Nigel Bradham starts new season leading Eagles linebackers by example

When Jordan Hicks left for Arizona, Nigel Bradham became the ultimate leader of the Eagles linebacker room and defense. He controls the defense, he makes the calls, and he is the most experienced LB on the team.

With being a leader among the LBs come great responsibility. Entering his 8th season, he is the top dog of a group comprising young guys like Grugier-Hill, Nathan Gerry, and TJ Edwards. Fellow starting LB Zach Brown is entering his 8th year as well, but is far more accomplished against the run than he is in coverage. If you partner that with Hicks being out of the picture, there could well be a much bigger role for Bradham this year as he transitions to the MIKE spot.

“The difference between the Mike and the nickel linebacker, Sam or Will, is those lines have been completely blurred anyway.” Jim Schwartz explained during Training Camp. “All you have to do is motion the tight end, and now the linebackers are switched and everything else. We have cross trained guys and Nigel has done that for us the last couple of years. Any time [former Eagles LB and current Cardinals LB] Jordan [Hicks] was down, Nigel went in and did that.

He’s a real good communicator. He’s good against the run and the pass. He’s tough. I think he runs our show really well. Jordan ran our show really well. We didn’t have any setbacks.

Jim Schwartz during Training Camp.

So, how did he fare in week one?

Marginally back from injury

Complicating the transition is the fact that Bradham has been dealing with torn ligaments in his toe during the offseason. An injury he sustained against the Saints in January.

“I just have to get comfortable, real comfortable, with my feet. I’ve got to get my power back and stuff like that.’’

Nigel Bradham on his injury rehab

Bradham didn’t sound overly confident going into game week, saying “Not really” when asked if he was ready for 11-on-11 action.

Head Coach Doug Pederson said after the game that rhythm was important for Bradham in his first game back from injury:

“I think getting back into rhythm and controlling the defense and making the calls, really settled in and (Bradham) did some really nice things”

Head Coach Doug Pederson after the Redskins game

An up and down day for the defensive captain

There were some really, really nice plays by Bradham in this game. Specifically, he was automatic when Redskins ran power and zone, making multiple stops for no gain. His tackle on Guice short of the sticks on the 3rd and 2 really stood out.

There were some really sloppy mistakes too. Taking the right angles, knowing where you can miss in compression in open field, coming up on short routes in hook/curl coverage was lacking:

There are some fundamentals things that must be cleaned up in the next few weeks, and some good stuff to build on.

He also appears to be playing with an added chip on his shoulder this year…

He isn’t wrong, either. Seven solo tackles, all things considered, is a strong starting point for a man who now has 210 tackles during two seasons (and one game) in Philadelphia. Perhaps the biggest unsung hero of the defense, Bradham has to grow out of that shadow and into the spotlight with the weight of the position on his shoulders.

Bradham has to step up and lead the group in 2019. A group that’s not only missing Hicks, but its special teams ace in Kamu Grugier-Hill. There are new faces and some young ones, but the man who tied Malcolm Jenkins for the lead in tackles last year will be relied on to become the heartbeat of the position.

Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

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