Nate Gerry’s not sure what he’s going to do with the football.
He just knows he’s gonna keep it.
On Sunday, as the Eagles’ defense smothered an overmatched Jets’ offense, there were plenty of big plays in the 31-6 win (see Roob's observations). But none were bigger than Gerry’s first-quarter pick-6. The former college safety read the play perfectly, picked off a pass and took it to the house.
Now, the football is going to his house as a souvenir from his first-career NFL touchdown.
“Nate’s a ballhawk,” fellow linebacker Nigel Bradham said. “I think people don’t realize his knack for the ball. Even in college, he was unbelievable at getting picks. He’s got a natural knack for it, being able to find the ball, locate it and grab it and take it.”
Gerry intercepted 13 passes in college at Nebraska but didn’t return any for touchdowns. Sunday’s pick-6 was his first since high school.
— NFL (@NFL) October 6, 2019
That came on 4th-and-1 in a one-score game in Eagles territory. On that play, Gerry’s man was Le’Veon Bell. He knew how the Jets wanted to attack in that type of short-yardage situation and showed great recognition. On the throw, Luke Falk had a man in his face, but admitted after the game that he threw the ball too far inside. He let it hang up there for Gerry and Gerry made him pay.
As soon as Gerry recognized the ball was going to Bell, without hesitation, he sprinted to the spot, undercut the pass from Falk and picked it off perfectly in stride.
Then there was a ton of green in front of him.
“Once I caught it, I looked to my right, I knew that there really wasn’t anyone else to catch me,” Gerry said. “I had trust in my own speed that Le’Veon wasn’t going to catch me from behind.”
He was right.
Gerry’s max speed on the pick-6 was just over 19 mph, according to NFL’s Next Gen Stats. Gerry, a former college safety, was once a South Dakota state champion track star in high school. He has wheels.
He also has instincts and hands.
Sunday’s interception was Gerry’s second this season. He leads the Eagles in INTs through five games and both have been huge plays. His other pick came in the end zone against Atlanta.
• Gerry’s pick-6 was the Eagles’ first since the NFC Championship Game in 2018. It was the first in the regular season since October 2017.
• Gerry now has three interceptions in his career. The only Eagles LBs in the last 20 years with more INTs than him are Jordan Hicks (8), DeMeco Ryans (5) and Jeremiah Trotter (5).
• He now has as many INTs in 28 games (4 starts) as Mychal Kendricks in 85 games (74 starts) as an Eagle.
And Gerry is doing this as a part-time player. Gerry was a fifth-round pick out of Nebraska in 2017 but converted from college safety to NFL linebacker, so he hasn’t really played much on defense early in his career. And, at times, he has struggled. But he’s showing promise this season.
“I’ve been here since his rookie year,” Bradham said. “He’s extremely smart, he knows how to pick up things quickly and anytime you got a guy like that who can learn quickly and don’t make mistakes twice, you see his growth, his potential. Every year, he’s been learning and getting better.”
While he’s getting more chances on defense this year, he’s still in a rotation with Zach Brown and Kamu Grugier-Hill. As Grugier-Hill gets healthier coming back from his MCL sprain, it’s likely Gerry’s snaps will decrease. But two picks in five games might force the Eagles to keep him on the field.
As of early Sunday evening, Gerry was waiting for an equipment manager to deliver his souvenir football to his locker. Gerry’s plan was to take it home.
“I haven’t decided yet,” he said, “so we’ll see.”
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