Examining Eagles' LB depth after Kendricks cut, Worrilow injury

Examining Eagles' LB depth after Kendricks cut, Worrilow injury

One day into their organized team activities and the Eagles are already down two linebackers. 

It’s unclear how the timing of it all went, if Paul Worrilow went down (see story) before or after the Eagles told Mychal Kendricks they were cutting him (see story). But it doesn’t really matter anymore. The Eagles entered Tuesday with 10 linebackers and they left with eight. Not only did they release Kendricks, who was (sort of) a starter, they also lost a veteran depth piece. 

At least we know the top two linebackers are set. Jordan Hicks and Nigel Bradham are the two true starters because the Eagles are in their nickel package for about 75 percent of their defensive snaps. 

The releasing of Kendricks, more than anything, might mean the Eagles are very encouraged by the progress of Hicks as he recovers from a torn Achilles. Kendricks’ playing time increased only when Hicks went down in 2017. Bradham’s role increased then too. 

So for now, we know Hicks is at the MIKE, Bradham is at the SAM and … after that? 

Here’s a look at the Eagles’ linebacker depth as it stands now: 

Corey Nelson
Age: 26

When Nelson signed a one-year, $1.6 million contract in March, he said he was told he’d be competing for the starting weakside linebacker position. At the time, that comment rose eyebrows because the WILL was Kendricks’ job (see story). Now, that obviously makes more sense. 

Nelson was a seventh-round draft pick in 2014 but has been a special teamer since entering the league. He viewed coming to the Eagles as an opportunity to show that he can be a defensive force as well. 

Nelson is coming off a torn biceps injury that ended his 2017 season early but was on the practice field for OTAs Tuesday. 

Kamu Grugier-Hill
Age: 24

In his two seasons with the Eagles, Grugier-Hill hasn’t played much on defense but he has become one of their best special teams players and had a real case to make the Pro Bowl in 2017, even if he didn’t fill in as a kickoff guy early in the season. 

During Tuesday’s OTAs, Grugier-Hill was lined up with the starters but that was without Kendricks and with Hicks still not participating in team drills. Last season, Grugier-Hill played just 85 defensive snaps and 53 of them came in the meaningless regular-season finale. 

Nate Gerry 
Age: 23

The Eagles seem to like Gerry, who was a fifth-round pick out of Nebraska last year, but he’s still a work in progress. Listed at 218 pounds, he’s one of the Eagles’ lightest linebackers and he’s converting from playing safety in college. In fact, that hybrid quality is something that drew the Eagles to Gerry. 

Like Grugier-Hill, Gerry got some run with the first team Tuesday but didn’t see much defensive action as a rookie, playing just 20 total defensive snaps. But he did have a role on special teams and it doesn’t seem like the Eagles are opposed to extending that. 

Joe Walker 
Age: 25

The Eagles used a seventh-round pick on Walker when he came out of Oregon in 2016, but the former Duck suffered an ACL tear that ruined a really good training camp. Walker returned last season but was buried a little on the depth chart. He played in 12 games and got 99 defensive snaps before the Eagles decided to use Dannell Ellerbe heading into the playoffs. 

Then, to make matters worse, Walker landed on IR with a neck injury to end his 2017 season early. There’s some promise there, but Walker has had difficulty staying healthy. He didn’t practice Tuesday. 

LaRoy Reynolds
Age: 27

Reynolds was just added last week, so we haven’t seen much of him so far. But he’s been in the league since 2013, playing for the Jaguars, Bears and for the Falcons in the last two seasons. With Atlanta, he played in 25 games with three starts. He began the 2017 season on IR with a pec injury but was able to play some down the stretch. Like Worrilow, Reynolds played in Super Bowl LI with Atlanta. 

Asantay Brown 
Age: 23

Brown is an undrafted free agent out of Western Michigan. The 6-0, 215-pound linebacker is the lightest listed on the Eagles’ roster. He has a history at safety, having played that position his first two seasons at Western Michigan before moving to linebacker. 

When do players know their football days are over?

USA Today Images

When do players know their football days are over?

