Eagles Don't Need Help at LB, Here's Why
PHILADELPHIA - It sounds counterintuitive but the Eagles should stand pat at the linebacking position in advance of the NFL's trade deadline on Nov. 3
The reasons for that assessment are twofold, starting with the realization that Philadelphia is stuck in a bit of a purgatory when it comes to the postseason, a clear and rather easy path to the dance thanks to the dismal NFC East but also the harsh reality that a deep run is unlikely due to the talent deficiencies that can't be addressed until the offseason.
The second part is the pending return of T.J. Edwards for the Nov. 1 game against Dallas coupled with the play of Alex Singleton since Edwards exited the lineup for three games with a hamstring injury.
The bigger issue here is the coaching staff's reliance on Nate Gerry and Duke Riley as the default settings for what's needed with modern linebackers, namely speed, athleticism, and coverage ability.
Ken Flajole, the Eagles' LBs coach, told SI.com's Eagle Maven that Singleton would really show up "when the pads came on" back in 2019, not the best trait to have in the modern game because the pads hardly ever come until the very moment they do on game days.
By then, the more athletic options have distanced themselves, something only amplified in the COVID-19 2020 season where preseason games were eliminated.
The same roadblock holds true for Edwards, a tremendously productive college player out of Wisconsin who went undrafted in 2019 because he's more of an old-school downhill thumper at 242 pounds.
Those kinds of players are nice to have when you need them but are often thought of as a luxury these days.
If you go outside the NovaCare Complex for an independent view, ProFootballFocus.com has graded 80 linebackers as we head into the meat of Week 7 and Singleton has been the Eagles' top player at the position at No. 15 overall.
From there Riley is No. 30 and Gerry, the favorite of the coaching staff due to his football IQ at No. 62. Edwards hasn't had enough reps to be graded but would be at No. 27 if he kept up the same level at a larger sample size.
In other words, with the added context of the other 31 teams, the group as a whole hasn't been as poor as advertised and we haven't even gotten to the two rookies - third-round pick Davion Taylor and sixth-rounder Shaun Bradey, who aren't ready for significant playing time today but so have significant upside due to their athleticism.
When you factor in Philadelphia's salary-cap situation for 2021, a somewhat concerning issue even before COVID-19 and the projected added financial hit that will lower the league's cap for the first time in history, the easy realization is that Howie Roseman should be avoiding added cash handicaps at all costs in favor of the comfort of cost-efficient rookie contracts, something he already has at the position.
Despite all that former Eagles president Joe Banner, Roseman's one-time mentor told the Philadelphia Inquirer that the Eagles have been looking at adding help on the offensive line and LB.
It never hurts to listen and if a rube is at the poker table, you should always strike but the Eagles can reach their 2020 ceiling with the LB group they already have especially if a meritocracy replaces pedigree or any pre-conceived notions.
Jim Schwartz should ride the hot hand of Singleton, who has been the Travis Fulgham of the Eagles' defense over the past few weeks.
John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John every Tuesday and Thursday on "The Middle" with Eytan Shander, Harry Mayes, and Barrett Brooks on SportsMap Radio and PhillyVoice.com. He’s also the host of Extending the Play on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
Get the latest Eagles news by joining the community. Click "Follow" at the top right of the EagleMaven page. Mobile users click the notification bell. And please follow @kracze on Twitter.