The 10 most underrated people in the Eagles' organization originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
Today, we celebrate some of the more unheralded players, coaches, trainers and scouts who have helped the Eagles get to 9-1.
Some of the names will be familiar, some may not be, but they are all part of our 10 most underrated people in the Eagles’ organization.
T.J. Edwards: The one-time undrafted special teamer has made himself a better linebacker all four of his NFL seasons, and he’s quietly playing some elite-level football this year at middle linebacker. Pro Football Focus ranks him as the No. 3 linebacker in the entire NFL (behind multiple Pro Bowlers Bobby Wagner and Tremaine Edmunds). Edwards has always been a stout tackler, but he’s made significant progress blitzing and in coverage. With apologies to Mike Reichenbach, the best undrafted linebacker who's ever played for the Eagles.
Marcus Epps: Like Edwards, Epps hasn’t made a ton of splash plays, but he’s given the Eagles incredibly consistent play at safety in his first year as a full-time starter. Like Edwards, Epps has worked his way into the defense after beginning his career as a longshot special teamer. Epps was initially the Vikings’ 2019 6th-round pick, but he’s played more and more on defense each year and is now an intelligent, hard-hitting, solid force on the NFL’s No. 2 defense. Like Edwards, he’s unsigned for 2023 and like Edwards Howie Roseman will likely remedy that at some point.
Max Gruder: A one-time linebacker at Pitt, the 33-year-old Gruder is the Eagles’ director of pro scouting, which means he oversees the department that studies and recommends current NFL players – including free agents like James Bradberry or A.J. Brown, trade targets like Chauncey Gardner-Johnson or unsigned veterans like Linval Joseph or Ndamukong Suh – to Howie Roseman. Gruder spent six years working his way up in the Dolphins’ scouting department after college before joining the Eagles in 2019 as assistant director of pro scouting.
Brian Johnson: The Eagles’ quarterbacks coach has a fantastic relationship with Jalen Hurts that dates back to Johnson’s days as a high school quarterback in Texas playing for Hurts’ dad. Johnson arrived in Philly with a loaded resume – the winningest quarterback in Utah history, worked with Dak Prescott at Mississippi State, coached Heisman Trophy finalist Kyle Trask at Florida – and has done wonders with Hurts, overseeing his remarkable improvement into one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks in his second year as a starter. Johnson has never been an NFL coordinator but could still be a sought-after head coaching candidate this spring.
Zech McPhearson: It hasn’t been a particularly good year for Michael Clay and the Eagles’ special teams units, but McPhearson, a second-year 4th-round pick out of Texas Tech, has been outstanding as a contributor on every special teams unit. McPhearson, a backup cornerback, has played 200 special teams snaps – that’s 79 percent of the Eagles’ special teams snaps - and has earned a dazzling 85.8 grade from Pro Football Focus, 4th-highest among all cornerbacks in the league who play special teams. McPhearson remains a promising cornerback, but as long as Slay and James Bradberry are healthy, he doesn’t get on the field on defense. But he’s made a big impact all year on special teams.
Zach Pascal: He’s only been targeted 13 times all year, but Pascal is playing 31 percent of the Eagles’ offensive snaps because he’s such a valuable all-around player. He’s a tough and willing blocker, he’s a smart and selfless leader and he’s a reliable receiver when the ball does come his way. Pascal has caught 11 of 13 targets for 123 yards and a touchdown. One of those guys whose contributions can never be measured by stats.
Anthony Patch: One of the longest-tenured people in the entire Eagles organization, Patch originally joined the Eagles' scouting staff in 2001 under Tom Heckert, who he had worked with in Miami. Patch has worked his way up the ranks in more than two decades with the Eagles from a West Coast area scout to assistant director of college scouting to director of college scouting to personnel staff consultant and since 2016 senior director of college scouting. Anyone who can work with personalities as different as Andy Reid, Chip Kelly, Tom Heckert, Howie Roseman, Doug Pederson and Nick Sirianni is doing something right. Patch is a fixture in an industry where there’s constant change and he remains a highly valued voice in the Eagles’ scouting department.
Ted Rath: A one-time Toledo linebacker, Rath was the centerpiece of the Eagles’ 2020 training and rehab staff restructure with an eye toward trying to avoid the injuries that had derailed the last few seasons. And he's helped immensely in that area. Rath doesn’t talk to the media and likes to maintain a low profile, but judging by the number of players who credit him without being asked for getting them into shape and overseeing their rehab, he’s a tremendously valued member of the organization.
Jake Rosenberg: Howie Roseman’s most trusted assistant, Rosenberg has been with the Eagles since 2012, working his way up from manager of football administration to director of football administration and since 2018 vice president of football administration. Rosenberg, who studied economics and international relations at Penn, was a bond and commodities trader for 10 years before joining the Eagles, and he’s the franchise’s leading expert on the complexities of the CBA, salary cap and contracts. Ask Roseman an overly complicated question about the salary cap or contract minutiae and his answer will likely be, “Ask Jake.”
Dennard Wilson: You could tell last year that Wilson was a difference maker as the Eagles’ secondary coach. After a disastrous start, the Eagles were 8th-best in pass defense in the NFL in meaningful games the second half of last season. That was with Steven Nelson, Anthony Harris and Rodney McLeod. With three new starters – including one who wasn’t even here for training camp - Wilson has the Eagles' pass defense playing at an exceptionally high level this year. The Eagles are No. 2 in passing yards allowed and No. 1 in opposing passer rating, and Wilson deserves a ton of credit for what we’re seeing.
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