How James Bradberry transforms the Eagles secondary

NFL: SEP 20 Giants at Bears
CHICAGO, IL – SEPTEMBER 20: New York Giants cornerback James Bradberry (24) in action during a game between the Chicago Bears and the New York Giants on September 20, 2020 at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire)

They think it’s all over, it is now! The Eagles have stunned everyone yet again by somehow landing free-agent cornerback James Bradberry. The former Giants CB signed with the team on a one-year deal worth $10M after whittling down an original list of 11 potential landing spots. What does he bring to the Philadelphia secondary?

The ultimate tandem

Darius Slay turned back the clocks in 2021 in a big way. Following a disappointing 2020 campaign, a shift in defensive scheme helped Slay to bounce back with a spring in his step. With 3 interceptions, 52 tackles, a pair of fumble-return TD’s and 9 passes defensed, the veteran proved he still had plenty of gas in the tank.

The questions in this secondary lay elsewhere coming into the offseason. The Eagles were expected to draft one of the handful of first-round CB’s, but stood back and patiently waited for the cards to fall. Outside of a pair of UDFA steals, Howie did very little to add to the CB room, leaving the door open to a CB2 competition for recently acquired young talent.

That was until today.

After the New York Giants surprisingly released Bradberry due to cap issues, Howie Roseman set his sights on the Pro Bowl corner.

Bradberry stood out in a big way last year, picking off 4 passes and amassing 47 tackles. He made the Pro Bowl in 2020 and fits the Eagles perfectly. He’s 6’1, 212 lbs, and runs a 4.5 40-yard dash, which is more than athletic enough for this secondary. He’s also a demon at the catch point.

He played all 17 games for the Giants last year, registering 4 picks, 17 PBU’s and 37 tackles. This was on top of a Pro Bowl season in 2020 where he near enough mirrored that stat-line.

The scheme

To put it simply, having two CB1’s allows you to do a lot defensively. Having two All-Pro corners who produce so many turnovers and can quite literally blanket an opposing wideout allows for a lot of confidence to get creative schematically.

You’re able to better utilize players like Haason Reddick because there is so much stability on the outside, that you can afford to bring him down to the line of scrimmage or rush the passer freely, knowing full well that your boundary corners have enough athleticism and awareness to come downhill if needed, or adapt on the fly.

After a year where the Eagles were brutally punished by any remotely competent quarterback, two things became clear. 1) The Eagles had no room to blitz defensively because the talent level in the heart of the defense didn’t allow it. 2) Something had to change.

Two boundary corners playing at an elite level is not only going to allow Gannon some creative freedom, but it’s going to benefit his linebacking group massively as they can no longer be funneled. The group has enough talent for OC’s to have to scheme away from them, but doing so runs you into jeopardy in the way of Slay, Bradberry, and of course Avonte Maddox.

Is this the best cornerbacking trio in Philadelphia in nearly a decade?

Absolutely.

A margin of safety

If there’s one other position the Eagles refused to invest in this offseason, it’s safety. We know that Anthony Harris and Marcus Epps will be captaining the ship this year, but fans pined for Tyrann Mathieu or literally any draft prospect.

Instead, they’ve been given two lockdown corners who will take some significant weight from the shoulders of two below-average safeties. Let those Safeties play to their niche strengths (Harris in deep coverage and Epps in open-field tackles), and the corners can do the same while the strength on the outside and up front pushes play over the middle into a window of safety that’s now inhabited by dangerous roaming linebackers.

Long-term stability?

The scary part is that Bradberry is only 28-years-old. It’s hard to imagine that the concept of a long-term deal didn’t come up in negotiations. If the Eagles like what they see in this one year, it’s hard to imagine them not running to the bank, knowing Darius Slay won’t be around forever.

Is there a better possible player to hold the CB2 fort for now in preparation to replace Slay as CB1 while young talent develops.

Nope.

Howie, you’ve done it again.

Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire

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