The Eagles made a bit of a surprising move Monday night, releasing LB Zach Brown, one of the teams coveted offseason acquisitions. Now, undrafted free agent TJ Edwards may be primed for a key role to fill the void.
Brown made headlines last week when he openly called out Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, who Brown was teammates with during his time in Washington in 2017. Brown called Cousins the “weakest part” of the Vikings’ offense, which certainly classifies as the bulletin board material that teams don’t typically want to give their opponent.
Just a few days after the comments, Cousins went on to torch the Eagles defense, throwing for 333 yards and four touchdowns, both season-highs for Cousins, along with one interception. However, it wasn’t Brown’s talking that got him cut — it was his poor play.
Brown frequently played the majority of snaps at linebacker in the team’s first six games of the season but was fairly non-productive. Brown totaled just 31 tackles, which was on pace for his fewest since 2015. That production is a far cry from what made him so coveted when the Eagles first signed him to a one-year deal worth $1.5 million.
In 2016 with the Bills, Brown totaled a career-high in tackles with 149, 11 of which were for a loss, along with 4.0 sacks and two forced fumbles. Brown put up similar production in 2017, making 127 tackles in just 13 games. Last season, in 12 games started with the Redskins, Brown’s numbers took a slight dip, but were certainly still respectable, logging 96 tackles.
Only Bobby Wagner had more tackles than Brown since 2016 throughout the entire NFL, which is just one part that shows the level Brown was playing at. However, some type of distaste from the Redskins made them part ways with Brown following the 2018 season, and now, Brown is yet again looking for a new team.
One look at Brown’s inefficiency and lack of production with the Eagles can be drawn back to the Vikings game. In 58 defensive snaps, Brown had just 5.0 tackles. Meanwhile, in only 10 defensive snaps, Edwards had 4.0 tackles. Edwards played well in what was the most time he’s seen on the field this season, and now, he may become a player the Eagles rely upon.
The Eagles signed Edwards as an undrafted free agent following the 2019 draft, though many thought they could have selected him with their fifth-round pick, which was ultimately used on Clayton Thorson.
In his four-year career at Wisconsin, Edwards started 52 games, the second-most in school history. In those games, Edwards finished with 367 tackles, the ninth-most in school history. Edwards also broke a Wisconsin record, intercepting 10 passes, the most ever by a linebacker. In 2018, Edwards was named first-team All-Big Ten from the media and second-team All-Big Ten from the league’s coaches.
A year prior, in 2017, Edwards was named first-team All-American and was a consensus All-Big Ten honoree. Edwards was also selected as a Butkus Award finalist. Edwards was among the most decorated linebacker’s in this year’s draft class, but somehow slipped through the cracks and wasn’t selected.
In the preseason with the Eagles, Edwards quickly opened the eyes both within the organization and around the fanbase. Edwards is an instinctual player with a nose for the ball, has the knowledge to be in the right place at the right time, and is a very physically-imposing tackler.
Through the first three games of the preseason, Edwards was ranked by PFF as the tenth-best rookie, firmly placing himself in the conversation to make the teams 53-man roster. In week 4, with a roster spot on the line, Edwards came to play, logging 10 tackles, including one for a loss, against the Jets.
Roster cuts came and went, and Edwards made the 53-man roster. He was just one of two undrafted free agents to make the team.
Now, fast-forward six weeks later, Edwards is likely going to see a significant uptick in his snaps on defense. Following the releasing of Brown, the Eagles have just Kamu Grugier-Hill, Nate Gerry, Duke Riley, and Brown as the healthy players at linebacker. Nigel Bradham is still in the fold, but he is currently sidelined due to an ankle injury, and he is listed as day-to-day.
The Eagles also could bring in another linebacker with one of their two open roster spots, as they worked out Paul Worrilow last week.
Regardless, heading into the biggest game of the season — a Sunday night showdown against the Dallas Cowboys for sole-possession of first place in the NFC East — Edwards is now going to have to be a contributor at a position that has given the team a bit of problem as of late.
It’s a tough position to put a rookie in, but Edwards showed time-and-time again throughout his college career that he’s more than capable of producing when relied upon. When the Eagles take the field in Dallas on Sunday, expect to see a heavy dose of Edwards on the field.