For a while now there has been a gap between how Eagles fans view linebacker Nate Gerry and how the coaching staff views him.
In 2020, Gerry’s expanded playing time has only increased that gap.
In a few years, Gerry has gone from a fifth-round pick and converted safety to the Eagles’ top linebacker. And many think he simply isn’t good enough to warrant getting 99 percent of the Eagles’ defensive snaps. After four games, it’s probably fair to say Gerry isn’t playing very well.
What does defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz think about Gerry’s play in 2020?
“You know me, I'm not a big, like, tell you how a guy is — tell you how a guy's playing, but Nate has been a very solid player for us, and has helped us win a lot of games, “ Schwartz said.
“And I would just caution this: There's probably a lot of plays that people outside of our building think might be his fault; that he just happens to be the closest guy when someone else made a mistake, and I think they end up blaming him a lot of times. He's sort of the closest guy just from plays, and I mean that's just sort of the way the ball bounces. We just need to be more efficient overall, and more consistent overall and he just plays his part in it.
“So I think that any time that you have people outside the building that grade players, you can get things like that. I tend to try to keep our evaluations in-house and just work on improving in our own building."
Since Schwartz didn’t want to expand on the Eagles’ in-house evaluation of Gerry, here is the evaluation of Gerry from ProFootballFocus, which pretty much falls in line with how many have viewed Gerry’s play through four games.
• Among 79 qualified linebackers in the NFL, Gerry ranks 60th with a grade of 40.4 To put that in perspective, the top linebacker in the league, according to PFF, is Myles Jack, who has a grade of 91.1.
• The worst category for Gerry is in coverage, where he has a 34.5 grade. This season, he has given up 19 catches for 212 yards. As a former safety, you’d think he would be better in coverage.
• One bright spot — if you want to call it that — is that Gerry has missed just two tackles through four games. Last year, he was among the league leaders in missed tackles with 16.
It’s worth noting that while Schwartz said the Eagles try to keep their evaluations in-house, during Tuesday’s press conference he did praise several players like Genard Avery, Malik Jackson, Alex Singleton, Cre’Von LeBlanc and others. His highest praise for Gerry on Tuesday was that he has been a “very solid player” for the Eagles.
Maybe Schwartz is right and every mistake in games that appears to be Gerry’s fault isn’t. But that still leaves plenty of mistakes that are on him. And Schwartz knows that.
The reality of the situation is that the Eagles entered this season with three pretty unproven players as their top linebackers and it’s biting them through a quarter of the season. They have two draft picks — Davion Taylor and Shaun Bradley — waiting for their chances but Schwartz has consistently talked about how difficult the linebacker position is for young players to learn.
But at a certain point, something has to give. Gerry is in his fourth year with the Eagles — it’s a contract season — and has played 280 of 284 defensive snaps on the year. The sample size is big enough to realize he isn’t playing well.
The real question is this: How long will Schwartz continue to play him this much?