Philadelphia Eagles need a linebacker in 2019 NFL Draft

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Cleveland Browns, NFL Free Agency (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

Unless the Philadelphia Eagles trade for a linebacker, they need to select one in the 2019 NFL Draft, and there isn’t much debate on why.

After losing Jordan Hicks to the Arizona Cardinals in free agency, one of the biggest holes on the Philadelphia Eagles roster heading into the 2019 NFL Draft is linebacker. However, WIP’s Eliot Shorr-Parks wrote recently stating definitively — by his measure — the Eagles do not need a linebacker.

That is a bold statement considering the loss of Hicks and only adding former Pittsburgh Steerlers linebacker L.J. Fort this offseason. So, that poses the question, do the Eagles need a linebacker in the 2019 NFL Draft? Or is Shorr-Parks correct and the Eagles will be fine without adding one?

Well, using a stat from Pro Football Focus isn’t enough to say the Eagles do not need a linebacker because they need one, and they need one bad. The only way they do not draft a linebacker is if they trade for one. The Eagles and Howie Roseman will not go into 2019 without adding another linebacker to the mix.

They are putting entirely too much weight on Nigel Bradham. If he were to get injured, they would essentially have no one on the roster to start. They would also be going against everything they have done the last three seasons under defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.

Shorr-Parks said the following in his article:

"In addition to being their middle linebacker, Bradham is also their most important linebacker, and the only one that will play a big role on their defense next season."

He mentions that Bradham will be the Eagles middle linebacker, and he may be right, but that does not change the fact that the Eagles need to add a linebacker. He also says that Bradham will be the only linebacker that will play a huge role on their defense. This is a very bold statement, a bold statement that has zero grounds and a myth he debunks himself in his own article.

For starters, he talks about the Eagles top 10 formations from last season (he does not put a source for his stats on this, so we are going off of what he said for the sake of the argument). According to Shorr-Parks, “of their top 10 combinations, six included two linebackers.”

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This would make sense considering Bradham played 919 snaps (88.54 percent) and Hicks played 705 snaps (67.92 percent). Bradham was second on the team and Hicks was sixth. It is also worth noting that Hicks only played in 12 games, yet still played that many snaps.

These numbers are important becausem since Schwartz has taken over as Eagles defensive coordinator, two linebackers have always been in the top for snaps played for his defense. In 2016, Schwartz’s first year, both Hicks and Bradham played and started all 16 games. For each of them, it was the only time that has ever happened in their careers.

However, with both starting all 16 games, Bradham played 989 snaps and Hicks played 970, good enough for third and fourth most on the team. In 2017, with Hicks hurt again, Mychal Kendricks started 13 games, and played the seventh most snaps on the team with 614 (59.61 percent) and Bradham had 922 snaps. Hicks only played seven games that year, but added another 268 snaps before his injury.

So, as you can see, the Eagles rely on two linebackers playing a significant amount of snaps for their defense, which would mean it was important for their defense to have two starting linebackers. Shorr-Parks argued that the Eagles won’t be using two linebackers more than half the time. But from what the snap counts show, the Eagles love to use two linebackers and both play significant snaps and a key role in their defense.

Shorr-Parks went on to tout Kamu Grugier-Hill as an option for the Eagles to bring in alongside Bradham in pass-coverage, adding this:

"Per Pro Football Focus, Grugier-Hill allowed only 15 catches last season and picked off more passes (one) than touchdowns he allowed. He was better in coverage than the recently departed Hicks was, and his background at safety is a main reason why. He is without question good enough to hold down the second linebacker spot…"

Grugier-Hill is a solid player for the Eagles, but saying the Eagles can trust him next to Bradham and to replace Hicks is more than a stretch, especially when one stat from one season doesn’t affirm anything.

Grugier-Hill is a fantastic special teams player, but he isn’t replacing Hicks, nor is he better than Hicks. He also isn’t, without question, good enough to hold down the second linebacker spot. Grugier-Hill started 10 games last year and only played 328 snaps.

The Eagles second linebacker has played at least 614 snaps a year since Scwartz was hired and Grugier-Hill has only played in 414 career defensive snaps in his three seasons. So acting like it is clear that he will plug in and be the guy is almost comical.

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The current linebacker room for the Eagles is as follows: Bradham, Grugier-Hill, Fort, Nathan Gerry, Paul Worrilow and B.J. Bello. That alone is evidence enough that Roseman and company will not go into 2019 with only those linebackers and will add someone. If you combine Grugier-Hill (328), Fort (305), Gerry (134), Worrilow (0) and Bello’s (0) defensive snap total from last season you get 767, or 62 more than Hicks alone had in 2017.

If you think the Eagles do not need to add a linebacker, you’re just plain wrong. If they do not trade for a linebacker, the Eagles need to add a linebacker in the 2019 NFL Draft.

*All snap counts are via Pro Football Reference