Eagles

Eagles undrafted LB T.J. Edwards got noticed as a bad quarterback

Eagles undrafted LB T.J. Edwards got noticed as a bad quarterback

T.J. Edwards cracked up each time he talked about his days as a quarterback at Lakes High School in Illinois.

“I’m telling you, I was not a good quarterback,” Edwards said at his locker after a recent Eagles rookie camp practice. "We ran the spread, too. I was throwing it just about every down."

He was good enough to get noticed by Wisconsin while playing quarterback. But not as a quarterback.  

He’s now a promising undrafted rookie linebacker with the Eagles. Back then?

In high school Edwards was a self-described “pretty bad” QB who Wisconsin noticed on film for his … blocking?

“Threw a couple blocks as a quarterback,” he said. “So that was it.”

Talk about a strange road to the NFL.

Edwards barely played any defense in high school and never played linebacker. Just “a couple snaps” at safety.

But whenever Lakes’ running backs reversed direction? Guess who was out front of the play laying out opposing safeties and linebackers?

The pretty bad quarterback.

I was a low-level recruit so they weren’t tracking me too much, but I was a good kid, didn’t have any off-the-field issues,” Edwards said. “Glad I threw those blocks. Really, they were just running back cut-backs, and I just happened to run across the field and make a block once in a while and they noticed it on my junior year film.

Edwards wound up at Wisconsin, where he was a four-year inside linebacker starter on Badger teams that went a combined 42-12 and won bowl games the last three seasons.

He had eight sacks, 10 interceptions, 110 tackles for loss and 25 pass deflections and averaged 7.0 tackles per game.

When he went undrafted, there was only one place he wanted to go.

I expected to get drafted, but when that didn’t happen it was on to the next thing, it was fine,” he said. “I knew they wanted me. It was a pretty easy decision. I’m blessed to be here and try to do whatever I can to put myself in the best position. I’m happy with the way everything turned out. I think I’m in the right spot to be as good a player as I can be. I have a great opportunity here, so I’m glad I didn’t (get drafted). I think it definitely puts an extra chip on your shoulder, but at the end of the day everyone here has a little chip on their shoulder no matter what. You use it as internal motivation, but you still have to work as hard as you possibly can.

Edwards has a long way to go, and the practice squad is a realistic goal, but he does have at least shot to stick.

The Eagles added veteran inside linebackers L.J. Fort and 2016 Pro Bowler Zach Brown this offseason, and Nigel Bradham and Kamu Grugier-Hill have roster spots locked up, but there could be a spot for someone like the 6-foot-1, 240-pound Edwards if he has an exceptional training camp.

“I think I fit in well,” Edwards said. “I just think in terms of the culture here and in terms of who’s here now, they have really good players in every spot, so I can come in and learn from guys.”

Edwards played at Wisconsin with Corey Clement, and as a matter of fact their lockers face each other in the NovaCare Complex locker room. They’re very close, and Clement was one of the first people Edwards talked to after he signed here.

Like Clement, Edwards went undrafted. And we all know how it went for Clement. He became a Super Bowl hero as an undrafted rookie out of Wisconsin.

His message to Edwards was to focus on the little things, view football as a job now and always give tremendous effort.

Just a wild guess that effort won’t be a problem for a guy who got himself noticed by college coaches for his lead blocking as a quarterback.

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Eagles' new coach thinks team's WR corps is underrated, can be among NFL's best

Eagles' new coach thinks team's WR corps is underrated, can be among NFL's best

They're tired of being known as the worst group of wide receivers in the league.

And they may finally have a coach who can help them get rid of that tag.

"We have an expectation to be one of the top groups in the league," new Eagles receivers coach Aaron Moorehead said Thursday. "That's what we expect. This group is coming out with a little bit of a chip on its shoulder I think because of last year, and that's a good thing."

Eagles receivers last year combined for just 137 passes for 1,488 yards and nine touchdowns, the worst WR numbers in the league.

It was the fewest yards by an Eagles receiving corps since 2000, when Charles Johnson, Torrance Small and Friends had 1,481.

For the first time since 1966 no Eagles wide receiver even had 500 yards.

Out with Carson Walch, in with Moorehead, the Eagles' fifth receivers coach in five years under Doug Pederson.

It doesn't take much time with Moorehead – even on a Zoom call – to sense his confidence, passion, dedication and communication skills.

And he's already instilled a hunger in this wide receiving group to go from one of the worst in the league to one of the best.

"At the end of the day, a little added extra motivation (doesn't hurt)," he said. "In this day and age (with) social media, you can try to ignore it, but people hear what (critics) say, and I think guys understand that we do have something to prove, and that's OK. There's nothing wrong with that, and I enjoy a good challenge and I enjoy coaching a group that has something to prove."

DeSean Jackson is 33 and managed one healthy game last year. Alshon Jeffery struggled then got hurt and has been largely disappointing since he signed here. Second-round pick J.J. Arcega-Whiteside had a miserable rookie year. And rookie Jalen Reagor keeps hearing how the Eagles should have taken Justin Jefferson instead.

You can understand why this group feels disrespected.

"I think that's good," Moorehead said. "I've coached groups that people believed were the best [...] and I've coached groups that people disrespected and felt like they weren't very good, so it's not anything new to me. I think we have a really good group. I know we have a really good group. It's just up to us to stay healthy and prove it week in and week out."

The Eagles haven't had a wide receiver with back-to-back 100-yard games since Jordan Matthews in 2015.

They haven't had a 1,000-yard receiver since Jeremy Maclin in 2014.

On paper they should be better. How can they not be?

Their goal isn't just to be better. It’s to be among the best.

"So far they've taken the approach that [they're] ready to go out there and prove every day why we should be one of the top groups in the NFL," Moorehead said.

You have to love Moorehead's approach and his personality.

If his receivers can match his confidence and swagger, the Eagles just might finally have a receiving corps to get excited about.

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Eagle Eye podcast: Is Zach Ertz next in line for a contract extension?

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Eagle Eye podcast: Is Zach Ertz next in line for a contract extension?

On the latest Eagle Eye podcast, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro take a look at Zach Ertz’s contract situation after George Kittle and Travis Kelce got huge extensions. 

The guys pick some things they would have watched in the preseason opener, talk about Doug Pederson’s structure for practice and give their first impressions on a couple of new Eagles coaches. 

Plus, remembering the great Howard Mudd, who died at 78 this week. 

  • (1:02) — What Travis Kelce and George Kittle's contract mean for Zach Ertz.
  • (16:45) — Things we would have watched tonight in preseason opener.
  • (23:08) — Doug Pederson details Eagles’ 2020 training camp structure
  • (28:45) — Aaron Moorehead and Matt Burke speak on their roles. 
  • (36:54) — Remembering Howard Mudd
     

Subscribe and rate the Eagle Eye podcast: 
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More on the Eagles