over Dallas. The undrafted kid out of Wisconsin stuffed the stat box: 13 total tackles, a forced fumble, and his first career sack. The eye-opening performance couldn’t have come at a better time.

Philly has been getting blasted in recent weeks for undervaluing the linebacker position. Well, Edwards’ recent play has helped changed the narrative in a hurry. He’s solidified his role as the leader of a very young unit, one that might have more long-term promise than originally predicted.

According to defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, Edwards started flashing in Week 4 versus San Francisco before a hamstring injury sidelined him for four weeks. Now the 24-year-old is the team’s best tackler and maybe their best overall linebacker.

“He’s a strong player. He can fill those interior gaps,” Schwartz told reporters on Monday. “He’s probably our best linebacker when it comes to being physical at the line of scrimmage and taking on guards and tackles and taking offensive linemen off of double teams and things like that and he’s a reliable tackler.”

Edwards played a career-high 62 snaps against the Cowboys, none bigger than when he knocked the ball loose from Ben DiNucci on a crucial 3rd-and-6 with 5:18 left in the game. Rodney McLeod scooped up the takeaway and returned it 53 yards for a touchdown. Game over.

“They chose not to block him, and they blocked Rodney instead, and he was able to not just get the sack, but get the strip and we were able to get the score off of it,” Schwartz said. “It really changed — sealed the game and made it a two-score game. We were going to have to really screw something up to lose the game at that point.”

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No Injury Update on Nate Gerry

One of the guys Edwards has replaced in the middle is Nate Gerry, the oft-criticized starter who hit injured reserve on Oct. 30. The undersized linebacker from Nebraska is out for at least four weeks and there doesn’t appear to be any rush to bring him back. One theory for Gerry’s struggles in 2020 has been that maybe his previously undisclosed ankle injury was slowing him down.

When asked if the injury had affected Gerry’s game, Schwartz told reporters he couldn’t answer that question. He suggested bringing it up to head coach Doug Pederson or to ask Gerry personally about it.

“That’s really not my realm to talk about injuries,” Schwartz said. “A lot of guys play with a lot of different things that nick them up and they are still able to go play. Some things get to where you can’t play, and we just deal with all those things as they come up.”

Brandon Graham’s ‘Outstanding Year’

Brandon Graham is on pace to shatter his career marks in nearly every statistical category, including sacks, forced fumbles, quarterback hits and tackles for loss.

He’s been an absolute monster on the Eagles’ defensive line, always showing up in critical moments like that game-sealing strip-sack on Daniel Jones two weeks ago. Graham, a player known for his vocal leadership on the field, is playing at a different level at age 32.

“All that doesn’t happen by accident. It happens because he has a passion for the game and he’s enthusiastic, and he has the experience of seeing tough times and has that perspective,” Schwartz said. “I think that’s an important lesson for all our guys.”

Schwartz added that Graham’s energy is infectious everywhere, from the practice field to the “breakfast line.” So, is it Graham’s best year ever after 11 years in midnight green?

“BG is having an outstanding year,” Schwartz said. “We’ll just wait till the end of the year before we compare it to any other season. We still have a long way to go.”

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