Is there a more polarizing position for the Eagles than linebacker? Well, maybe the one under center. But for years, Eagles fans have been drinking their feelings because of the linebacker play. Are those years of misery over? Shaun Bradley certainly hopes so.
The young linebackers showed a lot of promise last year. We know of Alex Singleton’s dominance, we know T.J. Edwards is a force up the middle, and Davion Taylor is still a mystery. But you don’t need Scooby Doo to work out that Shaun Bradley can play.
Playing in only 76 snaps on defense in 2020, Bradley totaled 15 tackles with one being for loss. With a new defensive scheme coming and players who took a majority of the snaps in 2020 not returning for 2021, the door is wide open for Bradley to make a significant impact in year two. We were lucky enough to sit with the second-year pro on the last week’s Flippin’ The Birds. This is his story.
Bradley discovered the game of Football at age six. His Father played in High School but while the prowess passed through the bloodline, luck didn’t. “I played three games throughout High School after injuries. I had one year left, with no offers during my whole senior year.” Bradley explained. “I was going to go to Wagner and right before that, Fran Brown called me. I ended up doing a private workout and a couple days later I had a visit and committed on the spot.”
As we now know, the rest was history. Growing up a Chargers fan, Bradley bolted onto the scene at Temple. He played in four seasons for the Owls, racking up 249 tackles, 22 TFL, 2 sacks, 3 picks, and 5 passes defensed. 86 of those tackles came in 2019, a career-year as a senior. This perked the ears of Howie Roseman, who was keen to acquire the explosive linebacker. What Bradley didn’t realise was that even the biggest night of his life would have a few twists and turns!
“I had my family over and it was a long two days. I had originally heard that I could slip into the end of the fourth, or anywhere from round 3-7. On Saturday I was thinking I could go fourth but definitely gonna go fifth. They both go by and now I’m sitting in the chair quiet, staring at the TV. My agent called moments before the Eagles did. He started talking about lining up free-agent deals and I freaked out. Turns out he knew the Eagles had picked me and just wanted to mess with me! The team called the second he hung up.”
What followed would be a rookie year filled with challenges and adversity. Bradley was forced to learn the playbook, like every other rookie that year, on an iPad. No preseason, no OTA’s, and a virtual offseason for the most part left the 2020 class with a Mountain to climb if they wanted to try and sneak some first-team snaps.
Bradley had three notable games during his rookie season where he saw significant defensive action. He played in 32 snaps against the Ravens, 10 against the Saints, and 11 against Washington in week 17. The former Owl did flash some real speed when pursuing running backs but it oddly wasn’t enough to secure some extra playing time, despite the position crying out for any kind of production.
“I was trying to feel my way out last year and make the most of every opportunity I had.” “I felt comfortable every time I went out there, but I never wanted to step on anybody’s toes. I wasn’t trying to do anything that could get me cut. When I first got there I was told everyday is like an interview. Everyday everything could get you in trouble. So it already scared the s*** out of me so I was like I’m not going to come in here and create any problems. So even though I may have felt like I should’ve been playing more, I wasn’t going to say anything.
Not to mention, they (the fans) gave the linebackers hell this year. We took a lot of the heat and what I will say is that we had a good group. They’re good people. They were older than me and helped me out. I was just waiting for my chance. I knew that every time I got on that field I would do something.”
The linebacker position as a whole took a lot of flack last season. With the exception of Alex Singleton, just about everyone fell into the firing line at one point or another, and Nate Gerry’s name was a common occurrence on that front. Interestingly, Bradley stated that Gerry wasn’t at fault for a chunk of his more ‘memorable’ plays. The second-year linebacker went on to say that while #47 may have struggled on the field, he was a tremendous character away from it and was a huge help in helping Bradley get up to speed. Gerry wasn’t the only one who received a scolding on more than one occasion however.
“Jim (Schwartz) took a lot of heat too. In his defense, I did think he was crazy, but he was a really good coach. He was passionate about what he did, he always stood up for us. It was tough because there were plenty of times where I didn’t have all the plays figured out. Everything’s about trust. So if I’m on a Friday messing things up, it’s hard for a coach to play a player that’s playing middle linebacker who’s just messing stuff up.”
But if we fast forward to 2021, there’s a breath of fresh air in the City of Brotherly Love. Nick Sirianni brought in Jonathan Gannon from his Indianapolis days to coordinate the defense – someone who has previously coached as names like Darius Leonard grow into cornerstones of the defense. In a scheme that actually prioritizes linebacker play, we may get to see plenty more from Shaun Bradley in 2021 and he couldn’t be more excited.
“[Jonathan Gannon] is a great f****** dude. He’s great, energized, ready to go. They’ve got a good plan for us. It’s gonna be more exciting. Different play-style. The way we talk about it gets me hyped. Everyone’s in a good headspace, they’re ready to put last season behind, and we’re ready to win.”
“I can’t wait to play a full game with Fletcher Cox in front of me. I’ve had some tough D-linemen at Temple. But I’ve never had a Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Javon Hargrave in front of me. You want to talk about running through a wide open gap? They’re double teaming and I’m able to run up that gap. They make it so easy. Fletcher’s huge.”
Shaun Bradley loves to trash talk
‘I’ll be out there saying [Nate Herbig‘s] fingers are fat or something just to try and distract him. BG talks the most trash. He’s really different with it on gameday. As soon as he gets out there he’s on somebody like ‘you don’t want to block me today.'”
A legendary teammate
“[Jason Kelce] is disgusting. When it comes to football, he is unbelievable. None of the centers I played against (in the NFL) don’t move like Kelce. He’s nasty. I’m happy I’m on his team.”
Hardest player to play against?
Is it Jalen Hurts time?
“He’s composed. The first time he went out at practice he was throwing these passes on the money. If he was to throw a pick, which he never really did, he wouldn’t stress out, he’d be composed, no frustration, nothing, he’d just be like ‘we’ll get it right back’ and they were right back to it.”
“When you talk about Jalen, it’s not just about his skill, how he can run, he’s a good teammate more than anything. The entire team gravitated towards Jalen. Everyone likes him. Offensive players, defensive players. It’s to the point where the players on the sideline, normally you’re on the bench getting water and relaxing, but when Jalen’s on the field everyone’s almost standing up watching what that boy’s about to do. I’ve played against the QBs coming out this year and Jalen has everything they can do and more. He’s going to be the one.”
“It’s going to be a movie next year.”
Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire