With their seventh pick in the 2017 NFL Draft the Philadelphia Eagles took a 218 pound safety with the confidence that he could play linebacker at the next level. It’s a strange thought made by football people much smarter than I am, yet I have little hope for this working out.
Gerry was a nice college player, but he was an average athlete who seems to be maxed out physically. He’s already 218 pounds and he looks pretty jacked up when you see him in person. His frame doesn’t suggest that he can gain 10-20 pounds without losing a lot of speed. In theory he could bulk up to 230, but he’d still be a bit undersized for the position and he’d probably end up becoming one of the slowest linebackers in the league.
Special teams is going to be his best shot at making a 53 man roster. This coaching staff has shown that they value backups who thrive in that phase of the game and they will find a spot if Gerry shows value there.
WEAKNESSES- Gerry is making the switch to linebacker because he lacks the speed to play in the back end and he can’t cover in the slot. 20 years ago in this league a good in the box safety could make a living playing near the line of scrimmage all game long. In today’s NFL there is too much emphasis on the passing game and it’s now impossible for a safety to make a living near the line of scrimmage.
Outside of just his lack of speed, he takes poor angles, misses far too many tackles for a downhill type of player and will get exposed often in man coverage. I’m usually pretty optimistic with draft picks, but I have a hard time envisioning his role on a NFL defense.
STRENGTHS- Gerry really only does two things well, but they are valuable in this defense. For a downhill safety he showed outstanding ball skills in coverage. I love his ability in zone coverage. It allows him to show off his ball skills and instincts without him being so exposed as a below average athlete.
The other area Gerry really excels at his ability to find gaps and close them off in the run game. Nigel Bradham is really good at this. That’s why Jim Schwartz loved him so much in Buffalo and now in Philly. Gerry isn’t near the athlete that Bradham is, but so much of run defense is finding gaps and closing them off before the run game can get started.
NFL PROJECTION- Gerry is probably going to land on the practice squad in year one. I think he has a chance to be a base linebacker down the road, but I seriously doubt he becomes an every down linebacker. He just has far too much to make up for in terms of his lack of speed and size.