Raise your hand if you had Alex Singleton leading the Eagles in tackles this season.
The linebacker isn’t quite there yet, but his 94 are just four away from the team-high of 98 that safety Jalen Mills has posted.
Raise your hand if you even knew who Alex Singleton was two years ago when he joined the Eagles and made the practice squad. If you followed the Canadian Football League, you knew him, after he spent three highly successful seasons with the Calgary Stampeders.
“I think I fully became a pro in Canada,” he said on Wednesday morning. “When I first got to the NFL, I was 21 out of Montana State, didn’t really know much. Kind of knew what I knew. Then when you go to the CFL, the CFL is not like the NFL, a fully scheduled day when you’re in the building from 7 (a.m.) to 7 (p.m.).”
In the CFL, the day runs from just 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. for American players due to visa requirements. Singleton kept this as structured as possible with his goal of making it back to the NFL. He would arrive at the building at 7 a.m. to get his workout in and grow the day from there.
“At this point, it’s come full circle and I could say my plan worked perfectly the way I wanted to, but to grow in that time was the biggest thing to me because it became a lot less of other people controlling what I was doing and more on myself,” he said.
Now, Singleton has exploded on the Eagles’ scene eight weeks ago, and he has shown no signs of slowing down.
Travis Fulgham had his meteoric rise over a five-week stretch that was so white-hot he still leads all Eagles receivers and tight ends in reception yardage with 497. Fulgham has cooled immensely since that run; Singleton keeps on trucking, and he has grabbed the attention of Dallas Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy, who is getting his team ready to host the Eagles on Sunday (4:25 p.m.).
“He’s very instinctive,” said McCarthy on a conference call with Eagles media Wednesday afternoon. “His play recognition, his key recognition, is really good. He gets off the spot so you can tell his read-diagnose is clearly his strength. I remember a particular play where he beat the inside linebacker to the ball on an inside zone. I’ve been very impressed with him on video. He’s doing a very nice job for those guys.”
There has been plenty of change through the years at the linebacker position, with the departures of stalwarts Jordan Hicks, Kamu Grugier-Hill, and Nigel Bradham. That left Nate Gerry and a cast of unprovens to step into the position.
Gerry got hurt but not before becoming a lightning rod to a fan base who didn’t think he was any good at his job.
Singleton came on strong, and there could be more change at the position in 2021. Gerry is a free agent. Singleton is as well, but he is an exclusive rights free agent, which means the Eagles can still hold onto him with a decent offer, and, at this point, that would be a wise move.
“I don’t think about that, I don’t worry about that stuff,” said Singleton. “Obviously, you want to. I came in and competed the last two summers, but I think no matter what happens it’s going to be a competition in the future. I’m excited for that. I’m ready for that. But focused on beating Dallas first then I’ll worry about that.”
Some mock drafts have the Eagles taking Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons with the seventh pick, a position where they currently sit with two games left. The Eagles don’t draft linebackers in the first round, so scratch off Parsons from general manager Howie Roseman’s list.
Singleton should be on the GM’s radar, though.
Since becoming a starter nine games ago on Oct. 18 against the Baltimore Ravens and playing virtually every snap since then he has had five double-digit tackle games, including three in a row. In those nine games as a starter, he has 88 tackles.
Singleton gave credit to the defensive line for the tackling-machine he has become.
“You see those four guys in front of us,” he said. “I think those are four of the best guys in the world at what they do. I think it’s pretty easy to play behind Fletcher (Cox), Malik (Jackson), (Javon) Hargrave, Ray (Raequan Williams), TY (McGill), whoever’s in there.
“They make it difficult for O-linemen. I think O-linemen when they play us, a lot of guys come off double teams and pick up linebackers. I don’t think against us, a lot of guys are coming off, they’re staying on our (defensive linemen), and it kind of makes it easier for us.”
Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said on Tuesday that Singleton has improved in his ability to cover receivers in the passing game, whether they are receivers, tight ends, or running backs.
“I think you see a lot of plays that he makes in the run game, and where he was still sort of a work in progress was in the pass game,” said Schwartz. “There were a lot of things in the pass game that - mistakes that he would make or things that he could do better. But I really see his arrow being up in those categories too, now.
“He's become a much more consistent, zone player. He's become better at directing traffic back there, making all the calls, and being on the field for every snap is a lot different than being a complementary player, so he's grown in all those things, and knowing the kind of guy he is, he'll continue to grow, and that speaks well for him and for us.”
Now, raise your hand if you think Alex Singleton should be the starting middle linebacker in 2021.
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