How Edwards reacted to the Eagles adding three linebackers originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
If you’re an Eagles linebacker and you just watched your team add Haason Reddick, Kyzir White and Nakobe Dean, it would be understandable if you felt a little skittish about your own role.
That’s not how T.J. Edwards is wired.
Will his snaps decrease in 2022?
Will the Eagles be better in 2022?
And that’s all he cares about.
“It’s awesome, really what it is,” Edwards said of the Eagles adding pass-rushing linebacker Reddick and off-ball linebackers White and Dean.
“The more depth you have, the more pieces you have, the more you can do. We’ve brought in some really good additions, guys that have really played football at a high level, so I think it just adds more to what we can do.
“So you look at that and you look at it as competition and everybody’s going to get better from that, really.”
Edwards was the Eagles’ best linebacker down the stretch last year after replacing Alex Singleton in the starting lineup.
He played 37 percent of the defensive snaps the first eight games, then 96 percent the next eight games as the Eagles turned their season around and reached the playoffs after a 2-5 start.
With White and Dean now on board, you’d think Edwards will be closer to that 37 percent figure this year than 96 percent.
But you’re not going to hear Edwards complain about most likely losing his starting job and a considerable amount of playing time.
“For me, I’m a team-first guy from the start,” he said. “I’ll always be the guy that will pass on whatever I know to help anybody that I can because I think that’s how we all get better."
And that’s what a leader really is.
Edwards is the only linebacker left from 2019, when he made the team as an undrafted rookie out of Wisconsin.
He’s outlasted Kamu Grugier-Hill, Nigel Bradham, Zach Brown, Nate Gerry, Genard Avery, L.J. Fort, Duke Riley and Singleton, his teammates as a rookie.
There’s a good reason for that. Smart, physical, versatile and a true team guy.
It all adds up to make him the unofficial leader of the room.
“I definitely want to be that,” he said. “I want to use my voice as much as I can. I think I’m a guy who’s seen a good amount, you know? A couple years in this scheme, and obviously just being around the building, kind of know the ins and outs and able to relay that.
“Really, I just want to pass on what I’ve seen and I also want to be a sponge myself, too. I want to learn from guys like Kyzir. I still want to be a sponge and gain my knowledge, too.”
However they line up, at least on paper this is the most talented and deepest group of linebackers the Eagles have had since … in a very long time.
Edwards said he’s enjoyed getting to know White and Dean and getting started working with them.
“They’re quick learners, obviously great guys,” Edwards said. “I think anyone that comes in the building, our front office does their homework, and they’re really good dudes,” he said.
“Kyzir’s been around for a while, and Nakobe’s a sponge. I think he really wants to be a good player, he’s asking questions to everybody and I think everybody’s trying to make sure they’re pushing each other.”
Edwards has played more games than any Eagles linebacker over the last five years, and his 30 career starts are second-most ever by an undrafted Eagles linebacker in his first three seasons. Mike Reichenbach started 33 in the mid-1980s.
Whatever his role, Edwards will hang onto his mentality of an undrafted player who constantly has to prove himself.
It’s the nature of being undrafted.
“I think my first couple years, that was my thing, I was underrated and all that and I think I put a lot of attention on it, but I don’t think it’s anything that will ever go away for me,” he said.
“It’s just my mindset going year to year, I was undrafted, I was like ninth on the depth chart. It’s just one of those things that I don’t think will ever leave. But I definitely feel a lot more confident this year and I’m ready to take that next step.”