Philadelphia Eagles: Don’t count out linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

With Mychal Kendricks now gone and Paul Worrilow out for the season with a torn ACL, could Kamu Grugier-Hill become a starter for the Philadelphia Eagles?

What a difference a week makes for the Philadelphia Eagles‘ linebacking unit.

Once considered one of the deepest segments of the entire roster, boasting five players with starting experience, the Eagles are now one injury away from having a serious problem in the middle of their defense, with only a few outside options available to bolster the unit.

But what if the answer to the Eagles’ weakside linebacker problem is already on the roster?

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While Corey Nelson may be the popular name to win the spot after filling a similar role with the Denver Broncos over the past few seasons, don’t count out third-year linebacker, Kamu Grugier-Hill.

After spending four years at Eastern Illinois University, Grugier-Hill began his professional career as a sixth-round pick of the New England Patriots in 2016, before being waived in the team’s final roster trim down that September. Though he was heralded for having one of the most exciting skill sets in the entire draft, as highlighted by his 4.45 40-yard dash and 38.5-inch vertical jump performance at Eastern Illinois’ Pro Day, is general rawness as a player made him a poor fit for the Patriots championship-contending roster. While the potential for Grugier-Hill to develop into a solid contributor was there, the team made the tough decision to let him go after only one summer in Foxborough, hoping that he would make it through waivers and onto their practice squad.

Spoiler alert, he didn’t.

Even though the Eagles had already drafted a linebacker in seventh round Oregon Duck Joe Walker, the team opted to bring in Grugier-Hill as a potential linebacker prospect and immediately found a home for him on Dave Fipp‘s special teams unit.

For what Grugier-Hill lacked in polish as a linebacker, his natural athleticism made him an absolute star on special teams, quickly establishing himself as a four-core player. Lining up alongside proven aces like Trey Burton, Bryan Braman, and Chris Maragos, Grugier-Hill quickly rose up the ranks on one of the league’s best unit and by 2017 became a finalist for a spot in the Pro Bowl as a special teams ace.

And 2018 may finally be the year he brings his exorbitant talents and unique skill set to the defensive side of the ball.

At 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, Grugier-Hill has the prototypical size of a modern-day Will linebacker, with the 4.45 40 to roam the field sideline to sideline, and enough pop to remain competitive on the inside against power backs.

Really, the only thing he lacks is experience at the position, but if early reports from 2018 OTA’s are of any indication, it appears as though he’s assimilated to his new position nicely.

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While it’s still only spring, Grugier-Hill has been making plays early in often in training camp, making plays on the ball with relative ease, and making good reads in the middle of the field.

Though the Eagles’ third linebacker typically only sees the field for about 30 percent of the team’s defensive snaps, Grugier-Hill’s skill-set could allow him to see the field even more, and give Jim Schwartz some much-needed optionality in his defensive subpackages.

As a converted safety, Grugier-Hill has the athleticism and experience to play a hybrid coverage linebacker role in the team’s nickel packages in the vein of moneybackers like Deone Bucannon and Shaq Thompson, a role the Eagles have been trying to fill for years, while also possessing the size to remain on the field in the base defense, a serious advantage to combat the diversity of modern offensive play calling.

This, when coupled with Grugier-Hill’s ability to take away the RPO and read option from more athletic quarterbacks like Dak Prescott and Russell Wilson could make the Eagles defense even more dangerous, and free up the front four to continue to make plays without fear of the short yardage passing game.

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While only time will tell if he can continue to make plays over the summer into the preseason, if the Philadelphia Eagles want to add some serious optionality to their base defensive package, and incorporate another serious wrinkle into their nickel and dime packages, Kamu Grugier-Hill may just be the man for the job.