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January 24, 2018

Nigel Bradham is the 'unsung hero' of the Philadelphia Eagles defense

Eagles NFL
012417_Bradham-Barnett_usat James Lang/USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Eagles outside linebacker Nigel Bradham, left, and defensive end Derek Barnett celebrate a turnover during the second quarter against the Minnesota Vikings.

Last week, we wrote about how Malcolm Jenkins is the heart and soul of the Eagles' locker room – just as he has been for a few years now. But on Wednesday, the veteran safety deflected some of that praise, saying that this team is by far the easiest he's ever had to lead. 

"This has probably been my easiest season to lead since I've been in an Eagles uniform," Jenkins said of the Super-Bowl-bound Eagles. "There's been other seasons where I felt like I needed to stand up in front of the team almost every week. This year, we've got so many veteran guys and so many unselfish guys that it's been easy. All I've had to do really is go be myself. You've got guys like Chris Long, Torrey Smith, Alshon Jeffery, Nick Foles, [Brent] Celek, [Jason] Kelce. Nigel Bradham's been more of a leader this year. Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox leading the defensive line.

"There's so many guys that contribute that it's been easy. And it's really been an honor for me to even be called a leader on this team because you've got so many guys that can easily take that role."

One of those leaders mentioned by Jenkins is middle linebacker Nigel Bradham – yes, the same Nigel Bradham who hates cabana boys and forgets to take his gun out of his bag when flying. The 28-year-old was sort of thrust into a leadership role this season when starting "Mike" linebacker Jordan Hicks ruptured his Achilles' tendon in October. In 15 games this season, Bradham leads the team with 61 tackles, four more than Jenkins. He has also forced a fumble and had a fumble recovery returned for a touchdown against the Cowboys. 

And while his play on the field – combined with his leadership off the field – has helped mask the loss of a Pro Bowl linebacker at one of the most important defensive positions, Jenkins has been most impressed by Bradham's ability to handle the mental aspect of his new position.

"I've been on defenses where you lose your 'Mike' linebacker and things can get crazy," Jenkins said. "They're not used to making calls, getting everybody lined up, communicating, and also doing their job. But [Bradham's] doing that and playing multiple positions too. It's not like he just moved to the 'Mike' linebacker and that's it. He's the 'Mike' in base and all the sudden we go to dime package and he's playing the 'Will,' we go to a nickel and he's playing the 'Will.' I mean, sometimes, I'll just switch with him just because. 

"So he's having to learn all these different positions, take over that role of being the signal-caller, but he's also our enforcer. He's the guy that we look for to get big hits, fly around, talk some trash, and bring a little juice to the defense. A lot of times, that's hard to juggle all of that. He's really kind of been the unsung hero of our defense."

A day earlier, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz also praised Bradham for his ability to adapt to not just one new role, but several.

"I think one of the unsung stories of this season has been Nigel picking up that communication," Schwartz said. "Nigel has always been a fiery guy. Sometimes I think he runs about five extra miles trying to get to the pile to make sure he's delivering whatever message he's going to deliver and it brings us a lot of energy, it really does. 

"But that's a tough thing to do when you've got the coach speaking in your ear about, ‘Hey, remind this guy this and we're going to this call, but check it to this if something else is going on.' And he's done a really good job handling all that communication, and it's been fairly seamless.

"I think that it's really a credit to him how he's able to do that. He’s been able to play a couple different positions. He's been multi-dimensional. We've had a lot of different players do that ... I think that's gone a little bit sort of unsung, also, but it's helped us to deal with the loss of Jordan Hicks."


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