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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