At a press conference Thursday to celebrate his new five-year contract, Nigel Bradham said the right things when asked about Patrick Robinson and Beau Allen.
He said it’s tough to lose them. And, in a way, he’s right.
Robinson and Allen weren’t technically starters for the Eagles during their Super Bowl season, but they were major contributors and now they’re gone in free agency, off to New Orleans and Tampa Bay.
“We lost some great players,” Bradham said. “We saw what both of those guys can do on the field. ... When you lose guys like that, it definitely takes a toll on your defense. We have to regroup and get it together. We know we can’t keep everybody.”
Bradham’s right. The Eagles knew they couldn’t keep everybody. But that didn’t mean they couldn’t get better. So while Robinson and Allen are gone, Bradham’s back and the defense also added Michael Bennett and Haloti Ngata. And then they’ll have a healthy Sidney Jones and a healthy Jordan Hicks. Not bad.
So when asked if he thinks the 2018 defense can be better than the one in 2017, Bradham didn’t hesitate: “No doubt.”
“The guys we added, they’re not even regular guys,” Bradham said. “They’re actually superstars. We already had like 10 superstars, now we got even more. It’s just great to see, to have the opportunity to play behind these guys and know I’ll have the opportunity to make plays and they’re going to put fear in offenses. It’s going to be key, man. It’s going to be interesting to go out there and play on Sunday. That defense is going to be nice.”
For a while, it seemed like Bradham would have to admire the Eagles’ defense from afar. In the lead-up to free agency, it seemed like the Eagles were ready to move on from Bradham. Everything they said publicly and non-publicly hinted toward a separation, which seemed strange, given that Bradham was the most important player on the team about to hit the market. He never did.
Throughout the process, Bradham said he tried to remain confident that he would be back. Howie Roseman told Bradham that bringing him back was a priority and Bradham believed him.
“A lot of people probably thought I was gone because there wasn’t a lot of buzz for me to stay around and keep me here because you didn’t hear the reports,” he said. “[Roseman] told me that face to face and I just kept my confidence.”
During the 2017 season, Bradham took over communication responsibilities when Jordan Hicks went down with an Achilles tear. But as long as Hicks is back to start the season — and he should be — Bradham can go back to just being a strong-side linebacker. He and Hicks have become close over the last two seasons.
Hicks is under contract for just this next season, and the details of Bradham’s deal could mean a split far before he plays out his five-year contract. But he’s hoping the duo can become something special in Philly.
“Obviously, anytime me and Jordan are together on the filed, it’s special,” he said. “The playmaking ability of what we can do, our communication, our chemistry. We just work together very well and we intend on playing together for some time, for a long time. Because it’s us, we’re the leaders of this defense and we take control of it.”
It’s a good defense to take control of, and — with all due respect to Robinson and Allen — it might be even better than the one from last year.