I know, it was only one game. But it’s hard to deny just how promising T.J. Edwards‘ performance was last Sunday night against the Dallas Cowboys.
He finished the game as the leading tackler, recording 13 total. He added a sack, a tackle for a loss, and a forced fumble to his night as well. The strip sack on Ben DiNucci led to Rodney McLeod’s game-sealing scoop and score. Fun fact: that was the first strip sack by an Eagles linebacker that led to a touchdown since Seth Joyner did it in a 1992 game against the Cardinals. Reggie White was the one who picked it up and ran it in for the touchdown.
Edwards’ performance against Dallas was easily the best outing we’ve seen from an Eagles linebacker this year. That may not be saying much, given how dreadful the linebacker play has been this year, but it doesn’t take away from how solid of an outing it was for the 24-year-old linebacker.
Edwards may not be the most reliable linebacker in pass coverage, as he currently holds a 56.5 pass coverage grade from Pro Football Focus. But against a team like the Cowboys who rely heavily on the run game, Edwards’ strengths came to the forefront.
His ability to shed tackles, keep his hips square on the ball carrier and then make tackles is something we haven’t seen out of any of the Eagles LBs this season.
Just take a look at these plays against Zeke.
Edwards is very good at diagnosing running plays and he has a great feel for where the ball carrier is going to make his cut. He’s your prototypical MIKE linebacker in Jim Schwartz’s base defense, and he fits that mold much better than someone like Nate Gerry, who’s better suited to play on the outside in a WILL or SAM position.
Even if Edwards is able to play at this level for the rest of the season, Howie Roseman should still look into bolstering the position. Davion Taylor and Shaun Bradley could potentially be suitable starters one day, but that day doesn’t feel like it’s coming anytime soon. Taylor certainly has the skillset to be a great complement opposite of Edwards, with his rare athleticism and speed. It just depends on how long his development takes.
At 24 years old with another year left on his contract, Edwards will likely be the starting MIKE for the rest of this season and probably next season, barring a big drop off in production. That gives the organization plenty of time to asses what they really have in Edwards.
I like what I saw out of T.J. in his first game back. This defense needs that kind of presence in the middle, and he’s the only LB who’s proven he can provide that this season. He certainly has the potential to be a fixture in the Birds defense for years to come.