Coming into last season, not many people knew of Eagles linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill other than as a solid special teams player, if at all.
But Grugier-Hill made a name for himself during the Eagles 37-9 win at Dallas last November. When kicker Jake Elliott went down with a head injury, Grugier-Hill stepped up and kicked his first kickoff into the end zone for a touchback as the emergency kicker, stunning everyone watching.
But now, he’ll be battling for the third starting spot at linebacker as the defending Super Bowl champions report to training camp this week.
Grugier-Hill will battle with newly signed Corey Nelson, plus Joe Walker and Nate Gerry. The third starting spot opened after the Eagles released Mychal Kendricks in the spring.
As of now, Nelson will get the first crack at first team reps, as he brings the most experience out of the group, entering his fifth season, but he also has played only special teams for the majority of his career.
But Grugier-Hill is the longest-tenured Eagle of the group, who’s entering his third season.
Plus, the Eagles coaching staff will definitely being giving a fair share of first-team reps to all four guys competing for it.
Grugier-Hill also has a leg up over Nelson in knowledge of the playbook, including having played at linebacker for most of the meaningless Week 17 game against Dallas last season, playing fairly well.
In that game, Grugier-Hill definitely demonstrated his 4.45 speed, being able to cover a lot of ground quickly, and his strength is definitely in pass coverage, both in man and zone, which is key in today’s NFL. But he struggled getting off blocks a little in run defense. In some of those snaps however, there was clearly signs of hesitation and inexperience, as far as recognizing where the ball was going and just finding those overall inner instincts you look for in a linebacker. Gaining more experience will help that, and he’ll get plenty of reps this preseason against better competition.
Fortunately for Grugier-Hill – Nelson, Walker and Gerry also share the same inexperience. This will easily be an even-level playing field for all four guys competing for that third starting spot, which typically gets about a third of the game reps with the Eagles mostly playing the nickel.
With a rather even playing field and a full offseason to improve, the 2016 sixth-round pick certainly will have plenty of opportunities to keep making a name for himself in camp to complete what’s become a great story earning his way in this league.