When asked why they chose to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles this offseason, Leodis McKelvin, Ron Brooks and Nigel Bradham all gave the same answer.
The three former Bills wanted to be part of the scheme that enabled them to finish the 2014 regular season as the No. 4 defense in the league. They wanted to reunite with defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.
Under Schwartz that season, those players all had career years. Bradham finished second on the team with 100 tackles, Brooks notched a career high in tackles and McKelvin came up with four interceptions. Statistically, they all excelled and that's what each player is hoping to get back to in 2016.
"That scheme, it's a great scheme to be in because you really get to use all your strengths as a player," Bradham explained. "(Schwartz) knows that and he utilizes all your strengths from each player on the defense. With that being said, it was pretty much just like everybody was able to play and have fun because the scheme was more so simple and not complex to where you can really communicate."
Looking at the Eagles' moves this offseason, it's clear the organization has a vision for what this defense can be moving forward and is working to bring all the right pieces together.
With a solid defensive line up front, featuring the likes of Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan, Vinny Curry and now both Brandon Graham and Connor Barwin, the focus turned more toward the secondary and linebacker positions during free agency.
McKelvin, the first of the former Buffalo players to sign, noted that the defensive line already in place was another reason he chose Philadelphia. A strong front was a luxury he had with the Bills in 2014 and it allowed him to focus more on the pass.
"It gave me a chance to be able to get my hands on the ball," McKelvin said. "Those guys up front did a great job of stopping the run and that really helped me."
The lone season that McKelvin, Brooks and Bradham had with Schwartz gave them just a taste of the type of defense they could build. Unfortunately for them, Schwartz left in 2015 after the hire of new head coach Rex Ryan. Working with the coach again, they believe they can take it a step further in Philadelphia.
"I was excited when I heard that Coach Schwartz wanted me to come here and play in this defense because in Buffalo when he was there, we were ranked the No. 4 defense at that time and didn't really get a chance to see how far we could go ... I'm definitely excited about this opportunity I have to play under Schwartz and that defensive scheme he has," Brooks said. "It's been shown and proven that it works. The mentality and the scheme that he brings to this organization is definitely going to be something to see."
Despite the success they had with Schwartz, there is another reason these players all flocked to the Eagles – the coach himself.
Schwartz is fiery and passionate about the game, which brings out the best in his players and directly translates onto the football field. That in itself is something the three new Eagles are excited to experience once again.
"He's a straight-forward guy," Bradham said. "He's going to tell you what's real and he's going to let you know what we have to do to get the job done and win games. Players like that. He's a players' coach. We like coaches to be straight-forward with us and honest. That's how he won us over in Buffalo. He was really honest about everything and we put it all on the line. That's the kind of coach you want to play for."
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