Saturday, December 20, 2014

Bradley: still sharpening his instincts

Stewart Bradley said he feels physically strong coming back from his knee injury, but is still honing some of his on-field instincts. His play will be critical as the Eagles try to improve at stopping the run.

Bradley: still sharpening his instincts

"My knee feels good, I feel like I´m playing fast out there," Bradley said, but admitted he´s still working on his timing. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)
"My knee feels good, I feel like I'm playing fast out there," Bradley said, but admitted he's still working on his timing. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)

Stewart Bradley said he feels physically strong coming back from his knee injury, but is still sharpening some of the football instincts that he needs while he tries to make plays from the center of the Eagles defense.

"It's small stuff. It's angles here and there and decisions at the point of attack, which way you're going to go, and that kind of stuff kind of just comes with experience," Bradley said today as the Eagles linebackers faced questions about their play against the run, including from their defensive coordinator. Bradley missed all of last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and has only played two full games this season, due to a week one concussion that kept him out of week two.

"My knee feels good, I feel like I'm playing fast out there," Bradley said, but honing the rapid fire decision-making "just comes the more you play."

"It's not all the time, which is good because they're easily improvable," he said of his missteps.

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For example, this week the Redskins ran offensive linemen at both Bradley and fellow linebacker Ernie Sims. Bradley said the decision on when to try to out-maneuver a lineman and when to engage is one area that he was still reacclimating himself.

"When you come up against stuff you haven't seen, or haven't seen in two years ... you're always more comfortable once I've seen it once," he said.

The Eagles defense will be focusing this week on stopping the run after the Redskins pounded the ball early and again late as they ate away at the game clock.

"In the run game specifically it comes down to technique and toughness, so we can work on both of those, and we're working on them this week," said defensive coordinator Sean McDermott. "Technique needs to be right in order to play the run game the right way and we need to have a physical presence up front with our front seven."

He seemed to challenge his players to be grittier.

"The toughness part is about attitude. Either you have it inside or you don't," he said.

With Frank Gore up this week the defense is sure to be challenged against the run again.

McDermott said the team is going with Moise Fokou at strong side linebacker to provide a more stout presence.

"Right now I feel like we need a physical presence inside and Moise brings that to the table," McDermott said.

The offense, meanwhile, may need to run the ball more if they are going to counter the kind of soft coverage the Redskins rolled out to contain DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and company. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said running is one way to make teams pay for dropping their safeties deep into coverage, but it's unclear who will be available to carry the ball for the Eagles.

"There's going to be several decisions made very late in this week on how we're going to operate," Mornhinweg said.

LeSean McCoy has a broken rib and isn't sure if he will be able to play. He has run for 273 yards this season, averaging 5.5 per carry. After him, the drop off is steep. Mike Bell is the only other active running back with a carry, and he has gained just 20 yards on 12 rushes. He is a power back, and doesn't provide the receiving threat McCoy does.

Asked if he will lean on Bell and his specific skill set, or spread out the offense to players such as Eldra Buckley and Own Schmitt, Mornhinweg said that would be one of the decisions that comes later this week.

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Birds' Eye View is the Inquirer's blog covering all things Philadelphia Eagles and the NFL.

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