Eric Wilson spent the first four years of his NFL career sharing a linebacker room with proven veterans like Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks, presumably trying to soak up whatever the two Minnesota Vikings Pro Bowlers were willing to teach him.
Things are a little different in Philadelphia.
The 26-year-old who signed with the Eagles as a free agent in April is going through OTAs as one of the elder statesmen among the team’s linebackers. During position meetings, the only people older than him are holdover linebacker Alex Singleton and linebackers coach Nick Rallis, 27, by a hair.
Wilson’s new role as a teacher isn’t exclusively due to his age, though. His tenure with the Vikings overlapped with both Rallis and Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon. As Gannon installs his new scheme, Wilson’s experience with the philosophies passed down from Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer to the Eagles’ defensive staff have come in handy.
“Him and Rallis were together, so the terms that they know and the ways that they see things, it’s kind of meshing together,” Singleton, 27, said last week. “It’s really nice to be able to communicate and all be on the same wavelength.”
T.J. Edwards, 24, added: “There’s definitely some carryover for him. He’s a guy who is more comfortable, I think, right away in what we’re doing. It’s definitely helpful to bounce questions off him, but I think as a unit we’ve got a bunch of guys who are all racing to learn this playbook and help each other out.”
Gannon spoke with reporters last week and offered a few glimpses into what his defense will look like. There are bound to be several changes from former defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz’s scheme, and linebackers will likely hold more importance in the new system.
Gannon was an assistant defensive backs coach on Zimmer’s staff from 2014-17 and then was a defensive backs coach for Colts’ defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus from 2018-20. Both coaches have employed a heavy dose of zone coverage and have defenses with significant investment in linebackers.
Wilson was the first and only addition to an Eagles’ linebacking corps that has been one of the cheapest groups in the league for several years now. This season, they’re projected to be the fourth-lowest-paid group of linebackers in the NFL, according to overthecap.com.
Gannon said Wilson will play both MIKE and WILL linebacker spots with the Eagles, which means he’s learning at least one new position while also fielding questions about the new scheme. Wilson played the majority of his snaps as an off-ball linebacker, stepping in as a starter after Anthony Barr suffered an injury early in the season.
“It’s a new defense for everyone,” Wilson said. “We’re learning techniques and responsibilities, so we’re going to continue to talk through those things and work together to be on the same page.”
When he plays the MIKE in the Eagles’ base defense, he figures to be flanked by Singleton and Edwards, both of whom started for the team last year. Davion Taylor, a 2020 third-round pick, could break into the starting lineup, but he spent most of last year as a special teamer after being pegged as an athletic, developmental prospect going into the draft.
Wilson said he’s been working closely with Taylor during OTAs, which the Eagles are likely happy to hear.
“We actually have been lifting together, too, so we talk quite a bit,” Wilson said. “It’s going to be great. I think each linebacker may be a little different and similar in ways, but I think we all can fly around the field and get after it.”