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Camp Countdown: Middle Linebacker


Stewart Bradley knows that playing middle linebacker is all about communication.

Though just for a short time, he spent his rookie season at training camp behind fan-favorite Jeremiah Trotter, who stalked the middle in Philadelphia for two separate extended stints. Trotter, never one to shy away from talking, captained the defensive ship with vigor and purpose.

Bradley must have picked up on some things. He's poised. He's excited. He'll talk your ear off.

Entering his second season in midnight green, Bradley has been asked to become the future at MIKE. At that spot, he'll receive and relay defensive signals from coordinator Jim Johnson.

In just his second year, he will lead.

"It's a different mentality. You were just trying to survive last year, fighting for a spot," Bradley said. "(As a rookie,) you're more in the dark about where you're going to fit in."

Fitting in hasn't been difficult of late for Bradley, who has formed strong bonds with fellow linebackers Omar Gaither and Chris Gocong. They talk about everything. They'll hang out to watch a sporting event and order a pizza. They'll play video games.

For a unit that thrives on correspondence, understanding each other is paramount.

"We like to mix it up. We're not always talking football. The conversations range from music to other sports, relationship issues, the whole gamut," Bradley said. "It's like 'The View' for football. We have fun."

The once bushy-haired third-round pick will join Gaither in shifting around the field for this upcoming season. Bradley will be filling in at MIKE, where Gaither started all 16 games a year ago.

Behind him lies nothing but youth, a staggering trend for the linebackers in 2008. The only experienced middle linebacker is Pago Togafau, who only saw limited time on special teams in 2007.

The Eagles selected North Dakota State bullet Joe Mays in the fifth round in April's NFL Draft. Mays should figure to contribute on special teams as he waits for reps on defense, much like similarly built former Eagle Keith Adams.


Gaither notched 170 tackles from the MIKE spot.

Now, Bradley looks to shift his potential to the inside. He made a huge impact in his first start in New Orleans with 10 tackles to go with his first career sack and interception.

Togafau notched nine special-teams tackles.

BATTLE TO WATCH: Mays vs. Togafau

Mays, a project, seems like a guy who could use a season on the practice squad. But he's made great strides in workouts and could have the upper had on Togafau. Either way, the guy who wins the job will make his primary contributions on special teams.

If Bradley were to fall to a long-term injury, Gaither would figure to shift back inside with Akeem Jordan starting at WILL.

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