October 18, 2017
It wasn't that long ago that Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham was being called a dumbass by defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz for a pair of arrests involving a dispute with a cabana boy over an umbrella, and a loaded gun in his carry-on bag at the airport.
After his play so far this season, especially against the Carolina Panthers last Thursday night, Bradham is earning warranted praise from Schwartz.
"He plays tough," said Schwartz. "He plays mean. He plays with a lot of spirit. Players feed off of him. He feeds off of the guys. He's sort of stuck with it through some tough times. But we never really lost our belief in him. That game he played against Carolina was big-time, and when he went down on the field, I didn't know what his injury was, but it was going to be impossible – it was going to have to be something that wouldn't allow him to walk for him not to be in that game. I think the players felt that. He made a lot of plays sideline to sideline, broke up a couple key passes, and had a major, major part in that win."
After re-watching the game, I counted eight plays by Bradham that affected the outcome of the game in favor of the Eagles. Let's take a look at all eight, in chronological order:
Bradham makes an athletic play on a ball in the air and gets the pass breakup. Panthers punt.
Bradham doesn't buy the window dressing jet sweep action for a second, as he reads this play immediately. There's no hesitation as he accelerates through the line and tackles the back for a loss of three, putting the Panthers well behind the sticks. The Eagles hold, and the Panthers are forced to kick a field goal.
With the Panthers in hurry-up mode with no timeouts trying to pick up additional points at the end of the first half, Bradham does a great job of tackling Cam Newton in bounds, thus keeping the clock running. The Panthers don't run another play until there are 12 seconds left, and are forced to settle for some strange quasi-Hail Mary play, that goes nowhere. Bradham likely saved points here with this tackle.
Bradham stops Christian McCaffrey short of the goal line. Panthers settle for three.
Bradham reads the run immediately, the RG can't get to him in time as he accelerates through the hole, forces the run outside, and the rest of the troops clean up. This put the Panthers behind the sticks, and they eventually had to punt.
This is the play that should have the city of Philadelphia in love with this guy. Bradham completely sells out his body to make this big hit, stopping the tight end short of a first down. Outstanding.
"That was a play where I knew it was third down, and I knew he was close to getting the first down, and I just wanted to sell out and put my whole body on the line," said Bradham after the game.
Bradham was helped off after that play, and as Schwartz noted above, he was not going to be denied going back in.
This really should have been a touchdown for Cam Newton on review, but Bradham got over quickly to make to play and get a shot in on him. Newton was hurt on the play and wasn't the same player the rest of the game.
That reminds me a little a little of the play by Brian Dawkins on Michael Vick in the playoffs, when Dawkins crushed Vick as he was scoring on a run. If you get a chance to get a hit on the quarterback as he's scoring, light him up.
Bradham didn't get a hit like that on the play, but it was enough to affect Newton's effectiveness going forward.
Additionally, this play forced the Panthers to challenge the call on the field, which was upheld, costing the Panthers a timeout, even if it was a bad review call.
And finally, here's a pass breakup very late in the game by Bradham on third down. The Eagles held on the next play, and that was ballgame.
The two names most commonly cited as players with expiring contracts that the Eagles must sign this offseason are Alshon Jeffery and Tim Jernigan. Maybe Nigel Bradham should be a priority as well.
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