Najee Goode

No Jordan Hicks means Nigel Bradham wears 'green dot' responsibility

No Jordan Hicks means Nigel Bradham wears 'green dot' responsibility

With the loss of Jordan Hicks for the season, the Eagles are going to put more on the plate of Nigel Bradham. 

Well, at least more on his helmet. 

When they take the field against the 49ers on Sunday, Bradham's helmet will have that little green dot, indicating he'll be the one communicating with the Eagles' coaching staff. 

Big deal, right? 

"I mean, you hear something and you say it again," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said on Wednesday. "You could put a tape recorder out there and do it." 

But a tape recorder can't tackle. A tape recorder can't set the front. And a tape recorder sure as hell can't become a leader of men.

Bradham can. And the Eagles hope he will.  

While maybe folks shouldn't make too much of Bradham being the new communicator among the linebacker group after Hicks' Achilles injury, maybe there is something to be said about his overall new role in the defense. 

"In some things, he needs to be able to make calls and some things he doesn't," Schwartz continued. "He's done a good job with it. And his leadership is starting to show. He's spreading his wings that way a little bit. 

"He plays with a lot of energy on the field. But being in front of the huddle and being the communicator, I think you start to see that a little bit more from him.

"I don't want to minimize what that is. I don't want to put too much on it. I mean, having a green dot on your helmet doesn't make you a good player.

"But he's done a good job in that role. He's done it already this year. And he's going to have to stay in that mode."

Bradham has been pretty solid since his arrival in Philadelphia in 2016, but he's been even better over the last month of the season. He said he'll need to become much more vocal as the team rides out the rest of the season without Hicks. 

Without Mychal Kendricks (hamstring) on Monday night, the Eagles used Bradham, Najee Goode and Joe Walker for most of the game. 

The good news is that Kendricks will probably be back for Sunday's game against the 49ers. 

While the Eagles have three linebackers in their base package, they spend around 70 percent of their defensive snaps in nickel, which means Bradham and Kendricks will be the two linebackers on the field. The two of them didn't get much work together all offseason but have been since the start of the regular season while Hicks dealt with a couple different injuries before the big one that ended his season. 

"We feel good, man," Bradham said about playing with Kendricks. "We'll play hard, we'll communicate and we'll try to keep this thing going. We want to keep it rolling and keep this defense solid."

In January, unhappy with his lack of playing time, Kendricks asked for the Eagles to trade or release him. 

Good thing the Eagles didn't. Because without Hicks, Kendricks is going to have to play a huge role on the defense for the rest of the season, which the Eagles hope includes a deep run into the playoffs. 

"It's huge," Bradham said. "We all know Mych. Mych is a tremendous player. His athleticism is unbelievable and his ability to make plays. He's made plays in this league throughout his career. It's obvious and evident what he can do on the field. It's a blessing to have him, honestly."

When the Eagles are in their base defense, head coach Doug Pederson hinted that they'll use a combination of Goode and Walker to fill in at the MIKE position. Either way, Bradham will still be the one relaying information and making most of the calls on the field. He doesn't think it will be a problem doing that from his normal outside 'backer position. 

Bradham handled those extra duties for most of Monday's game and thought it all went well. That's why he thinks things will continue the same way come Sunday afternoon as the Eagles try to keep things going without Hicks. 

"I think we'll be OK," Goode said. "We still have Mychal and Nigel to rally around." 

Getting over gut-punch loss of Chris Maragos no easy task for Eagles

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USA Today Images

Getting over gut-punch loss of Chris Maragos no easy task for Eagles

It was late last Thursday night in Charlotte, well after the celebrating in the locker room subsided and well after most of his teammates had already gotten on the bus to take them to the airport. 

Eagles special teams captain Chris Maragos, with a heavy brace on his right leg, emerged from the visitors' locker room and limped through the cement bowels of Bank of America Stadium. The pissed off look plastered on his face as he left the field after injuring his right knee in the fourth quarter had given way to a look of resignation. He knew. 

Maragos was officially placed on injured reserve Thursday, which means the Eagles will have to continue what they hope will be a magical season without one of their unquestioned leaders. 

"It was rough, man," said fellow special teamer Najee Goode, who collided with Maragos on the play that injured him. "That's my dawg. Chris is a beast. He brings a lot of energy to special teams. But we're going to replace him. He's still going to be there, making sure we do what we need to do." 

If any team is prepared to get over the loss of a player like Maragos it might be these Eagles. They've already survived — thrived, really — after losing Darren Sproles, Ronald Darby, Rodney McLeod, Fletcher Cox, Jordan Hicks, Lane Johnson and Wendell Smallwood for varying lengths of time. 

But like when they lost Sproles for the season, the Eagles are going to miss more than just Maragos' on-field play. He's also the captain of Dave Fipp's excellent special teams' group. Maragos, one of five captains on the team, said at the time he was voted a captain that it meant more to him than any other accomplishment in his career. 

And that's saying a lot. Maragos' story is pretty amazing. He was originally a wide receiver in college until then-Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema saw Maragos track down a DB after an interception and moved him to defense on the spot. Eventually, Maragos worked his way into the NFL as an undrafted free agent and eventually won a Super Bowl with the Seahawks before coming to Philly. 

Early in his time with the Birds, Maragos actually played a significant role on defense. But when the new coaching staff arrived, it was clear his role would be on special teams, so he threw himself back into it. And he's been incredible. 

