How will pieces of Eagles’ linebacker group fit together this year?

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How will pieces of Eagles’ linebacker group fit together this year?

As we sit here in mid-June, one of the more intriguing positions for this Eagles team is linebacker. 

Jordan Hicks took a big contract from Arizona in free agency and then the Eagles brought in Zach Brown and L.J. Fort to supplement their linebackers group, which still includes Nigel Bradham and Kamu Grugier-Hill. 

While the position isn’t in the same condition as it was earlier this offseason, when a lot of the fanbase was clamoring for action, it still isn’t completely defined. 

How do all the pieces fit together? 

Well, the Eagles don’t even know yet.

“I’m trying to figure out what spot a lot of guys are best fit for,” linebackers coach Ken Flajole said. “We’ve got a lot of moving pieces right now and it’s going to be fluid all the way through training camp. We’re going to play guys at a lot of different positions.”

One thing is for sure: Bradham is going to start and he isn’t going to leave the field. 

After that … 

This spring, like Flajole said, the Eagles have been using different combinations. Bradham is getting over an injury, so he hasn’t practiced. That has gotten more players first-team reps but it has also masked any true depth chart the Eagles might have. Bradham is one piece of the puzzle, but we don’t necessarily know where his best fit is. Flajole mentioned that Bradham filled in at the MIKE the last two seasons for an injured Hicks, but admitted that might not be his most natural position. That could be true. But it could also be true that Bradham at the MIKE might be best for the team. 

Because of that, the Eagles need to figure out what they have in the other guys before they can, 1) Figure out which pieces to use, and, 2) Figure out how they all fit.  

To start mandatory minicamp on Tuesday (Bradham isn’t practicing yet), Gugier-Hill, Nate Gerry and Paul Worrilow were the Eagles’ starters in their base package. Zach Brown worked with the second team. 

Here’s a look at all the Eagles’ linebacker options after Bradham: 

Kamu Grugier-Hill: It’s hard to believe that KGH is entering his fourth NFL season, but he turned out to be quite a waiver claim for the Eagles after final cuts in 2016. He’s starting to look more like a linebacker than a safety, the position he played in college. Grugier-Hill started 10 games last season, played well and might be ready for an even bigger role. “I’d like to think that he can be a real factor for us,” Flajole said. 

Nathan Gerry: Entering Year 3, Gerry is far along in his transition from college safety. He’s the kind of rangy linebacker the Eagles like in this modern NFL. He played in 13 games last year with two starts and has been getting early run with the first team this spring.  

Paul Worrilow: After working his way back from and ACL tear last minicamp, Worrilow missed a few days of OTAs but was back on the field for minicamp. Flajole seems to like the 29-year-old veteran who has started 52 games in his career. He called him a “stallion” for his recovery. 

Zach Brown: The former division rival is still learning the Eagles’ defense, which is probably why he isn’t with the first-team defense yet. During OTAs, he did get some reps with the ones. He’s a talented guy but might end up being a two-down ‘backer for the Eagles. Still, he would be a fit at the MIKE if the Eagles decide they’re better off playing Bradham at his more natural position at the SAM. 

L.J. Fort: The 29-year-old veteran is a special teams ace, so he’ll at least have that role, replacing LaRoy Reynolds or D.J. Alexander. He was hoping to play more on defense here, but there appear to be some bodies in front of him he’d need to jump first. 

T.J. Edwards: A really talented rookie linebacker from Wisconsin, Edwards was expected to be drafted and never heard his name called. He has a shot to make this roster, but it might not be easy. If he doesn’t, the practice squad would make sense. 

Joey Alfieri: Like Edwards, Alfieri is another undrafted rookie. The Stanford product is another talented UDFA. Flajole said Edwards and Alfieri are two of the most talented UDFAs they’ve had since he’s been here. 

Alex Singleton: A little bit of a wild card, Singleton was an All-Star in the CFL for Calgary and was named the Most Outstanding Defensive Player Award in 2017.

