Philadelphia Eagles: Tanner Muse looks like the next Nathan Gerry

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

With their linebacker situation very much a work in progress, the Philadelphia Eagles should double-down on the Nathan Gerry strategy and draft Clemson safety-turned-linebacker Tanner Muse.

In 2017, the Philadelphia Eagles used their fifth-round pick to drafted an athletically gifted safety with a unique plan in mind: transition him to linebacker.

In theory, the idea made tracked, as the draftee in question, Nathan Gerry, played mostly strong safety at Nebraska, had great size for his position, and even better ball skills, but in practice, things weren’t so simple. After initially struggling during training camp, Gerry didn’t even make the team’s opening day roster – instead starting off his career on the practice squad with no guarantee of a long-term role.

Fast-forward four years into the future, and Gerry is the top linebacker on the Eagles’ depth chart, with an opportunity to start in 2020 regardless of how the team opts to address the position group move the next two months (more on that here).

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Though we won’t truly know if Gerry can be the weakside coverage specialist the Eagles have coveted at linebacker during the Jim Schwartz-era until we get a full season’s worth of tape with him filling a full-time role,  it’s safe to say the team’s patience has paid off.

With the draft right around the corner, why not double-down on the infrastructure that’s already in place and try to do it again?

As it turns out, there’s another safety set to enter the NFL next month in Las Vegas that looks surprisingly similar to Gerry both in college and as a pro who should be high on the Eagles’ list of players to watch: Tanner Muse.

Measuring in at an identical-to-Gerry 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, Muse spent five-years at Clemson playing strong safety for Dabo Swinney‘s Tigers. While he was often overshadowed by his fellow safety Isaiah Simmons, a potential top-10 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, Muse was fairly productive during his time in South Carolina – picking up 191 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, 3.5 sacks, and seven interceptions in 50 games of action.

Those numbers are pretty good, and again, very similar to Gerry’s back in college, where he recorded 273 tackles, 19 tackles for a loss, two sacks, and 13 interceptions.

What isn’t similar, however, if their 40 times, not even close.

Despite showing solid explosive ability at the combine with a 122-inch broad jump and a 30.5-inch vertical, Gerry only ran at 4.58 40 at 218 pounds. Muse did similarly well at the broad and vertical jumps (34.5 and 124) but ran out of the gym with a 4.41 40 – a number that would have ranked him first overall among testing linebackers if he tested with linebackers.

Make no mistake about it, that blazing-fast number will certainly push Muse up draft boards, potentially multiple rounds. Still, his non-performances may actually highlight an issue with his playing style and prevent some team from selecting the redshirt-senior. As highlighted on Pro Football Focus’ always-excellent 2-for-1 Podcast, Muse is not exceptionally talented when it comes to change of direction, and would have struggled mightily with the  3 cone drill, the 20-yard shuffle, and the 60-yard shuffle.

This would make Muse a less than ideal safety at the NFL-level, as he can’t be reliably, um, relied on to cover slot receivers, or even uber-shifty running backs in space, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he can’t be counted on to rough it up between the tackles, cover sideline-to-sideline, and even drop down to cover a bigger-bodied tight end.

Wait, isn’t that the very same role the Eagles asked Gerry to play in 2019 and presumably in 2020? My goodness, it is.

Now I don’t personally expect Muse to become a contributor from day one, at least outside of special teams, but that doesn’t mean he can’t eventually form a dynamic one-two punch at linebacker that’s perfectly tailored for the modern-day NFL. This is good news for the Birds, as Muse isn’t expected to be selected in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, or even on Day 2 for that matter. While adding instant producers has to be a priority for the Eagles this spring, especially when you consider just how many holes the team has across their depth chart, using a Day 3 draft pick on a player like Muse is a high-upside bet.

Heck, Gerry is entering the final year of his rookie contract this fall. He could conceivably groom Muse to take his place if things don’t work out at the negotiating table. That’s not a bad consolation prize by any stretch of the imagination.

Based on his size, speed, and veteran savvy alone, Muse is the kind of person any NFL team would like to have on their roster. His presence could help to solidify the Eagles’ ever-evolving special teams unit, bolster the depth chart at two, three, four, potentially even five columns of the team’s depth chart, and most importantly of all, continue to strengthen the team’s locker room.

That alone is more than the Eagles’ 2019 fifth-round pick contributed, as Clayton Thorson didn’t even make the final 53 man roster and spent the season on the Dallas Cowboys practice squad.

Next. Jason Peters is officially headed to free agency. dark

However, if Tanner Muse can pull a Nathan Gerry and successfully transition from a big college safety into an uber-rangy NFL linebacker, it could give the Philadelphia Eagles yet another dynamic, position-fluid defender. Based on potential value alone, Muse’s upside is massive for a potential Day 3 draftee, even if the process takes a few years to make it happen. Fortunately, fans in Philly are used to trusting the process.