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 mailbag: Derek Barnett's potential breakout, Carson Wentz's durability and contract concerns

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Eagles mailbag: Derek Barnett's potential breakout, Carson Wentz's durability and contract concerns

Part 1 touched on Sidney Jones, Josh Adams and my pick for Eagles Rookie of the Year.

Part 2 answered questions about Corey Clement, UDFAs and Big V’s future as a guard.

Here’s Part 3:

I guess this answer depends on your definition of “break out year.” Barnett’s 2018 season ended prematurely with a shoulder injury that hampered him before the Eagles shut him down. But early in the year, I thought he was the best defensive end on the team (by that point Michael Bennett hadn’t played well and Brandon Graham was getting over his ankle injury). In six games, Barnett had 2 1/2 sacks. But before the shoulder injury, he had 2 1/2 in four games before he missed Week 5 with the shoulder injury that eventually ended his season. So Barnett was on pace for 10 sacks before the injury. With plenty of opportunity this season, I think Barnett can be a double-digit sack guy. Sure. That’s a good bar to set. Before Fletcher Cox did it in 2018, the last Eagle to top 10 sacks was Connor Barwin in 2014.

One thing is for sure: this is a big year for Barnett. The Eagles traded away Bennett, Chris Long just announced his retirement (see story) and the Eagles passed on taking an edge rusher early in what was supposed to be a historically deep class. Barnett needs to not just be a starter, but be extremely productive in Year 3.

This is an interesting question and there really aren’t many contracts from this offseason that even qualify. So many of these contracts done by Howie Roseman are one-year deals. The long-term ones were: DeSean Jackson, Malik Jackson, Brandon Graham, Isaac Seumalo. Seumalo’s deal is cheap enough that I won’t count him.

If I had to pick the most likely, it would be DeSean Jackson’s deal. He’s 32 and his game is predicated on speed. So even though we haven’t seen it, there’s a chance that speed disappears and the Eagles are left with a speed receiver sans speed. That’s possible. For the record, I’d be willing to take that risk, as the Eagles did, because Jackson’s speed was exactly the element the Eagles needed. I was tempted to say Graham because the Eagles did kind of overpay him, but even if he can’t get after the QB, he can at least stuff the run. If Jackson loses his speed, what good is he?

Yeah, eventually they’ll return as an alternate in my lifetime, which would make me thrilled because I could finally stop reporting on a jersey color. (Just kidding, love you guys.) The hold-up here is that the NFL has this antiquated rule that won’t allow teams to have more than one helmet for each player. It’s an old safety rule. Jeff Lurie says he wants kelly green jerseys, but they don’t want them without matching helmets. Before you bring up the Rams, they use the same helmets with different decals. The Eagles say decals aren’t an option for them. It’s alternate helmets or bust. A couple of years ago, competition committee chairman Rich McKay told me he was optimistic this rule would eventually be changed. For now, we wait.

I’ll say 14 or 15. I really don’t know. I think he’ll be healthy at the start of the season but maybe he gets hurt during the year and misses a game or two. I can’t see the future.

It’s fair to say the Eagles are in win-now mode, but none of their contracts really tie their hands long-term. That’s the interesting thing about what the Eagles have done. They have some real flexibility with their roster. They are clearly playing to win a Super Bowl this year, but they’ll have the ability to keep signing free agents and should have plenty of draft picks coming up. That’s important because they’ll need cheap talent to surround Wentz when he’s making $30+ million per year soon enough.

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Eagles defensive end Chris Long announces retirement

Eagles defensive end Chris Long announces retirement

After a few months of contemplation, Eagles defensive end Chris Long has made his decision.

He’s calling it a career.

The 34-year-old announced his official retirement from the NFL on Saturday night and he did it, of course, on Twitter.

Not long after his official announcement, the Eagles congratulated Long, who became a fan favorite in Philly during the two years he played here.

Back in 2008, Long was the Rams’ No. 2 pick in the draft out of Virginia. He played his first eight years in St. Louis, before winning a Super Bowl in 2016 with the Patriots and then winning again in 2017 with the Eagles. He reached legend status in Philly during that Super Bowl run for helping create the dog mask phenomenon and for then rocking out during the parade down Broad Street.

And it was Long who pressured Case Keenum to throw that pick-6 to Patrick Robinson in the NFC Championship Game. In two seasons in Philly, he had 11 1/2 sacks and forced six fumbles.

In his 11 years in the NFL, Long piled up a clean 70 sacks to go along with 15 forced fumbles.

The Eagles will miss Long on the field and off it. Aside from being a highly productive player in his two seasons with the Eagles, Long was also a very highly respected member of the locker room. He was a favorite among teammates and his sense of humor — he created a Nick Foles shrine last year — was infectious at the NovaCare Complex. (The funniest part of the Foles shrine was watching Long’s mischievous smile as he watched a bunch of reporters gobble it up.)

Long had a long and productive football career, but, really, his legacy will be the work he’s done off it. That work is not finished.

Long was named the 2018 Walter Payton Man of the Year for his charitable efforts through the Chris Long Foundation. He clearly deserved the honor.

He’s given away his salary, raised millions for educational initiatives in cities across the country and, through his Waterboys initiative, has provided access to clean water for communities in East Africa for years.

While his teammates and coaches will be happy for Long, his departure does leave the Eagles a little light at defensive end. To his credit, Long told the Eagles to plan as if he wouldn’t be back. Long wasn’t interested in returning for a reduced role, which the Eagles told him he would have in 2019.

Without Long, the Eagles have Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Vinny Curry, Josh Sweat and Shareef Miller, Daeshon Hall and Joe Ostman as their defensive ends. Malik Jackson, signed this offseason, will play on third downs as a defensive tackle, taking stress off the ends, but the Eagles will still miss Long, who had been a third-down specialist during his time with the Eagles.

Last season, the Eagles entered the year with Long and Michael Bennett as their top rotational defensive ends. That was incredible depth they won’t have this season unless they make another move.

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