T. J. Edwards: “I want to be that guy in the middle”

T. J. Edwards: "I want to be that guy in the middle"

During Training Camp each year, Head Coach Nick Sirianni shares with his team the stories of players who had humble beginnings in the league, but who went on to greatness despite being overlooked or dropped during the draft. In a press conference this week, he mentioned his favorite legends – of Pro Football Hall of Famers Terrell Davis and John Randle, noting that there is much to learn from their experiences in the NFL.

But this season’s undrafted rookies don’t have to come out of the history books to find an underdog to draw inspiration from.

The Eagles’ own middle linebacker T.J. Edwards is the poster boy for perseverance — he knows the struggles of a free agent that aren’t well documented.

“I’ve worked my tail off to get to where I am and I have a lot of things I want to do,” Edwards said following Thursday’s practice, referring to his early years in the league.

Edwards is one of many who didn’t hear their name called at draft night, despite starting 52 games and recording 367 tackles during his collegiate career at Wisconsin. The Eagles signed him after seven rounds in 2019.

He was one of two undrafted rookies to earn a spot on the Eagles’ 2019 opening day roster, which is widely used in special teams play throughout the season.

Since then, his work has grown steadily. By the 2021 season, he had graduated from special teams where he earned defensive player of the week honors.

His career was solidified in three games in the middle of the 2021 season, culminating in the Eagles’ Week 11 victory over the New Orleans Saints. He recorded a team-high 10 tackles, two passes defensed, one fumble recovery, and a pace-setting interception that set up the go-ahead touchdown drive.

His performance did not go without notice – the Eagles signed him to a one-year contract the next day. He finished the season with a career-high 125 tackles, which ranked second on the team and tied for sixth-most by the Eagles since 1991. Edwards has continued that streak into this year’s camp, establishing himself in the middle of the middle line so far.

“Continuing in Year 4, I saw a lot about the roads and where everyone should fit in. And I worked my tail off in the books, man,” Edwards said.

“I’m learning as much as I can. It’s really given me the edge because I think attitude is everything in this game, and being able to do that is something I’m proud of.”

He credits his continued playing in company with longtime defensive leaders, namely Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham. Now headed to the veteran position, he has the opportunity to pay it forward to younger players like Dean, who is competing for snaps with some new faces in the locker room.

“Being here, especially for this group, and learning from what I took from those guys who were here before me and trying to give it to the guys who just got here and realizing that I want to be that guy,” he said.

“I want to be the guy in the middle, still taking my game to the next level.”

His goal is to have another successful season as a defensive lineman, and given his strong start to camp, the starting spot seems within reach.

“It’s clear that playing games is good, and I want to be consistent with that. That’s the main thing – every day to be a guy who is counted on to play games. That’s what I want,” he said.

“I just want to continue to grow and also make sure as a whole as a unit, especially the linebacker unit, we continue to improve.”

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