The reporters surrounding Nigel Bradham's NovaCare Complex locker on Tuesday were four-deep. No kidding. They came in waves, and Bradham greeted all of them with a smile and an honest answer. It was like, and this sounds weird for a player who in his second season here and his sixth in the NFL, the world discovered him after his 10-tackle, two-passes defended performance in last week's win over Carolina.
"Maybe, I don't know," he said. "I'm just here to play football and to do whatever I can to help this team win. I don't know that anyone 'discovered' me. I've been in the league for a while."
And, truth be told as Bradham searched his memory bank, his game against Carolina was good and he felt proud to have helped the Eagles win such a tough road game, but he didn't have any quarterback sacks, or any interceptions, or any forced fumbles. He was just around the football all night. He was physical.
Bradham stood out.
"For me, it was just a great team win against a good football team," Bradham said. "That's what it's all about. We're just trying to keep winning here."
Bradham is an unassuming guy, but his game has come through loud and clear. He was good in his first season with the Eagles, notching 99 tackles – most among the linebackers – and a career-high seven tackles for loss while playing 97 percent of the defensive snaps, but he's gone up a notch in 2017. The whole defense has, truthfully.
The front seven is playing the run with tenacity and the pass rush has helped the secondary compensate in the face of some significant injury concerns. The "next man up" mantra is working, as the Eagles continue to play aggressive football no matter who is on the field.
"Nigel is a much better player this year than he was last year because he, like so many of the defensive players, is more integrated into the system. He knows me more than he did a year ago. I know him more. The chemistry the players have developed on and off the field, and the way that everyone has gotten to know each other, that's helped so much," linebackers coach Ken Flajole said. "It kind of works hand in hand. You spend more time in the system and the more you absorb and then you can just go out and play and not have to think about an assignment."
The challenge won't be an easy one on Monday night when Washington comes to town for a big NFC East showdown. The Redskins are a much sharper offense than they were six weeks ago, when the Eagles beat them 30-17 and sacked quarterback Kirk Cousins, forced two fumbles, and shut down Washington's running game (64 yards on 17 attempts). Washington is more explosive now with running back Chris Thompson in the backfield and a receiving corps that has grown up a lot in the last month.
So it won't be easy.
Then again, it's not supposed to be easy.
"We're just flying around out there. That's what we're trying to do with our defense. I just think everybody does his job and then we're in good shape," Bradham said. "Washington, they know how big this game is. They aren't the same offense they were before. They're doing some things differently and they're playing with a lot of confidence.
"It's going to be a great game, great atmosphere with a lot on the line. These are our kinds of games."
Whether Bradham is setting the edge against the running game, chasing down a running back out on a pass route, or coming on a sneak-attack blitz, he's going to be around the football. The numbers sometimes don't jump out at you, but Bradham's game is built on toughness and on playing with discipline and selflessness. He's a "glue" piece in the defense.
"He plays tough. 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 lost our belief in him," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. "That game he played against Carolina was big time. When he went down on the field (in the second half) I didn't know what the injury was (it was a shoulder stinger) but it was going to have to be something that wouldn't allow him to walk for him not to be in that game.
"He made a lot of plays, sideline to sideline, broke up a couple of key passes, and had a major, major part in that win."
Yes he did. And people noticed. And that's why Bradham was a media attraction on Tuesday, with reporters suddenly crowding his locker, learning as much as they could about a player who has quietly, and forcefully, made an impact in the Eagles' defense this season.