Over the next three weeks leading up to training camp, we’ll be counting down the top 20 most important Eagles for the 2021 season.
19. Eric Wilson
The Eagles didn’t make a big splash this offseason, spending a lot of money or a premium draft pick on the linebacker position, but they still improved.
Eric Wilson, 26, is just the kind of low-cost signing for the Eagles that could have major upside for them in 2021.
This season, Wilson, Alex Singleton and some combination of T.J. Edwards, Davion Taylor, Shaun Bradley and JaCoby Stevens will man the linebacker spots. While linebacker is still not a strength of the Eagles, it at least looks like they’re in a slightly better position this year than in other recent years. Wilson is a big key to that.
Perhaps no one understands what new defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon wants to do more than Wilson, who had just one year of crossover with Gannon in Minnesota but also learned under Mike Zimmer with the Vikings. And the Eagles’ new linebackers coach, Nick Rallis, also comes from Minnesota and was with Wilson there too. So Wilson should have a high level of familiarity with this new defensive scheme.
After injuries really ripped apart the Vikings’ linebacker room last year, Wilson ended up starting 15 of 16 games and had a breakout season in 2020. He finished the year with 122 tackles, 3 sacks, 3 interceptions, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 forced fumble and 9 quarterback hits. He filled up the stat sheet.
Last season, Wilson was the only player in the NFL with 100+ tackles, 3+ interceptions and 3+ sacks and just one of a handful in the last five years, putting himself in elite company:
2019: Darius Leonard
2019: Logan Ryan
2018: Cory Littleton
2018: Derwin James
2016: Landon Collins
2015: Thomas Davis
2015: Lavonte David
OK, so maybe Wilson isn’t quite in that class of player, at least not yet. But he’s coming off a really good season and the Eagles got him for a steal. His one-year contract is worth just $2.75 million and he has a minimal cap hit of $1.75 million in 2021.
The Eagles’ future at the linebacker position is somewhat undefined and it’s a really young room. The oldest linebacker on the team is 27-year-old Singleton. So there’s a chance that Wilson could be in the plans beyond this year. If he has a good season, the Eagles might try to extend him.
It’s not exactly clear where Wilson will line up, but he has the ability to play all three linebacker spots and with his familiarity with the defense, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him become the play caller on the field for the Eagles’ defense.
Expect the Eagles’ defensive line to be good again in 2021, but in order for the defense to work, the linebackers behind them will need to clean up. Wilson will play a big role in that.
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