The linebacker position is an interesting one for the Birds this season. While the roster as a whole is the most complete we’ve seen in awhile, linebacker was the one area that stood out to me as possibly the weakest. Jordan Hicks seemed to be the future of the position after the departure of Mufasa himself DeMeco Ryans. However, Hicks could never stay healthy and signed a 4 year/$36M deal with Arizona this past offseason. The Eagles have since added LJ Fort & Zach Brown to a linebacker core led by Nigel Bradham. Here’s my breakdown of the linebacker position in its current state.
Nigel Bradham is expected to play the majority of the snaps at linebacker this season. This isn’t anything new for Bradham as he’s played over 900 snaps during each of his three seasons with the Eagles. He’s averaging 95 tackles a season and provides Philadelphia with decent pass coverage. Bradham had a mild hand injury in training camp, but it shouldn’t be anything to keep him out of action. He proved last season that he can handle lead linebacker duties when Hicks went down, and I would expect the same performance this upcoming season.
After losing Jordan Hicks to free agency, the Eagles moved to sign Zach Brown to fill the void. Brown hasn’t been particularly impressive in training camp to this point. He has been productive during his career, however. He made the Pro Bowl in 2016 with Buffalo, totaling 149 tackles that year, and has the ability to play inside and outside at the position. Brown should be able to complement Bradham well in this defense and provide a veteran presence in the middle for the Eagles. Brown did make a comment to Ertz awhile back while with Washington regarding his PEDs; here’s hoping that beef is squashed as he now dawns Eagles green.
KGH went down with a grade 3 MCL sprain during training camp. He was primed for a bigger role this season while turning heads in camp. He was able to avoid a more serious injury, but the Eagles will still need to maneuver the first few weeks of the season without him. Let’s all hope Jake Elliot doesn’t go down because Kamu is also the best backup kicker on this roster.
All through the spring and summer, Gerry has been taking more and more of the first team snaps. With KGH going down, Gerry will finally have a chance to show what he can do. He saw more of the field last season when he got the nod to replace the injured Jordan Hicks, and he showed promise in situations when called upon. He’s put on over 20 pounds since being drafted two years ago, and he is ready to step into a new role and deliver. With the demoralizing performance of Brown so far, I’d say Gerry has a good chance starting Week 1 alongside Bradham.
Fort is an interesting option at linebacker. He had a career year last season with the Steelers with 48 tackles while being the team’s special teams ace. He started games for the team and proved he can produce for a team in a reserve role. If the Eagles use Fort in a committee approach to replace KGH, I believe he can be effective. What’s interesting about Fort is that if he doesn’t impress in preseason and the Eagles move to cut him, the Eagles can receive a compensatory 4th round pick in return, something to keep an eye on when we approach roster cuts.
The Eagles have some work to do to make sure that they don’t get ripped apart over the middle. Kamu is a big loss, and it’ll be up to Brown, Fort, or Gerry to step up to fill that role. Bradham will remain the one constant in the middle, but there are a lot of question marks regarding the position. Luckily, the Eagles only run two linebackers most of the time so hopefully the defensive line and secondary can mask the shortcomings at linebacker.