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Eagles announce several new jersey numbers for 2020 season 

Eagles announce several new jersey numbers for 2020 season 

We have a long way to go before the start of the 2020 season but we have some jersey number updates from the Eagles. 

Most of these new numbers are for new players, but Jalen Mills is also switching out of the number he’s worn for the first four years of his career. 

Here they are in numerical order: 

Jalen Mills: 21

Mills spent the first four years of his career in No. 31. But his rookie contract is over and he’s returning as a safety in 2020. So new position, new number. 

“It’s just recreating myself,” Mills said this week. “Recreating that Green Goblin, that monster. It’s a new position, it’s a new feel, and it’s going to be new energy.”

Mills said he admires guys like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, who each changed their jersey numbers throughout their NBA careers. 

The No. 21 became available after Ronald Darby left in free agency to head to Washington. Darby wore 41 back in 2017 when he arrived in a training camp trade; Patrick Robinson had the 21 on his one-year deal.

Complete Eagles history at 21: James Zyntell, Les Maynard, Paul Cuba, John Kusko, Herschel Stockton, Allison White, Chuck Cherundolo, William Boedeker, Al Pollard, Jim Carr, Joe Scarpati, Ray Jones, Jackie Allen, Wes Chesson, Al Clark, John Sciarra, Evan Cooper, Eric Allen, Bobby Taylor, Matt Ware, William James, Joselio Hanson, David Sims, Roc Carmichael, Jerome Couplin, Leodis McKelvin, Patrick Robinson, Ronald Darby

Darius Slay: 24 

In Detroit, Slay wore No. 30 during his rookie season back in 2013 but had the No. 23 in the next six years. But in Philly, Rodney McLeod has 23, so Slay is happily changing to 24 to honor the late Kobe Bryant.

“I’m going Kobe mode,” Slay said. “Black mamba. Rest in peace to the  One of my favorite players. I will look good in 24.”

Last season, Jordan Howard wore the No. 24 during his one-year stint with the Eagles. 

Complete Eagles history at 24: Howard Auer, Joe Carpe, Dick Lachman, Jack Knapper, Herman Bassman, Joe Pilconis, Rabbit Keen, Bill Schneller, Dom Moselle, George Taliaferro, Don Schaefer, Nate Ramsey, Artimus Parker, Henry Monroe, Zac Henderson, Ray Ellis, Russell Gary, Reggie Brown, Alan Reid, Alan Dial, Corey Barlow, Tim McTyer, Darnell Autry, Rod Smart, Blaine Bishop, Sheldon Brown, Joique Bell, Brandon Hughes, Nnadmi Asomugha, Bradley Fletcher, Ryan Mathews, Corey Graham, Jordan Howard

Will Parks: 28 

During the first four years of his NFL career, Parks wore No. 34 in Denver as a sixth-round pick. But that number is owned by Cre’Von LeBlanc in Philly. 

So Parks will hop into the No. 28 that was vacant for most of last year until Jay Ajayi was signed during the season. 

Complete Eagles history at 28: Dick Thornton, Guy Turnbow, Algy Clark, Joe Pilconis, Max Padlow, J. “Stumpy” Thomason, Harry Klopenburg, Ray Keeling, Bob Jackson, Paul Dudley, Jim Gray, Bill Bradley, Lou Rash, Greg Harding, Don Griffin, Mel Gray, Clarence Love, Amp Lee, Correll Buckhalter, Ramzee Robinson, Marlin Jackson, Dion Lewis, Earl Wolff, Wendell Smallwood, Jay Ajayi

Nickell Robey-Coleman: 31

As an undrafted player, Robey-Coleman came into the league and wore No. 37 for his first three seasons in Buffalo before he got a big-time improvement and took over 21 in 2015. For the last three seasons, he wore 23 with the Rams but that’s taken by McLeod here. 

So he’ll be in the 31 that Mills wore for the last four years. 

