The State of the Philadelphia Eagles Linebackers

There wasn’t much that Chip Kelly brought to the city of Philadelphia, but drafting Jordan Hicks was a pretty spectacular gem that he found for the Eagles in the third round of the 2015 draft. Hicks is quickly becoming one of the best linebackers in the NFC East, but what about the rest of the backers for the Birds?

Last season, the Eagles largely ran two-linebacker sets with Hicks and Nigel Bradham playing at least 95 percent of the snaps each (Hicks 95.19%, Bradham 97.06%). The odd man out of the rotation? It was Mychal Kendricks, who played only 26.79 percent of snaps. Among the other linebackers for the Eagles, a grand total of 72 snaps were played, essentially rendering their contributions null.

The Eagles linebackers look pretty similar to what they were in 2017, but the question is whether or not that is a good or bad thing. Let’s take a closer look.

The State of the Philadelphia Eagles Linebackers

Current Eagles Linebackers

The Eagles realized that they did not need to spend too much of their draft on the linebackers, as they only drafted Gerry, who was a safety at Nebraska but will make the switch to linebacker for Philadelphia. Much of the reason that the Eagles did not do much to increase the depth of the linebackers is because the two prospects of Cherry and Walker were injured during training camp last season, both of whom were making some noise prior to their injuries.

The Birds also do not require much depth given their overwhelmingly amount of two-linebacker sets. The main reason behind this is because Jim Schwartz does not blitz his linebackers very frequently, often relying solely on the four-man push of his lineman. So, what exactly are the responsibility of the Eagles’ linebackers? Play zone coverage and plug up the running lanes. Schwartz is not concerned about sending his backers at the quarterback, essentially writing off Kendrick’s best asset.

So, what does this mean for the starting linebackers come day one? Let’s take a look.

Starters – 

MIKE – Jordan Hicks

WILL – Nigel Bradham

SAM – Mychal Kendricks

Like many others, I do not believe that Kendricks will be on the roster come opening day. However, he has been showing up to the voluntary workouts this summer, and has not voiced any concerns to the public. For the time being, barring an eye-opening training camp from one of the backups, I do not see anyone talented enough to replace Kendricks at the SAM spot.

Backups – 

MIKE – Joe Walker

WILL – Najee Goode

SAM – Nathan Gerry

I think that Gerry will make the team and earn a spot in the rotation. He is athletic enough to be used as a hybrid on coverage packages. Goode has been with the Eagles for what now will be a fifth consecutive season. He isn’t flashy, but he is a reliable backup. Walker was one of the previously-mentioned players that many people were excited about last training camp. Assuming that he can stay healthy, I think the Oregon product can find some playing time in the rotation on running downs.

Special Teams Only – 

  • Kamu Grugier-Hill

Grugier-Hill is a very athletic player, but he won’t make the team because of his abilities as a linebacker. The Eagles have had one of the best special teams units in the NFL for several years now, and Grugier-Hill is a part of that. I do not see him being let go.


The Eagles ranked 15th against the run last season. The linebacker play was not the issue for them down the stretch of the 2016 season. Is this unit elite? By no means. Is this unit solid? Absolutely. Hicks is a budding star in the NFC and Bradham is a legitimate starter. The main problem I foresee for this unit is if any injuries were to occur, which is completely plausible given Jordan Hicks’ history. Look for the Eagles to rush defense to improve this season as the line has improved, while maintaining the same level of talent at the linebacker position.