Last November, Maragos signed a three-year, $6 million extension that goes through the 2019 season and was already off to a good start in 2017. He led the Eagles in special teams snaps with 126 (74 percent) and was tied for the team lead in special teams tackles with six. 

How the heck do you replace that? 

"I don't think you'll ever be able to fill Chris' role," tight end and special teamer Trey Burton said. "He plays such a big role on special teams. He was able to do so much, but we're going to have to do something. Everybody's going to have to step up."

Head coach Doug Pederson said it will be "tough" to replace Maragos, but the team will probably do it with a committee approach at first. That means more Corey Graham and Jaylen Watkins. Even recently signed draft pick Nate Gerry will have a role if he's active. 

Perhaps the bigger loss will be Maragos' leadership. He's one of just five players on the team who has won a Super Bowl, and he's always happy to answer any questions his teammates have — about football or life. 

In his absence, Goode said he and Burton will attempt to fulfill that leadership void as much as possible. 

"It's really tough," Burton said. "That's my best friend. Him not being here, being around as much. It's tough for him too because he's out of the loop on things and doesn't really know. He would love to be here and in meetings and stuff but he's not going to be able to."

While Maragos won't be around for a while, Burton expects him to visit more once he's healed more. And he'll certainly be watching. 

"Heart's heavy, but I lift my eyes," Maragos tweeted Thursday. "I'll miss being out there with my brothers but I promise you this, I'll be back stronger!"

That's good news for 2018, but the Eagles will have to go the rest of the season without him. Maragos apparently had a message for his teammates. 

"He knows injuries happen," Goode said. "We play full speed and that's something that comes with the game. His whole thing — Chris is a great team dude — was that we keep propelling and keep getting better for the future." 

5 Minutes with Roob: Najee Goode says Eagles special teams will 'dominate' in 2017

5 Minutes with Roob: Najee Goode says Eagles special teams will 'dominate' in 2017

In today's "Five Minutes with Roob," Reuben Frank chats with Eagles linebacker Najee Goode:

Roob: Tell me what the key is to being a great special teamer.

Goode: Main thing is mindset. You gotta play fast. You gotta play to win every snap. Every snap you come out there to take you gotta get to the ball or you gotta make something big happen.

Roob: Did it take you a while in your career before you kind of accepted that, 'Hey, if I can't start at backer, which I want to do, I can really have a nice career as a special teamer,'? Is that a lesson that takes a while for a young guy to learn?

Goode: I mean it's really a lesson that you pick up as you start to roll into the season. Some young guys do pick it up. Me, in my case, I kind of went here and there, went from starting and back and forth. As of right now, I've definitely embraced it full on and being able to be versatile on defense and play any linebacker position is something that I take pride in, along with being a great special teamer. 

Roob: And that gives you a lot of value. I would guess you're probably better suited to outside (linebacker), but you can go to inside if you have to, right?

Goode: Yes sir. Me personally, I think I'm better suited to be inside. If I had to be anything instead of a jack of trades it'd be an ace of spades on the inside. 

Roob: Tell me about this special teams group because (Dave) Fipp's always got a top-five special teams unit. What makes him such a great coach and makes his unit so good every year?

Goode: He's a dynamic coach with an electric personality and that's something that a lot of people don't talk about. But we feed off of him and then we feed off of each other. And we got leaders like myself and Chris Maragos and Trey Burton, guys that can help out and push that. It's one thing to hear it from the coaches, but when we're out there on the field in the game time we just take our training and put it out on the field.

Roob: You've been under a lot of different coaches, as far as giving time to special teams and understanding the importance of it, it seems like you guys are doing a lot of drills out there. When training camp is open we saw you guys doing a lot of special teams work. Is that unique among you guys? 

Goode: Yeah, it's very (unique). Like you said, I was with another team and we worked on it, we embraced it. But here, it's something that we've proven that it can win games and we have the best special teams returner in the league with (Darren) Sproles. That's something that can give us points and it can take points right away. We did it against New England when (Maragos) blocked a punt and scored a touchdown. (Former Eagle Bryan Braman) blocked one in Green Bay a couple years ago and (Burton) blocked one in San Fransisco. So we know how pivotal it is to the game and how much it can change it.

Roob: Yeah, there was that one game where you guys had like three touchdowns or something on special teams. It's crazy. As a player though, tell me about what drives you as far as wanting to be a starter and still accepting your role as a special teamer. It's kind of like a two-pronged thing.

Goode: The main thing is being able to help the team. Wanting to win. Just come out and here and be able play special teams. There's not that many people that are actually great at accepting the role. There's a lot of good players, but being great, being (on) a Pro Bowl ballot, being a guy that's been nominated for things like that and playing with great players is something that always boosts your self-esteem and morale. Then when it comes to playing on defense, you gotta be a playmaker. Being able to come out and make plays is something that everyone wants to be able to do.

Roob: What's the most fun unit to be on? Is it punt coverage? You guys were like the best I've ever seen covering punts last year.

Goode: I'm actually going to have to say kickoff. Kickoff is like a bunch of human kamikazes getting the one ball and I feel bad for the returner every time he takes the field. 

Roob: What's your level of excitement? You've been through a few regular season openers. You guys are going down to Washington Sunday. What do you like about this team and how excited are you for Sunday?

Goode: The best thing I like about this team is that it's one of the most athletic. Every year we keep adding different pieces and parts. Me, Kamu (Grugier-Hill), (Maragos), (Burton), we got guys that are athletic on this team and guys that can make big plays at any given time. The fact that we're fast and the fact that we're strong, while we're being fast. (Special teams is) something I think that we're going to dominate this year."