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How T.J. Edwards fits with the Philadelphia Eagles

Our Q&A with Bleeding Green Nation.

New Era Pinstripe Bowl - Miami v Wisconsin Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Safe to say, many were surprised that former Wisconsin Badgers linebacker T.J. Edwards did not hear his name called during the 2019 NFL Draft.

The captain and tackling machine finished his collegiate career statistically among the best linebackers seen at Wisconsin in the modern era. Three of the past four seasons, the Illinois native and former high school quarterback led the team in tackles, and he also intercepted 10 passes in cardinal and white. Now Edwards will attempt to make the active roster of the Philadelphia Eagles as an apparent undrafted free agent.

Brandon Gowton from Bleeding Green Nation, our SB Nation cousins who cover all things Eagles, answered a few of our questions about Edwards’ chances in Philadelphia.

For fellow B5Q writer and noted Eagles fan Drew Hamm (and any Badgers fans who cheer for the NFC East organization), what are your overall impressions of Philadelphia’s draft selections and reported UDFA signings?

The Eagles did a solid job in the 2019 NFL Draft. I think they earned a “B” grade.

The make-or-break pick is the selection of Andre Dillard at No. 22 overall. The Eagles traded up from No. 25 with the hopes of finding their long-term successor to future Hall of Fame left tackle Jason Peters. If Dillard works out, it’ll be hard not to think of this year’s class as a success.

In addition to getting Dillard, the Eagles’ selections of Miles Sanders and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside in the second round cemented the theme of getting pieces to help Carson Wentz. The Eagles are likely only going to go as far as No. 11 can take them so investing in the offense makes a lot of sense.

One reason why the Eagles’ draft wasn’t perfect is because they failed to address the safety and linebacker spots. Of course, signing T.J. Edwards could help with the latter of those two areas.

What defensive scheme(s) do the Eagles run, and how is Edwards a fit?

The Eagles’ base defense is a 4-3 but defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz typically wants more defensive backs and fewer linebackers on the field. As an undrafted rookie, the odds are already against Edwards coming to Philly and having a big role. The Eagles’ sparing use of linebackers decreases those chances even more. With that said, there could be a spot for Edwards as a role player in certain packages. The most likely situation is that he’s a special teams contributor in 2019. He could potentially develop into a starter down the road.

Was linebacker a priority for the Eagles in the draft? Who will be ahead of Edwards on the depth chart when he gets to camp?

It wasn’t a priority for the Eagles in the sense that they don’t highly value that position. It was (and still is) a need to some extent, though, with former starting middle linebacker Jordan Hicks leaving in free agency.

It’s not perfectly clear who will be replacing Hicks in the starting lineup this season. We do know that Nigel Bradham will be one of the two primary linebackers the Eagles use. The other options currently include: L.J. Fort, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Paul Worrilow, and Nathan Gerry. Then there are fringe roster players such as B.J. Bello, Asantay Brown, and Alex Singleton.

On one hand, that’s a lot of bodies for Edwards to compete with. He’ll really need to make an impression in preseason and training camp games. On the other hand, the opportunity is there for the taking if he can step up.

How do you see Edwards making the final 53-man roster?

I think Edwards has a realistic chance of making the roster. That could quickly change if the Eagles sign and/or trade for a veteran linebacker. For now, I see Edwards making the team as a depth player who contributes on special teams. Being active on game day will allow Edwards to potentially get playing time if someone ahead of him on the depth chart gets hurt. Edwards might have an opportunity to replace an ineffective starter/role player if he bides his time and makes the most of the chances he gets.

So about another Wisconsin UDFA that initially signed with Philadelphia in running back Corey Clement—what are your expectations for him this year post-draft?

Good question. I’m not perfectly sure what to expect from Clement in 2019. I do know the team was very high on him heading into 2018. It made sense, too, since he impressed as a rookie in 2017. But Clement just wasn’t the same player last year. His yards per carry dropped from 4.3 to 3.8 and his yards per reception dropped from 12.3 to 8.7. Clement was dealing with an injury issue last summer and during the season so it’s possible he just wasn’t healthy. His 2018 campaign ultimately ended prematurely due to some kind of season-ending injury.

The hope is that Clement can get healthy and be part of the Eagles’ running back rotation this season. He might be the third option behind Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders but Philly rotates their running backs fairly frequently so he’ll get some playing time. The Eagles could also use Clement’s presence as a special teams contributor.

It’ll be interesting to see if 2017 was just a flash in the plan for Clement or if he can fulfill his potential.