There was a time not too long ago when Alex Singleton almost gave up his aspirations of making the Philadelphia Eagles‘ roster in favor of a lucrative contract with the Calgary Stampeders.
In theory, the idea tracked. Singleton was waived by the Eagles in favor of Wisconsin UDFA T.J. Edwards coming out of training camp, and he was virtually guaranteed a starting spot if he opted to take his services back to Canada, where he’d put up back-to-back 100-plus tackle seasons in 2017 and 2018.
But, based on a burning desire to keep his NFL dreams alive, Singleton turned down his backup plan in favor of a spot on the Eagles’ practice squad, where he sat and waited patiently through the first six weeks of the season.
While Singleton eventually did get his call up to the big league midway through the 2019 season, making his stateside professional debut in Week 7 against the Dallas Cowboys, the Montana State product didn’t receive a single defensive snap for the Birds in either the regular season or against the Seattle Seahawks in the Wildcard Round – instead, logging all 213 of his 2019 snaps on special teams.
And through the first three weeks of the 2020 season, it didn’t look like that was going to change anytime soon.
A borderline surprise addition to the initial 53 man roster as the Eagles’ sixth linebacker, Singleton once again played 66.3 percent of the team’s defensive snaps versus only 11 total snaps on the defensive side of the ball; 10 in Week 1 and a single snap in Week 3. In Week 4, that probably wasn’t going to change, at least until the very player who beat Singleton out one year prior, T.J. Edwards, went down with a hamstring injury.
Thrust into the starting lineup as the team’s new starting middle linebacker, Singleton almost immediately started making plays on the defensive side of the ball.
But one play, one sweet, sweet, play would cement the name Alex Singleton into the hearts of Philadelphia Eagles fans the world over.
An interception. Returned for a touchdown. By a Philadelphia Eagles defender. So this is what it feels like to have one of those plays go your way.
While one play alone shouldn’t be enough to suddenly cement a player into a starting role, even if it was arguably the best defensive play of the season, Singleton’s performance as a whole just looked different than the performances Duke Riley and Nathan Gerry have turned in through the first four games of the regular season. In roughly a half of action, Singleton picked up two solo tackles, including a gnarly hit on Jerick McKinnon at the line of scrimmage, and was consistently in the right position in coverage.
Say what you will about Schwartz’s decision to continuously place in linebackers in one-on-one coverage against tight ends as of late (more on that here), but half of the team’s big plays can be directly attributed to Gerry and Riley – but mostly Gerry – being out of position. If Singleton can at least keep his man in front of him and avoid getting burnt on a double move or inopportune angle, that would instantly upgrade the defense’s weakest link considerably.
Whether Edwards is back for Week 5 or not, Singleton deserves a chance to prove whether or not his Week 4 performance was a fluke.
With Will Parks presumably set to return to the active roster at some point in the not too distant future, the Eagles likely won’t be using two linebackers on 70-plus percent of their defensive snaps for very much longer. If Singleton can put together a few more serviceable showings – which, again, would be a notable upgrade from their bottom-of-the-barrel outings – maybe he’ll get to continue on as the Eagles’ top linebacker, and earn a new contract going into his third NFL season.
And if not? Well, he can’t be a whole lot worse than what fans have been treated to in 2020.
Whether Week 4 is an aberration or a standard-setter for an ex-CFL star ready to breakout stateside, it’s clear Alex Singleton was the Philadelphia Eagles’ best linebacker in their first win of the season. If Jim Schwartz’s defense is a meritocracy – which based on the decision to play Cre’Von LeBlanc over Nickell Robey-Coleman, it should be – that should be enough to give the 26-year-old his first NFL start not too far down the line.
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Actu monde – CA – Philadelphia Eagles: Alex Singlton deserves a chance to start