Saying the Philadelphia Eagles hope to find consistency in their secondary is an understatement. They have started a different combination of defensive backs in each of their eight games this season. At times, the lack of continuity hasn’t proven to be an issue. At other times, the issues have been glaring.
Take Week 7's game for instance. The Eagles' defense held the Miami Dolphins' offense to a measly seven points (if you throw out the field goal opportunity created by a bad-looking turnover that immediately set the Fins up in scoring position). Just one week later, the Washington Commanders scored 31 points.
Okay, we'll give Philly the benefit of the doubt. Divisional games are always wonky, but both games point to inconsistency.
All of this is important for a bevy of reasons, but let's dig a little deeper and focus on one area. What's up with James Bradberry’s performance?
Many variables are at play, but James Bradberry hasn't been having a great year.
Objectively, if we're looking at the surface, the evidence is damning. James Bradberry hasn't been playing well.
We could dismiss this as inconsistency. We could point to head injuries and scheme, but here's where we can all agree. It’s important for a defensive back to play fast and be comfortable.
Both areas work hand in hand. Being comfortable helps players to play fast. Inconsistency is going to affect comfortability.
Look at the numbers that Pro Football Reference has given us: through 17 games in 2022, Bradberry was targeted 86 times and he allowed 39 completions (45.3%). That has resulted in 382 yards gained by opposing offenses.
In the seven games that Bradberry has played in 2023, he’s been targeted 45 times. He has allowed 25 completions (55.6%). That has resulted in 288 yards. As you know the Eagles still have nine games remaining on their regular-season schedule.
There's more to the story. James has allowed a passer rating of 114.6 when targeted. He allowed a passer rating of 51.6 in 2022. That’s a pretty big difference.
As a matter of fact, it has been the biggest difference.
The allowed 51.6 rating was the best of his career. The allowed 114.6 rating represents a career low.
These past two games, Bradberry has been beaten deep by wide receivers Terry McLaurin and Tyreek Hill for touchdowns. Sure, Hill is a speedster, and he can beat anyone, but that still isn't something that the Eagles want to see.
Now, there are some other factors. He’s playing without Avonte Maddox as a nickel cornerback. He had to assume some of the responsibility of playing some nickel corner as a result. There's also a new defensive coordinator in town.
Still, James has all-pro talent, so more is expected. No one will excuse him for racking up poor performances.
There's reason to believe he’ll be able to get back on track. We hoped we'd see that happen last week, but the Eagles defense struggled as a whole.
Can he turn things around during a multi-week buzz-saw that has been built into Philadelphia's schedule? If anyone can do it, we'd say he'd be the guy... we hope.