Bradberry Leading Secondary While Adjusting To New Nickel Role
PHILADELPHIA – Always attentive and contemplative Eagles cornerback James Bradberry didn’t hesitate when asked to grade his performance Sunday against the Commanders.
“I would grade it, probably like a C-minus,” he said, candidly.
In an almost anticipatory manner, the veteran corner alluded to multiple plays he would’ve liked to have back in the aftermath of his team’s 34-31 overtime win at Lincoln Financial Field.
“I’d like to have two plays,” he continued. “They caught a 7-route – No. 2 did (Dyami Brown) – on their sideline, early on in the game. And it was 3rd-and-1, and they caught a sit-down route in the middle of the field toward the end of the game. I wish I could have those two plays back.”
An incredulously effective passing attack from Commanders quarterback Sam Howell – who completed passes to nine different receivers – had the Eagles’ defense reeling, conceding 290 yards and a touchdown in total.
“We won at times, as far as the passing game,” Bradberry continued. “But we also lost at times. I think Sam Howell did a good job making plays with his legs and getting them out of some critical situations. I feel like Sam Howell played his best game today, and I commend what he did.”
But when the ship needs steadying, it’s typically the veteran tandem of Bradberry and Darius Slay who calm the turbulence. And their respective voices carry even more weight lately.
While the latter opened the season with a pick-six and has largely hit the ground running through four games, it’s been a whirlwind for Bradberry, the team’s All-Pro.
In the season-opener against the Patriots in Foxborough, Mass., Bradberry endured a concussion as a result of friendly fire helmet contact. He remained in protocol four days later when the Eagles hosted the Vikings on Thursday Night Football.
Moreover, Bradberry was asked to wear multiple hats upon his return to the starting lineup in the wake of the pectoral injury suffered by nickel cornerback Avonte Maddox that will sideline Maddox indefinitely.
After much speculation and deliberation, Bradberry was officially unveiled as Maddox’s replacement against the Buccaneers last Monday night.
“My comfort level is getting higher and higher,” Bradberry said. “Wish I could have had some plays back out there today. But for the most part, I feel like I’m playing OK in there.”
It’s not often an All-Pro outside corner making $12-plus million a year is kicked inside without reservation or skepticism.
Various factors, such as route trees and run fits, can present a steep learning curve and sometimes result in excruciatingly maddening growing pains.
But for Bradberry – a quiet, albeit selfless leader – he approached his latest endeavor head-on, while acknowledging the position’s own unique set of challenges.
“Definitely have more ground to cover being inside, and things happen a lot faster,” Bradberry explained. “So, really, I’ve been trying to study the motion guys, especially third down, they’re in motion a lot. So, try and be ahead of the play and see the formation from a different standpoint. Our coaches do a good job of getting me prepared throughout the week for playing inside.”
In addition to juggling various backend roles, Bradberry has also doubled as a mentor to a suddenly inexperienced secondary brimming with young talent.
Sure, Bradberry, Slay and Terrell Edmunds – who started Sunday in place of an injured Justin Evans – have logged many miles at the pro level.
There isn’t much, if anything, they haven’t seen thrown their way.
But Reed Blankenship and Josh Jobe, who completed the starting secondary in the overtime win, share only a combined 10 starts between them.
While Blankenship has inspired confidence with his hard-nosed, blue-collar approach and tone-setting demeanor, Jobe – the newly appointed starter on the outside – has drawn his share of criticism despite performing admirably given the circumstance.
With Jobe, who played just 12 defensive snaps as a rookie, growth is evident. The second-year cornerback has taken his lumps and endured growing pains, but he’s also never shied from the moment.
For perspective, following his debut against the Vikings, Jobe responded by allowing four catches for 27 yards on eight targets against the Buccaneers and two receptions for 24 yards and a touchdown on five targets against the Commanders – along with a pass breakup – per TruMedia.
And as Jobe navigates unfamiliar terrain, he will have the luxury of learning from his sage teammate on the outside, who’s also among the best in the business.
“I just try to be there whenever he needs me,” Bradberry said. “I try to give him some pointers here and there, but I think he’s been playing pretty well.
“Playing corner in this league is a tough position because it’s an offensive league. They want the offense’s to put up a lot of points. It’s just hard. The quarterback played well today, offense was hitting on all cylinders.”
The start to this season might not have unfolded the way Bradberry drew it up in training camp, but amid the incessant moving parts and lack of experience in his orbit, the veteran cornerback has remained optimistic, envisioning a promising future for an evolving Eagles secondary.
And as long as such respected mainstays as Bradberry and Slay continue to set the standard, there’s little reason for apprehension.
“I think we’re doing pretty good,” Bradberry said. “Of course, Avonte was a crucial part of this defense and we had to make some adjustments, and we have some young guys picking up the slack.
“Reed’s been playing well, he’s a young guy; Jobe has been playing well, young guy. Of course, we’re gonna all make mistakes at the end of the day; you just gotta learn from those mistakes.”
– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.
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