Eagles

Eagles

The Eagles aren’t sure who will take the place of Mychal Kendricks at weakside linebacker, but whoever winds up winning the job has big shoes to fill.

“Losing Mych was devastating,” linebacker Nigel Bradham said. “We don’t win that Super Bowl without Mychal Kendricks on this team.”

One week after Kendricks’ abrupt release, Bradham was still coping with conflicting emotions as the Eagles continued their offseason training program.

“It’s definitely going to be very difficult,” Bradham said. “He was the most athletic linebacker that we had. It’s hard to replace that. The guy could do everything.”

There’s no denying Kendricks played a pivotal role in an Eagles championship, starting 16 games after the season-ending injury to Jordan Hicks, including playoffs and the Super Bowl.

On the other hand, Bradham also feels good about the Eagles’ depth at linebacker, lauding the versatility of the competition for Kendricks’ old job.

“Nobody is really playing one position anymore,” Bradham said. “You’re trying to learn every position.”

The Eagles currently have seven linebackers on the roster who aren’t named Bradham or Hicks, or Paul Worrilow, who already suffered a season-ending injury at OTAs. 

Surely, somebody will be able to fill the vacancy at weakside linebacker, a role that had Kendricks on the field for less than 30 percent of the defensive snaps in 2016.

The current favorite is free-agent signee Corey Nelson, though even he doesn’t sound overly confident the job is his.

“I don’t know what [Kendricks’ release] does,” Nelson said. “I’m just here to give it my all with the team and to compete to the best of my abilities.”

 

Nelson joined the Eagles in March under the premise he would be competing for a starting job — though he didn’t know Kendricks would be released at the time.

A four-year reserve with the Denver Broncos, Nelson racked up 109 tackles, one sack and six pass breakups in 57 career games, including playoffs. The 26-year-old primarily appeared on special teams, making four starts.

“He’s a veteran guy and he’s picking up the defense really fast,” Bradham said. “He’s been playing multiple positions as well.

“There’s key factors in that, getting guys who are able to do more and understand the game a lot more.”

The underdog to keep an eye on at weakside linebacker is 23-year-old Nathan Gerry, a 2017 fifth-round draft pick.

“That’s one of the spots I came in to learn,” Gerry told the team’s website. “Sat behind Mych for a year or two. It’s obviously one of my goals to become a starter.”

A converted safety from the University of Nebraska, Gerry played only sparingly as a rookie, finishing with five tackles and one pass breakup in 13 regular season and postseason games. Despite his limited NFL action, Bradham is impressed with the second-year pro’s development.

“He’s unbelievable for the things he’s been able to keep up and learn, and at a fast pace,” Bradham said. “He knows this defense. I tell him all the time he’s right there with Jordan and I, with knowing the whole defense. That says a lot for a second-year guy and a guy who’s only been playing linebacker two years.

"He has all the tools we need and he’s going to go out there and make plays for us.”

If the Eagles are leaning one way or another, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz certainly wasn’t dropping any hints.

“The plan is to have competition and see what comes of it,” Schwartz said. “This time of the year you're certainly open-minded for all positions … whether it's a player that's a rookie, whether it's a veteran.

“We have some young players that have worked up in our system. We have some guys that we brought from other teams and we have some new players on the roster. We'll shake it all out, and when we get to the end of training camp, we'll try to go forward with the best plan that we have.”

The competition appears to be wide open, with veterans Kamu Grugier-Hill, LaRoy Reynolds and Joe Walker and rookies Asantay Brown and Kyle Wilson also in the mix.