Maybe T.J. Edwards isn’t a long-term fix for the Eagles at the linebacker position.
But he’s the best one they have right now.
If nothing else, Edwards is giving the Eagles some much-needed physicality on that side of the ball.
“You see how physical he is inside,” Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon said. “There were a couple times where they ran iso plays or lead plays and he took on the fullback, knocked him back, and made the tackle.
“He's doing a good job as far as what I look for in the MIKE, is running the show, being in the right spot and playing winning football in the run and pass game, and he is doing that.”
Earlier in the season, Edwards was just a role player on defense, while Eric Wilson and Alex Singleton played a ton. But since then Wilson has been cut and Singleton’s playing time has decreased dramatically. The last two games, it’s been mostly Edwards and second-year player Davion Taylor playing the bulk of the snaps.
And Edwards, 25, has brought a very stable presence to an otherwise unstable linebacker position. In the last two weeks, Edwards has 25 combined tackles. Against the Chargers he played 96% of the Eagles’ defensive snaps.
Overall, the Eagles have the NFL’s 20th-ranked rush defense. But in the last two games they held their opponents to under 100 yards for the first two times all season. Having Edwards in there at the MIKE has surely helped.
Edwards is in his third NFL season after going undrafted out of Wisconsin in 2019. He’s been a solid pickup for the Eagles. In 2 1/2 seasons, he’s played in 37 games with 23 starts.
“I know that in my position, people don’t really know what to expect from me,” Edwards said last week. “I love just proving that every single day, showing them some things that they didn’t think I could do or just trying to be at my best. I’ll never say that’s something’s mine and I always know that if I’m not playing well it won’t be for long.”
As a former undrafted player, Edwards doesn’t have a ton of high expectations. And his reputation is that he’s a smart instinctive player who lacks the necessary speed and athleticism to ever become a star.
Edwards thinks he knows where a lot of that reputation stems from.
“I think people look at my 40 time from three years ago and think, ‘no way he’s gotten faster so he probably can’t cover, can’t play in the pass game, can’t tackle in space,’” he said. “I love all that stuff because it’s things that I’ve worked on for a long time and I don’t think there’s anything I can’t do at the MIKE linebacker spot.”
Back at his pro day in 2019, Edwards ran a 4.77, but he claims he’s definitely faster now. He works with his trainer on speed all offseason. He estimates he’d likely be in the 4.6s now.
Look, that’s still not very fast in the modern NFL. For example, Taylor ran a 4.49 at the combine last year, which is largely why he was drafted in the third round by the Eagles despite a lack of overall football experience and knowledge.
In a lot of ways, Edwards and Taylor are opposites. Edwards lacks the top tier athleticism Taylor has and Taylor lacks the football instincts that Edwards has been displaying for a couple years.
Maybe Edwards is limited. Maybe he isn’t the Eagles’ long-term answer at the position. That’s OK. Because right now he’s giving them good snaps. And he’ll likely continue to do that.
“I think from a standpoint of being in the right spot, playing in the run game, running the defense, he's doing a really good job,” Gannon said. “He's playing winning football for us.”
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