T.J. Edwards anchoring Eagles defense as unsung tackling machine

PHOENIX — If he knew the exact number he did not share that information. 

T.J. Edwards, how many tackles did you have this past season? 

“It was like 150, something like that,’’ Edwards said. 

Something like that. Edwards amassed 159 tackles in 2022 to lead the Eagles, which is quite an achievement, considering how ravenous his teammates are in pursuing the ball

“I thought it was a decent amount,’’ Edwards told The Post, “I just felt like I was doing my job, getting to the ball as fast as I could and making sure I made that right decision and making sure we’re all in the right place. We kind of have a thing where we’re all just checking a box of what we need to do on each play.’’ 

Edwards checks plenty of boxes for the Eagles, anchored in the middle of a dynamic defense as a fairly undynamic, workmanlike player. He does not often make the sacks or the jarring hits or the interceptions that lead to accolades and awards but his team would not be gearing up for Sunday’s meeting with the Chiefs in Super Bowl LVII without his contributions — mainly his ability to determine where the ball is going and get there before help arrives. 

T.J Edwards
T.J. Edwards led the Eagles with 159 tackles.
Getty Images

It will take a village for the Eagles to have any chance to contain tight end Travis Kelce, who had 110 receptions, 1,338 yards and 12 touchdowns during the regular season, and this will be one of Edwards’ assignments. As one of the league’s preeminent big-game performers, Kelce in 17 career postseason games — the equivalent of one full regular season — has been even better: 127 receptions for 1,467 yards and 15 touchdowns. 

The Eagles have a strong track record against tight ends. The most damage any tight end inflicted on them this past season came in Week 18, when Lawrence Cager of the Giants had eight catches for 69 yards. 

Edwards will be one of the Eagles defenders to try his luck with Kelce. 

“I think he kind of catches people off guard trying to lull them to sleep at first and then he bursts out really fast,’’ Edwards said. “He’s been a Pro Bowl tight end for a long time in this league and he looks as advertised on film. Really excited for the matchup, really excited to go against him. He’s a special player, for sure.’’ 

Edwards was a four-year starter at Wisconsin but was not drafted, considered not quite fast enough or strong enough, not quite athletic enough. After one year making his mark on special teams with the Eagles, he earned a starting inside linebacker role in 2020 and has been there ever since. He started all 17 games in 2022, on the field for 94 percent of the snap on defense. His 99 solo tackles were tied for seventh in the league. 

T.J. Edwards speaks to the media on Jan. 26 ahead of the NFC Championship game.
T.J. Edwards speaks to the media on Jan. 26 ahead of the NFC Championship game.

T.J. Edwards
T.J. Edwards has been an unsung hero for the Eagles defense.
Paul Schwartz

“I feel blessed to have the guys we have, the chemistry that we have is a big part of our success,’’ Edwards said. “For me, I just want to make sure we’re all on the same page. I want to make sure I get to the ball on every play. You know someone’s gonna make a big play, you just really don’t know who.’’ 

It could be Edwards making the big play. If he does, it could be his final big play for the Eagles. Edwards is one of 20 impending free agents on a team that, win or lose in the Super Bowl, will look quite different in 2023. The Giants are a team desperate to upgrade at inside linebacker and they certainly are quite familiar with Edwards, who is one of the least-heralded players on the Eagles’ roster. Given his status as a starter, Edwards was assigned his own table for the media sessions this past week. His area rarely was crowded and often, anyone seeking to speak with Edwards could saunter up and start up a private conversation. 

“All the attention, it really doesn’t matter to me,’’ Edwards said. “I just want to win the game and finish what we started.’’

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