Could Shaun Bradley be one of the Philadelphia Eagles starters?
In just 76 defensive snaps, Shaun Bradley turned heads. The Philadelphia Eagles rookie might have been primarily a special teamer last year but he made the most of his opportunities on defense. In those snaps, he made seven tackles. The other eight came on special teams. Heading into year two, there is a lot of excitement around the Temple product.
Two key plays stand out from Bradley’s 2020 season. Early in the season, he stuffed both James Conner and Benny Snell at the goal line. Then, in the win against the New Orleans Saints, one of Bradley’s biggest moments went unnoticed. Josh Sweat made the biggest play of the game with a strip-sack on 4th and two. What fans didn’t see was Bradley closing off the post route in the middle of the field to Emmanuel Sanders.
That is one of Bradley’s greatest strengths: seeking depth in zone coverage. With his 4.51 speed and impressive instincts, playing in space isn’t an issue for him. That should earn him a role in this Eagles linebacking core. How significant that role will wind up being remains to be seen.
What can we expect from the Philadelphia Eagles linebacker during training camp?
The Temple product will be tasked with surpassing the likes of Alex Singleton, T.J. Edwards, and Davion Taylor on the depth chart. Bradley along with all three of those names brings special teams capability. Patrick Johnson and Genard Avery will be in the mix but should probably be grouped in the hybrid, stand-up rusher category. This is a young bunch with the exception of Eric Wilson who is still just 26-years-old. Bradley is certainly in the mix to start alongside Wilson.
Taylor has elite athleticism but the football IQ and instincts are not there yet. Unlike Bradley, he struggled in his defensive reps. Edwards and Singleton are heralded for their ability in the running game. Both have work to do in pass coverage while Bradley played well in coverage at Temple.
In his few snaps in coverage in the NFL thus far, he impressed. Despite being undersized, Bradley does not play like a 235-pound linebacker. He can punish ball carriers in the open field. He is gap-sound. He can get off of blocks or at least hold his ground.
Even Eric Wilson has his flaws. While most will point to his tackle numbers as evidence of his strong performance in the run game, that doesn’t tell the whole story. Teams were not afraid to run the ball in his direction which resulted in more tackles well behind the line of scrimmage after he was bullied a bit. Wilson isn’t a poor run defender but he certainly makes his money in the passing game.
In training camp, keep an eye on whether or not Bradley can build upon his rookie year. There is plenty to like. The flashes of potential are there. However, it is too small of a sample size to judge off of. With more reps, everyone will have a better idea of the type of player Bradley can be.
Here’s what Philadelphia Eagles fans should expect from Bradley in 2021.
As mentioned, expect Bradley to have some sort of role on the Eagles’ defense. At worst, he should be the fourth or fifth option at linebacker. If all goes well, he could eventually start next to Eric Wilson. Don’t be surprised if one of Singleton or Edwards starts Week 1 off of experience. Bradley should still find his way onto the field as a situational, sub-package player.
Along with the rest of the linebackers, Bradley was a key special teams player especially on the punt and kick coverage teams making key tackles for field position. Rarely if ever did he get bullied by blockers on special teams and on defense.
Most important of all, Bradley has the heart to be an NFL player. He has the drive to be great. It’s why he earned a Temple Tuff single digit during his time as Temple Owl. He embodies the work ethic that this city desires in its athletes. That alone will keep him around in the NFL.