You’d Have To Squint To See It, But …
In a strange twist, two of the Eagles’ top performers to emerge from the rubble of Thursday night’s 35-0 preseason loss to the Patriots came from the perpetually vilified linebacker position.
Despite playing just 19 first-half snaps, starter Alex Singleton mustered a seven-tackle effort against the Patriots, his second 7-for-19 effort in as many weeks.
The fast-flowing linebacker showcased his signature tenacity and anticipation, routinely swarming to the football and displaying inherent sideline-to-sideline range alongside starter Eric Wilson.
Singleton, who started 11 games last season, played in nearly 68 percent of the team’s snaps and racked up an astounding 120 tackles. With the Eagles likely to feature a 4-2-5 base scheme under defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, it will almost assuredly be Singleton and Wilson atop the depth chart when the defense takes the field at Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the opener.
But against the Patriots, even Singleton experienced his share of inconsistency. Perhaps the unit’s most efficient wrap-up tackler, the 27-year-old was blameworthy for some shoddiness in that department.
“I mean, it definitely wasn’t our best outing,” Singleton acknowledged after the game. “I think, like anything, it’s the second time going live. This next week, going up to New York, it’s going to be good for us.
“We’re going to be able to get three days with the Jets and continue to work on that. It’s the second live time and by this weekend, it’ll be the third and you just stack those days and this team will get better.”
While Singleton’s standing is all but etched in stone, third-year pro T.J. Edwards continues to turn heads and is convincingly making his case for a more prominent role within the defense.
It’s widely known that the 6-foot-1, 240-pound thumper embodies a take-no-prisoners mentality on special teams and plays the run stoutly. Edwards has largely been viewed as a one-dimensional player through two seasons.
However, the 25-year-old displayed his value in multiple ways and continues to make strides in another facet of his game. He returned for his third training camp with improved range, lateral quickness, and coverage acumen, which has translated through two preseason games.
In the second exhibition matchup against the Patriots, Edwards was active, yielding six tackles and two passes defended in 31 snaps. He was also entrusted with the responsibility of wearing the proverbial green dot on his helmet as the communication liaison between coaches and players, a role typically reserved for those with inherent leadership and experience.
“[I feel] really comfortable,” Edwards said. “Some of this I’ve been used to doing my whole life and that’s not really something I worry about or anything like that. I just want to go out there and play good football every time. So, get people lined up if that’s what I have to do.”
Barring something unforeseen, Edwards won’t be seizing a starting job – but he’s diversified his skill set enough to showcase his fit within Gannon’s scheme, and his leadership and special teams prowess could conceivably earn him a captain distinction.
In the interim, Edwards will look to accent his summer surge next week in the preseason finale against the Jets.
Thursday’s collapse might have revealed little from an evaluation standpoint, but Edwards left Lincoln Financial Field with a valuable takeaway.
“It just goes to show you have to bring it every day,” Edwards said. “You have to bring your best every time you step on the field. I think everyone in the locker room knows that’s not how we want to play tonight.
“Things didn’t go our way, but also know that a lot of guys are encouraged by some of the things we did and go back and look at the tape and get better.”
– Andrew DiCecco (@ADiCeccoNFL) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.
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