Eagles

Eagles Stay or Go 2021: Time to upgrade at linebacker

Eagles

Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro bring back Stay or Go in 2021, trying to figure out the futures of every Eagles player on the roster.

Today, we’ll look at linebackers:

Joe Bachie

Roob: It’s hard to imagine that the Joe Bachie Era could soon be ending. Almost seems like it just began. It actually did just begin. The Eagles signed Bachie off the Saints’ practice squad in December and he became one of 26 rookies to play for the Eagles this year. He’s undrafted and undersized and inexperienced, so he has that going for him. Who knows, maybe he’ll have a great training camp and win a job. It’s not like the LB bar is set very high around here. But he is the ultimate longshot.

Verdict: Goes

 

Dave: The Eagles needed bodies when they signed Bachie off the Saints practice squad in December. We haven’t seen much of him; he played just 18 defensive snaps. He’ll be in camp with a chance to impress the new coaching staff but I don’t like his chances.

Verdict: Goes

Shaun Bradley

Roob: It was a tough year for all the Eagles’ rookies, and Bradley was no different. He did get a taste of the NFL, mainly on special teams, along with a few defensive reps, but the Temple product was clearly a work in progress. He was only a 6th-round pick, so there are no guarantees. He’s an athletic kid and works hard, so he has a chance. And we’ll see what happens in the draft and free agency, but it’s not like there’s a ton of incredible linebackers walking around the NovaCare Complex who are going to take his job.

 

Verdict: Stays

Dave: The 6th-round pick out of Temple didn’t play a ton but he ended up being on the field for 76 defensive snaps. He was second on the team in special teams snaps and entering his second NFL season, there are some tools for the Eagles to work with. He might never be a star but his career got off to a decent start. Look for Bradley to be at least a major special teams contributor in Year 2.

Verdict: Stays

T.J. Edwards

Roob: Edwards is a functional inside linebacker who gets the most out of what he has. He’ll always be limited by his speed and size, but you can’t question his toughness or effort. There’ll always be a place for a guy like that on my team. I do think the Eagles need to do better than guys like Edwards, and that’s not a knock on him as much as it’s a knock on Howie Roseman and the roster he’s built.

Verdict: Stays

Dave: Look, Edwards is somewhat limited physically. At times, he’s a liability in coverage. But he’s not going to make mental mistakes, he’s going to be in the right position to make plays and when they come to him, he’s going to make them. Maybe Edwards won’t be a starter next year, but the Eagles should probably keep him around. He enters Year 3 in 2021 and he’s at least a special teams guy and is a solid overachiever.

Verdict: Stays

Nate Gerry

Roob: Gerry was terrible the first seven games of the season and then went on Injured Reserve with an ankle injury and never played again and everybody just forgot about him. And I'm not lying when I tell you nobody ever even asked Doug Pederson how he was healing or if he was getting close to returning. It’s not a good sign when you get hurt and nobody asks the coach if you’re coming back.

Verdict: Goes

Dave: The Eagles insistence on making Gerry an every down linebacker was weird. Because as a backup and a special teams guy, Gerry’s fine. The fanbase wouldn’t have hated him if that had been his role. But Jim Schwartz liked Gerry enough to make him the No. 1 linebacker and that was a disaster. It was telling how much better Alex Singleton was in that role once Gerry went down. Gerry is a free agent after playing out his rookie contract and the Eagles shouldn’t bring him back.

Verdict: Goes

Duke Riley

Roob: Riley is OK. He’s another one who plays hard, gives you everything he has and gets the most out of his ability. He’s got some athleticism. He’s active. But like most of these guys he’s got a limited ceiling and he’ll never be an exceptional player. And the Eagles have too many guys like that. He’s a free agent and I’d think the Eagles will go in another direction.

 

Verdict: Goes

Dave: Riley, like most of these linebackers, is a special teams player whom the Eagles asked to have a bigger role. He wasn’t great at that. There’s a reason he was a special teams captain and bringing him back wouldn’t be terrible. But he’s also a free agent, so I’m not sure the Eagles will go out of their way to make that happen. If the Eagles bring him back, that’s fine. But the new coaching staff might want their own guys.

Verdict: Goes

Alex Singleton

Roob: Singleton was the Eagles’ best linebacker this past year, and honestly he’s the only one who’s a lock to come back in 2021. Hard to believe he wasn’t even a starter until Week 6. Once he got on the field, he was a tackling machine - he averaged 11 tackles over the last eight games of the season. I still don’t think he’s ideally an every-down linebacker. He’s not great in coverage. But he’s the best the Eagles have and he’s not going anywhere.

Verdict: Stays

Dave: There weren’t many bright spots in the Eagles’ 2020 season but Singleton was one of them. Once he became a starter, Singleton was a tackling machine, finishing with 120 tackles, 2 sacks and even had that pick-6. He’s an exclusive rights free agent, which basically means he’ll be back on a super cheap deal in 2021. The former CFL star is 27 already but there’s no reason to think he won’t be a really good player again this season.

Verdict: Stays

Rashad Smith

Roob: Did you realize that Smith played 23 snaps on defense in the season finale against Washington? I didn’t either. I just looked it up. Smith is another undrafted rookie who the Eagles picked up along the way. He began the year with the Cowboys and played in a couple late-season games as a game-day practice-squad call-up. You can’t help root for a long shot kid like Rashad Smith. You also can’t help think the Eagles can’t keep running guys like Rashad Smith out there.

Verdict: Goes

Dave: Like we mentioned earlier, the Eagles needed bodies at the end of the season and Smith played 23 snaps in the regular season finale. Undrafted out of FAU, Smith spent time with the Bears and Cowboys before joining the Eagles’ practice squad in November. He’s a long shot.

Verdict: Goes

Davion Taylor

Roob: The rookie 3rd-round pick from Colorado barely played on defense before missing the last month of the season with a knee injury. Did some good things on special teams. Nobody needs OTAs and a full offseason more than the 22-year-old Taylor, who’s got some tools but just needs the experience. We knew he was going to be a long-term project. Hopefully we start to see progress in Year 2.

Verdict: Stays

Dave: We expected Taylor to be a long-term project and that proved to be true. He played just 32 defensive snaps in 2020 and 18 of them came against the Browns, who have a run-heavy offense. There were times when he flashed that speed but there were also times when his inexperience showed too. The Eagles used a 3rd-round pick on Taylor knowing he wasn’t ready to contribute so he’ll be around in 2021 with a new coaching staff to help him try to realize his potential.

Verdict: Stays

Stay or Go: Wide receivers

Stay or Go: Cornerbacks

Stay or Go: Running backs

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