Complete Eagles history at 31: Joe Carter, Tom Graham, Irv Kupcinet, William Brian, Bob Masters, Emmett Mortell, Jerry Ginney, Phil Ragazzo, Jim Castiglia, Ted Williams, Art Macioszczyk, Dan Sandifer, Ebert Van Buren, Ron Goodwin, Tom Bailey, Wilbert Montgomery, Troy West, Tyrone Jones, Brian O’Neal, Derrick Witherspoon, Al Harris, Daryon Brutley, Dexter Wynn, Ellis Hobbs, Curtis Marsh, Shaun Prater, Byron Maxwell, Jalen Mills

Trevor Williams: 41

You might have forgotten the Eagles signed Williams back in January, but the cornerback and Penn State product has 39 NFL games and 27 starts to his name with the Chargers and Cardinals. 

He has previously worn 42, 24 and 22. 

Complete Eagles history at 41: Ted Schmitt, Foster Watkins, Buist Warren, Gil Steinke, Frank Ziegler, Jerry Norton, Bob Freeman, Howard Cassady, Harry Wilson, Richard Harvey, Randy Logan, Earnest Jackson, Keith Byars, Alvin Ross, Fred McCrary, Johnny Thomas, William Hampton, Thomas Tapeh, Stephen Spach, Tanard Davis, Antoine Harris, Jarrad Page, Emil Igwenagu, Randall Evans, Ronald Darby, De’Vante Bausby

Jatavis Brown: 53

Everyone pretty much understood that Nigel Bradham wasn’t going to return to the Eagles in 2020 but now they went ahead and gave his number away. Bradham wore 53 for the last four seasons in Philly. 

During his first four NFL seasons with the Chargers, Brown was No. 57 but that’s occupied in Philly by second-year linebacker T.J. Edwards. 

Complete Eagles history at 53: Walt Masters, Alex Wojciechowicz, Ken Farragut, Bob Pellegrini, John Simerson, Bob Butler, Harold Wells, Fred Whittingham, Dick Absher, Dennis Franks, Fred Smalls, Jody Schulz, Dwayne Jiles, Maurice Henry, Ivan Caesar, John Roper, Bill Romanowski, N.D. Kalu, Hugh Douglas, Mark Simoneau, Moise Fokou, Ryan Rau, Najee Goode, Nigel Bradham

Javon Hargrave: 93

Not long after news broke that Tim Jernigan was heading to Houston, Hargrave got his jersey number. 

A switch was necessary for Hargrave, who wore 79 during his first four seasons in the NFL with the Steelers. The Eagles already have a No. 79 who is pretty good in right guard Brandon Brooks. And Hargrave wore 97 in college but that number in Philly is owned by Malik Jackson. 

Complete Eagles history at 93: Tom Strauthers, John Dumbauld, Ray Phillips, David Bailey, Greg Townsend, Daniel Stubbs, Darion Conner, Pernell Davis, Levon Kirkland, Marco Coleman, Jevon Kearse, Trevor Laws, Jason Babin, Brandon Bair, Tim Jernigan

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NFL Draft Betting: Take this under on running back D'Andre Swift

NFL Draft Betting: Take this under on running back D'Andre Swift

With the 2020 NFL Draft just weeks away, now is the time to start scouting your first round bets - if you haven't already.

NBC Sports Philadelphia betting expert Brad Feinberg has identified one over/under he likes quite a bit: local product and Georgia running back D'Andre Swift's draft slot at 31.5.

Feinberg said he likes the under on Swift going before the 31st overall pick this year.

"There is a separate bet you can make, will there be a running back taken in round one of the NFL draft, where the yes is minus-300," Feinberg explained.

In this year's draft, Swift is largely considered the best running back prospect available, so Feinberg sees the likelihood of Swift earning a first-round nod as fairly high.

Plus, history is on Swift's side. 

Despite the supposed league-wide devaluation of the running back position, at least one running back has been selected in the first round in each of the last five NFL drafts, with three in 2018, and two in both 2017 and 2015.

While NFL general managers aren't eager to spend big money on running backs, but when they can be had on rookie contracts and with fresh legs, they feel like good investments.

And Swift seems to be a good first-round investment.

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