McDermott talks defense

Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, right, said he is looking for the best 11 players on the field - rookies or veterans. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)

BETHLEHEM -- Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott had his first meeting with the media today, after the morning practice.

Neither first-round defensive end Brandom Graham nor second-round free safety Nate Allen were on the field. Neither player has come to contract terms.

Here is what McDermott had to say on a variety of topics:

* Expectations from rookies: I’m looking for the best 11. Young, old, I don’t care. Doesn’t matter what you make. Doesn’t matter how many years you’ve played. If you’re here and you perform, you’re going to play. It’s all about making plays on the field. If you make plays on the field and handle yourself off the field, you’ll see playing time.

* How much is it setting graham back if he misses a lot of time?: I don’t want to speculate on how long it’s going to take (to get him in here). I trust in the powers that be that they’ll get it worked out. You guys know as well as I do that if you’re not here, it’s hard to improve as a football player. It’s hard to build and contribute when you’re not here. We’re not waiting on anyone. We’re moving forward as a defense. If and when they report, they’ll have to get caught up.

* Rookies making the transition to NFL: There is a transition that has to take place to transition your skills from the collegiate level to the NFL level and to play at a high level, which is what we need out of both Brandon (Graham) and Nate (Allen).

* Getting Stewart Bradley back: His value in terms of what he brings to this defense both on and off the field, you can’t put a number on it. What he does for us in the huddle, what he does for us in between plays. Keep in mind, he’s still a young player. From my standpoint, he’s the guy that’s going to qb the defense. He’s going to know the defense as well as I know the defense and, by situation, make checks to put us in the right defense. It’ll be a significant addition to our defense having Stewart back.

* His workload in camp: Stewart, in my mind, has done a heck of a job in his rehab. He looked in the spring like he was ready to go. I’m anxious to see how he’ll look in a couple of days here. I imagine he’ll look even stronger than he did a month ago. The biggest thing coming back from a major injury like his is the mental toughness part of it. You’re talking about a mentally tough individual when you’re talking about Stewart Bradley. There’s not going to be any reins pulled back early on. We’ll just see how he looks. It’s important that he’s out there for us on Sundays and Monday nights. We’ll keep that in mind as we go day to day here.

* Do you have to dumb down defense with all the new guys?: I’m looking forward to coming in with the weapons that we have the speed that we do have and teaching football. When you’re trying to build the way we’re trying to build on defense, with the youth that we do have, it’s important we start day one with fundamentals. It’s not a sexy term, but we’re going to work from the start on tackling, on getting off blocks, on (intercepting) the football, on scooping the football up when it’s loose. That’s what wins football games. If you don’t tackle well, and we didn’t tackle well last year, you don’t win football games on defense.

* Where will Ricky Sapp play -- linebacker or defensive end?: He’s going to start out on defensive line and work at defensive end position. We’re going to keep our options open with what he can do.
When you look at your personnel, it’s a Rubik’s Cube. Coming out of training camp, you want to know what you have and what the abilities and talent level of your personnel really is and how you can use them to win football games.

* How difficult is it for a guy who was mainly a rusher at Clemson to try and transition to LB at this level?: We’ve done that a couple of times in the past. Each case has been different. In Ricky’s case, he’s got a great attitude and we’ll just see how he can transition in order to play both. But right now, he’s gonna be a DE.

* How far behind is Kurt Coleman because of not being able to attend the OTAs?: Kurt’s a smart football player. He’s handled himself extremely well. What he showed me today was he’s been working. That’s a good start. He worked with the coaches during the offseason. He’s been very studious in the way he approached the time he was away from us (when he still was in school at Ohio State). Staying in contact with the coaches. Staying in contact with other players. The way he handled himself out there this morning, you would’ve never known he was away for about a month. Which was to his credit.