When the Eagles defense bounced back from a performance against the Detroit Lions in which they allowed 32 points and over 400 yards of total offense by holding the Jacksonville Jaguars to a meager three points at home, many pointed to the return of Stewart Bradley at middle linebacker as something of a cure-all. This was an unfair burden to place solely on Bradley, who, it should be remembered, is still getting used to the speed of the live game after missing all of 2009 with a torn ACL.
So last week, when the Eagles allowed 169 yards on the ground to the Washington Redskins, Bradley and the rest of the linebackers took some of the blame. The play of the linebackers has been put under the microscope even further this with the indication that Moise Fokou will get the bulk of the playing time at the SAM linebacker position in what is a very important game against the San Francisco 49ers. But Bradley says that moving pieces around at linebacker shouldn't necessarily be seen as such a monumental change. After all, the Eagles defense utilizes a lot of different personnel on both the defensive line and in the secondary.
"As linebackers, we're involved in everything. We're involved in the run and the pass so I don't think we feel like we're the fall guys," Bradley said. "I think that we're blessed in our corps, we have a lot of athletic linebackers here, guys who have had a lot of significant playing time. They feel comfortable moving guys around."
Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott echoed that sentiment.
"Players play at different levels at different times," McDermott said. "I'm not afraid to make a move, I'll sit here and say it. I'm not afraid to make a move. If I feel like somebody's better than the guy that's playing, then the guy that's behind him is going to play ... the best three are going to play."
As for Bradley, he acknowledged that while he feels essentially 100 percent physically, every now and then there's a play that he's a step slow on.
"It's a play here or there. I don't feel like it's a big thing," Bradley said. "I feel like I felt real comfortable in the pass game and in the run game as well, it's just that when you come up against stuff you haven't seen, or haven't seen in two years ... Now I've seen it. You're always more comfortable once you've seen it once."
"We all have to keep in mind that he's just a year over coming off of the ACL (injury)," said McDermott. "He's a work in progress in terms of making plays and getting comfortable back inside again, but he has done a good job. He has made plays and he brings a physical presence to the defense. Now, does that mean he's been perfect? Absolutely not, none of us have. But, he's going to continue to work hard just like the rest of us."
The only remedy for Bradley is to just keep playing the game. Linebacker is an instinctual position, and the more Bradley sees, the quicker he'll be able to react. And with the team facing a sort of crossroads game here in Week 5, the time for excuses has passed, and Bradley would be the last person to make them anyway. This Sunday, it's time for Bradley and his linebacker brethren to show what they can do.
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 8:31 p.m., October 7