In the latest edition of Eagle Eye, Derrick Gunn and Barrett Brooks discuss Father's Day weekend. What kind of basketball parent is Barrett? The guys give their 53-man roster after spring practices. Tom Brady says he can feel his playing days are getting numbered. When do players first start realizing that the end is near and what makes that reality most difficult? Also, how should the Giants handle Odell Beckham Jr.'s contract situation?

"I think that Saquon [Barkley] is going to be better than [Ezekiel] Elliott." — Barrett Brooks.

1:00 - What kind of basketball parent is Barrett?
3:00 - Father's Day weekend recap.
5:00 - Eagles' 53-man roster after spring practices.
15:30 - Tom Brady tells Oprah the end is near ... when do players start seeing that reality?
20:00 - The hardest part about having to say goodbye to football.
23:00 - Odell Beckham Jr.'s contract situation.

Press Taylor was right choice for Eagles' QBs coach

Press Taylor was right choice for Eagles' QBs coach

The Eagles were just a few days away from the Super Bowl and there was a clear indication of just how loose the team really was. 

On Feb. 1, Carson Wentz tweeted out a photo proving it. 

So, what’s the point of this? Why show a photo that Wentz sent out from an escape room well over four months ago?

Well, because it was a little glimpse into the future. Because the five guys in that photo are going to be the five guys in the Eagles’ quarterback room this season. 

Along with Wentz, Nick Foles and Nate Sudfeld, the other two are Press Taylor (sitting) and Spencer Phillips. This offseason, after John DeFilippo left Philadelphia to take the offensive coordinator job in Minnesota, the Eagles promoted Taylor to take his position as quarterbacks coach and then promoted Phillips to take Taylor’s spot as the assistant quarterbacks coach. 

It was probably a no-brainer. 

And it’s crazy to think, but just a year after the Eagles blocked DeFilippo from leaving the organization, DeFilippo has left … and the Eagles are going to be just fine. 

At the time, before the 2017 season, it made sense to block DeFilippo. He was seemingly integral to the development of a young Wentz and he certainly deserves plenty of credit for the big jump in Wentz’s play last season. But now, without him, the Eagles are going to keep a finely-tuned machine running. And they’re going to do it with a very young and very promising coach. 

Taylor is just 30 years old, which seems incredibly young for a coach who is supposed to lead the most important position room for the Eagles and possibly the most important position room in the entire league. He’s just one year older than Foles. 

He might be young, but Taylor is uniquely positioned to handle this responsibility. And aside from his football acumen — which has been touted by his superiors — it’s his relationship with the players in the room that made him such a no-brainer replacement for DeFilippo. 

“I feel really close (to Wentz, Foles and Sudfeld),” Taylor said last week. “I know what makes them tick going into it. And then we all had our own relationships. Obviously, I wasn’t their quarterbacks coach at the time, but I was in the room, sat through those conversations, had my own conversations out on the practice field. I feel like I know the things they like, the things they didn’t like. And then was able to learn from the other guys, the other coaches in the room.”

After the Super Bowl, Taylor is probably best known in the city for bringing the Philly Special to the Eagles. In his position last year, it was his job to mine gadget plays from around the league and found that play being used by the Bears the season before (see story). And that’s great. But all the stuff we don’t know about last year is what’s going to make the most difference for the Eagles this season. 

Taylor has been with the Eagles since 2013, when Chip Kelly brought him to town. And then Doug Pederson was smart enough (and without ego) to keep Taylor in 2016. The brother of Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor, Press has quickly worked his way up the ladder. 

Last week, Wentz was asked if the team wanted his opinion before promoting Taylor. 

“I think it was pretty much known how we felt about Press beforehand,” Wentz said. “We’ve seen Press behind the scenes the last couple years and how hard he works. A lot of guys have a ton of respect for him as a person and as a coach. I know that’s where I sit. So far, it’s been great. He understands the game extremely well. We’re very like-minded, both on and off the field. The relationship I have with him personally and the relationship he has with all the quarterbacks has been tremendous so far.”

The relationship between Taylor and the QBs is so important. Relationships for this entire coaching staff are so important. Really, that’s what has made Pederson so special. He has that “emotional intelligence” and understands how to deal with his players. 

Taylor seems to have that too. And really, that’s why the Eagles’ QB room won’t miss a beat. 

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