The Eagles’ offense has gotten younger over the last few weeks with the emergence of Miles Sanders, Boston Scott and Greg Ward.
Now T.J. Edwards is going to try to bring the same kind of youthful energy and playmaking to the defense.
Edwards, an undrafted rookie linebacker, will likely see his playing time spike starting this weekend now that starter Kamu Grugier-Hill’s season is over with a back injury.
Edwards has played only 98 snaps on defense (and 283 on special teams), but he could see an expanded role starting Sunday against the Cowboys.
“Obviously it’s really cool to see those guys doing big things,” Edwards said. “Really, you want to show these (older) guys that you belong here too, so you try to do whatever your role is and do your best because you want those guys to be able to look at you and be able to trust you.”
The Eagles’ linebacker position has undergone some major changes this year.
Zach Brown, L.J. Fort and Kamu are all gone. Duke Riley and Alex Singleton weren’t on the roster when the season began. And Edwards could be a key guy as early as Sunday.
“I would expect T.J. Edwards to get some more time, yes,” Doug Pederson said on Wednesday.
Edwards has been solid when he’s gotten a chance to play. At 6-1, 240, he’s a classic inside linebacker, but he’s gotten practice reps at every linebacker position, which gives the Eagles some flexibility.
Nigel Bradham and Nate Gerry will get most of the linebacker snaps, but the Eagles are facing a Cowboys team that wants to run the ball 35 to 40 times, so the Eagles will presumably be playing a lot of big personnel, which would include Edwards.
“I definitely feel ready,” he said. “With Kamu being out, it’s tough. He told me it’s time to go, and I’m ready to go.”
Edwards is limited physically, but he’s very smart, you never see him out of position and he’s a sure tackler.
You have to go back to Akeem Jordan in 2007 to find an undrafted rookie linebacker who’s played meaningful snaps for the Eagles.
Eagles-Cowboys with a chance to win the NFC East at stake?
It doesn’t get any more meaningful than this.
“You go into these big-time games and you can press to make a play and things like that, but at the end of the day it’s another game that we’ve got to approach like that,” Edwards said. “(Don’t) try to press and or do anything you haven’t done before. Plays are going to be there, and you just have to be ready to make those plays when they come to you. You can’t go outside your box and try to do anything you’re not used to.”
Edwards may have been undrafted, but he played in some pretty big games at Wisconsin.
He was a four-year starter for the Badgers, who were 42-12 in his four years in Madison, were ranked in the top 10 at some point in three of his four seasons and won a bowl game each year.
But college is college. This is the biggest game of Edwards’ life, and he said he’s relied on the Eagles’ defensive veterans to understand how to approach it.
“You’re with guys who’ve done it before like Nigel and Fletch and Jenk and all these guys,” he said. “They know how to play in big games, they’ve won big games and you really lean on them in games like this. Just be who we are and good things will happen.”
Looking ahead, Grugier-Hill will be an unrestricted free agent and the Eagles can get out of Nigel Bradham’s $8 million 2020 base salary with minimal cap implications.
The linebacker position could undergo some pretty significant changes this offseason, but Edwards, playing on a minimum-wage contract, will definitely be here.
How he plays these next few weeks could go a long way toward determining how big a role he has moving forward.
For now, he’s just hoping to play physical, mistake-free football and help the Eagles win a game they have to win.
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