Nate Gerry ready for big role on Eagles defense

Eliot Shorr-Parks
July 04, 2020 - 9:32 am
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It has to be pretty eye-opening for Nate Gerry to look around the linebacker room these days. 

Three years ago, Gerry entered the Eagles’ linebacking room as a college safety. He had veterans in the room like Nigel Bradham, Mychal Kendricks, Jordan Hicks and Dannell Ellerbe, a group that had a combined 18 years of experience playing linebacker in the NFL. 

Flash forward three years, and when you speak to the linebackers on the Eagles’ roster, almost all of them say some variation of this:

“Nate Gerry sticks out to the most to me. When he is the game he makes very little mistakes. Even when he does, he is able to make a play,” rookie linebacker Davion Taylor said of his biggest takeaway from the offseason meetings. “That is one person I am going to try to reach out to and have someone to talk to as someone that has been there.”

Think about that for a second. Gerry has gone from not knowing the position in 2017, to now, being the vocal and veteran leader among the linebackers entering the 2020 season. 

That isn’t by mistake. 

As the Eagles have passed over free agent linebackers and draft prospects this offseason, it is clear one of the reasons they have trust and faith in Gerry as a player. That is especially true of defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who has been there every step of the way on Gerry’s three-year journey, and started him 12 times last season. 

“Being able to play more games, I felt like every game I was more comfortable,” Gerry said of last season. “I feel like every game I played my teammates were able to trust me a little bit more, and that made me feel a little bit more comfortable out there, and that allowed me to play a lot faster.”

The transition from college safety to NFL linebacker was not an easy or quick one. Gerry played just 20 snaps on defense his rookie year, and only 134 in 2018. A knee injury to Kamu Grugier-Hill last year in training camp, and the eventual release of Zach Brown, however, not only forced Gerry onto the field in 2019, but on the field in all three linebacker spots. 

Forced into action, Gerry stepped up and turned in a great season. 

Playing in career high 620 snaps, Gerry finished the year with 78 tackles, five pass deflections, five quarterback hits, 4 tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks, two interceptions and one touchdown. Those all-around numbers put Gerry second on the team in tackles, and first among linebackers in quarterback hits, sacks, tackles for a loss and pass deflections. 

“Towards the end of my second year I kind of felt like I was able to feel a lot more comfortable, and then my third year, I was moving around quite a bit, so I never really got set in stone a position,” Gerry said. “I was always in the playbook trying to figure out more and more about all the positions rather than just one.”

Having to bounce around might have slowed down Gerry’s chances at getting on the field, but now, it leaves the Eagles with an extremely versatile linebacker to work with. Not only can Gerry play all three linebacker spots, but his experience at safety in college still helps him out on the field. 

“When you play safety you learn a lot more route concepts, and that was kind of the transition where I felt like I was maybe a step ahead of some other guys. I felt like in certain coverages I was able to see a little bit better when it came to the route concepts and the understanding of them with how the offense saw it,” Gerry said. “I think that was the transition that helped me most was being able to see how the offense was attacking with the routes.”

Last season Gerry was targeted 52 times in coverage, allowing 41 catches, but picking off almost as many passes (2) as he allowed touchdowns (3). Splitting time between Nebraska and South Dakota this offseason, Gerry has been  working towards his goal of being the team’s three-down linebacker in 2020. 

“I wanna be the third-down linebacker. That is my main emphasis heading into training camp,” Gerry said. “I want to be able to show the coaches and teammates that I can handle the whole workload. I don’t want to be just a first-and-second down guy. I want to be able to stay out on the field the whole time.”

How the Eagles linebacker rotation works out remains to be seen. Gerry seemingly enters camp at the top of the depth chart with T.J. Edwards. With the Eagles likely to only have two linebackers on the field the majority of the time, it will almost certainly be Gerry and Edwards leading the way. 

The duo didn’t get on the field at the same time much last season, but Edwards, who Gerry says is a “hell of a player”, seems excited about the prospect of the two seeing plenty of time together next season. 

“Nate is a Nebraska boy, so at Wisconsin we played against him. I was redshirting his senior year, so I knew a bit about him from scouting reports, but when I met him I could tell right off the bat that he is just so knowledgeable about the game of football,” Edwards said of Gerry. “You can ask anyone on the defense and they will tell you how much he really knows this defense and how much he knows the game of football. I think playing safety definitely helped him with that too, just because he can tell you the front and the back (of the defense) like the back of his hand, and that is super impressive. He is a great dude to be around.”

Gerry still has plenty to accomplish and prove at the NFL level. He is going to get that chance in 2020. 

The Eagles are confidently betting he will take advantage of it and take another big step forward. 

You can follow Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks or email him at esp@94wip.com!

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