There’s no such thing as an under-the-radar member of the Philadelphia Eagles — the media market is too big, the fan base too ravenous — but there is such a thing as an undervalued player.
Whether it’s because of recent injury, the absence of hard data or the lack of familiarity with a newcomer, inevitably there are variances in public and private perception every year when it comes to a handful of guys. We’ve identified four such cases for the 2020 season — players who are generating more buzz in-house than they are on the outside:
LB T.J. Edwards
A 2019 undrafted free agent out of Wisconsin, Edwards fought his way onto the team and ended up starting four games his rookie season, finishing with 30 tackles.
The Eagles came away impressed with his instincts, his thump and his awareness in coverage. They believe he’s ready for an increased role and think he can be an impact player for them. They better be right. Philadelphia let Nigel Bradham and Kamu Grugier-Hill walk in free agency, and while they signed Jatavis Brown and spent a third-round draft pick on Davion Taylor, the amount of proven talent in this group is scarce. The opportunity is there for Edwards to grab.
It was a welcomed surprise that the Eagles were able to sign Robey-Coleman to a one-year, $1.35 million contract in free agency this offseason. There wasn’t a pressing need at nickel corner — they like Cre’Von LeBlanc and know Avonte Maddox can play the role — but the value was too good to pass up.
Philly views Robey-Coleman as a top-five slot corner in the NFL. He allowed a passer rating of 80.1 last season with the Los Angeles Rams — good for 13th among all CBs– and was sixth in yards per slot coverage snap (0.63), according to Pro Football Focus. There’s plenty more on his résumé than the controversial no-call pass interference in the 2018 NFC Championship game, including 48 career passes defensed and five forced fumbles. The Eagles believe the additions of Robey-Coleman and Darius Slay have substantially improved the cornerback position.
The Eagles’ splash free-agency move in 2019 was signing Jackson to a three-year, $30 million deal. He suffered a season-ending Lisfranc injury in the season opener last year, however, putting him out of sight and largely out of mind.
But the 30-year-old Jackson should not be overlooked. At his best he’s a disruptive force in the middle, as his eight-sack 2017 Pro Bowl campaign showed. With opposing offenses slanting their protections towards Fletcher Cox, Jackson is probably going to see more single teams than he has at any point since establishing himself in the league.
With quarterbacks getting the ball out quicker and quicker, it’s more important than ever to be able to generate a pass rush up the gut. The Eagles are well equipped on that front with a trio of penetrating DTs — Cox, Jackson and Javon Hargrave.
Jackson also has the ability to slide outside to defensive end, adding to his value.
Given that Jackson is 33 and coming off core muscle surgery, there’s a portion of the public that has written him off. The Eagles have not.
They see a player who still possesses rare speed and deep-ball tracking ability — skills that could put him in the Hall of Fame conversation if he can finish his career with a bang. Desiring both a championship ring and a gold jacket, Jackson is plenty motivated.
He missed 13 games last season and hasn’t played a full 16-game slate since 2013, so Philadelphia knows better than to put all its eggs in his basket at this point. But the Eagles believe there’s still some fireworks left in that wiry 5-foot-10 frame.