Eagles middle linebacker T.J. Edwards was all over the field at Indianapolis on Sunday.
The Eagles needed every single play from Edwards — and a few from Jalen Hurts, too — as they didn’t take a lead until 1:20 remained in a 17-16 victory.
You saw Edwards flashing forward to stop runners. You saw him covering pass patterns. He was on an island when he blew up Indy running back Deon Jackson for a 4-yard loss in the second quarter.
Jackson caught a pass from Matt Ryan and didn’t gain an inch as Edwards wrapped him up with a textbook, torso tackle.
The stop was crucial as the Colts were at the Eagles’ 42 with 1:22 to play in the half. Jackson had open field ahead of him if he had gotten around Edwards. The Eagles held the Colts to a field goal — Indy going up 10-3.
Edwards had 10 tackles against the Colts, one behind team leader C.J. Gardner-Johnson. Edwards had two tackles for loss. He recovered a fumble. He played 63 defensive snaps, 96.9 percent.
- “You guys know in our defense, that’s a thinking position, and he’s as smart as they come,” defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon said about Edwards.
- “He’s got a really good skill-set paired with a really good brain, and he plays extremely fast. You hear the head coach talk about accelerated vision; he has it.
- “He’s calling things out before they even come, and that’s part of the work by the coaches, with [linebackers] coach [Nick] Rallis, but that’s a lot of film study by him.
- “He’s football 24/7. You need to be that way if you’re going to be elite in this league.”
PRO BOWL IN HIS FUTURE?
This is Edwards’ fourth year in the league, an undrafted free agent from Wisconsin. He hasn’t been selected to a Pro Bowl but certainly his play this year should warrant a good look.
Since his rookie season, he has started 36 of 38 games. He is the defensive signal-caller and is known as a highly intelligent player.
- “He runs the entire front,” Gannon said. “Those front mechanics we’re talking about, that’s T.J.
- “We do some different things that people don’t do to try to get in advantageous positions, and hopefully we set it up right. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but that’s on his plate.
- “The back seven mechanics, that’s on his plate, along with the secondary, but he’s tied into all that.
- “He’s the guy in the middle and he’s the guy that I’m yelling at during the series in his ear because he’s got the green dot [communications device in his helmet].
- “He’s talking to the defense. He’s very emotionally stable, and then when that ball is snapped, he’s violent, and that’s what you’re looking for.”
Media focus after the Indy game, with justification, has been the emergence of defensive tackles Linval Joseph and Ndamukong Suh, who went from eating pizzas at home to a few days later lining up trying to stop Colts running back Jonathan Taylor.
Edwards quietly did his job, made tackles and helped stabilize the Eagles’ defense after an overpowering Colts opening drive. In the offseason, Edwards was called the Eagles’ most underrated player by Pro Football Focus.
Edwards’ play might be what’s keeping heralded rookie Nakobe Dean on the bench. Edwards has played 647 defensive snaps (95.9 percent) while Dean has played four snaps all season (0.59 percent). Dean has played 74.2 percent of special teams snaps.
Edwards is fifth in the league with 96 tackles, behind Indy’s Zaire Franklin (108), Seattle’s Jordyn Brooks (106), Atlanta’s Rashaan Evans (106) and the Jets’ C.J. Mosley (97).
“I used to work for a guy, he’s the DB coach in Green Bay right now, Jerry Gray,” Gannon said. “He’d say ‘The NFL is an open-book test, and the guys that study the most’ — and it goes into what our head coach says, that accelerated vision.
“There’s plays out there to be had when you’re anticipating certain things, but you can only do that by your prep.
“That goes six days through the week, and T.J. takes that to heart, and he does that for us and helps a lot of other guys on the defense around him because of his brain and his knowledge.”
PAVING THE LANE
Eagles right offensive tackle Lane Johnson has not allowed a sack since Week 11 of 2020, or a quarterback hit since Week 7 of 2021, according to Pro Football Focus.
Since the beginning of 2021, he has allowed the one quarterback hit on 773 pass-blocking snaps, leading all NFL tackles.
These are truly incredible statistics.
In 2022, Johnson has played 641 snaps, 93.4 percent of the offensive snaps.
ANOTHER LEAGUE LEADER
Eagles safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson leads the league with six interceptions. Since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger, only two Eagles safeties have had more interceptions in a season — Bill Bradley, with a franchise-record 11 in 1971, and Ray Ellis with seven in 1984.