PHILADELPHIA - It took years for a little-known college prospect from Montana State to catch the eyes of an NFL coaching staff and Alex Singleton's reward for that accomplishment is being forced to do it all over again.
After 16 transactions in a journey that started as an undrafted free agent in Seattle and featured a three-year detour to Canada where Singleton developed into the CFL's Most Outstanding Defensive Player and won a Grey Cup with Calgary, the Southern California native caught on in Philadelphia, first as a practice-squad player and then a special-teams stalwart before finally getting his opportunity at linebacker due to attrition.
Singleton seized his opportunity and turned into a tackling machine, collecting a team-high 120 in 2020, almost a throwback to a different era when it comes to the physicality of the position.
From Day 1 of Singleton's arrival at the NovaCare Complex, former LB coach Ken Flajole understood the strength of SIngleton's skill set.
"Alex will show up when the pads come on," Flajole accurately predicted to SI.com's Eagle Maven.
Despite finally winning over Flajole and ex-defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, Singleton, 27, will be forced to do the same with a position coach that's the same age he is in Nick Rallis and energetic DC Jonathan Gannon.
Singleton seemed nonplused about that, however, when speaking after OTAs earlier this week.
“Just excited for another opportunity," he said.
What Singleton is excited about is Gannon's HITS principle: a nod toward hustle, intensity, takeaways, and smarts.
At least three of the four traits define Singleton as a player and we'll see if he can develop into the playmaker that takes the football away.
“They want fast, physical guys who get the ball,” said Singleton of the new coaching staff. “That’s something I’ve always prided myself on. No matter where the play is, I want to be on the tackle, I want to be on the hit.
"... That’s something that the principles of our defense are playing fast, being around the ball, getting to the ball, causing turnovers. Those are things that play well within the way I play."
Singleton figures to start training camp on July 27 as one of the team's two three-down LBs with free-agent pickup Eric Wilson.
T.J. Edwards should remain the two-down run-stuffer in 4-3 base looks while athletic young players like Davion Taylor and Shaun Bradley from the 2020 draft and JaCoby Stevens, making the move from safety at LSU, and Patrick Johnson, shifting from edge rusher at Tulane, from April's class pushing to get noticed.
“Having a new staff, new everything, the competition level is even," Singleton said. "Everyone is in the same spot. It’s not the same coaches we had last year that put you in and liked you as a player. It’s a whole new staff. Just gotta keep that same hunger and grind."
John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talk host Jody McDonald every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on both PhillyVoice.com and YouTube. John is also the host of his own show "Extending the Play" on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.