Linebacker T.J. Edwards got the $2.2 million contract. He got the starting spot. And he got the respect of the Philadelphia Eagles’ linebackers room by wearing the headset and calls the plays in the middle of the defense.
Edwards started 14 games last season, mostly at middle linebacker in Jonathan Gannon’s hybrid-scheme defense, and recorded a career-high 130 tackles. He played on 685 defensive snaps, or 64% of the snaps in 16 total games. He already considers himself a team leader, which could result in him wearing the C for Captain.
“I definitely want to be that,” Edwards said of being a leader in the linebackers room. “I want to use my voice as much as I can. I think I’m a guy who’s seen a good amount, who has a couple of years in this scheme and obviously kind of just being around the building, kind of knowing the ins and outs, and being able to relay that and really, I want to pass on what I’ve seen.”
The undrafted kid out of Wisconsin knows nothing will be handed to him, especially not with veterans Kyzir White and Haason Reddick – along with rookies Nakobe Dean and Kyron Johnson – being added to the roster. The Eagles may have turned a major weakness in 2021 into a possible strength in 2022.
“I also want to be a sponge myself, too,” Edwards said. “I want to learn from guys like Kyzir [White], and just like the coaches giving us new looks and things like that, I still want to be a sponge and still gain my knowledge.”
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Still Playing the Underdog Role
Edwards has had to earn everything since first setting foot inside the Eagles’ facility as a wide-eyed rookie. He wasn’t guaranteed a roster spot when he entered 2019 training camp, yet found his way into 16 games that year while making four starts.
“I was underrated and all that. I think I paid a lot of attention to it, but I don’t think it’s anything that’ll go away for me,” Edwards said. “That’s kind of my mindset going year to year. I was undrafted and I was underrated and all that.”
Edwards’ talent proved too hard to ignore as his role kept expanding, his snaps kept going up, and his confidence kept rising – although the underdog label never left.
“It’s just one of those things where I don’t think it’ll ever leave,” Edwards said, “but I definitely feel a lot more confident this year and ready to take that next step.”
Linebacker Depth Chart Looking Good
The Eagles made a concerted effort to get better at the linebacker spot this offseason. From drafting Nakobe Dean and Kyron Johnson to signing Kyzir White and Haason Reddick, it’s been a whirlwind. General manager Howie Roseman was beaming after the draft while being careful not to take too much credit for “remaking” the linebackers room.
“Yeah, I think it is all about opportunities and when you talk about some of the guys that we’ve added,” Roseman said on April 30, “it’s because of the opportunities that were put in front of us and based on their talent level, and we’re excited about that. We’re excited about the team speed we added.”
Edwards expressed excitement over all the new additions. He’s not worried about his job or role.
“I think we brought in some really good additions and guys that have really played football at a high level, so I think it just adds more to what we can do,” Edwards said. “You look at that and you look at it as competition and everybody is going to get better from that.”