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Eagles Switching to Cover 2? Stew Bradley Wants to Stay

Jul 19, 2011, 4:08 PM EDT

With new defensive coordinator Juan Castillo and the Eagles claiming they will simplify their defense, it might be safe to say the days of crazy overload blitzes and complex coverages will soon fade to memory. And according to Quintin Mikell, it might be safe to say the defense will be more vanilla than ever.

With new defensive coordinator Juan Castillo and the Eagles claiming
they will simplify their defense, it might be safe to say the days of
crazy overload blitzes and complex coverages will soon fade to memory.
And according to Quintin Mikell, it might be safe to say the defense
will be more vanilla than ever.

The News Journal’s Geoff Mosher caught up with Mikell, who suggested Castillo could operate a Cover 2.

“I
know Coach Reid has wanted to run the Cover 2 for a long time. It seems
like the past couple of years we’ve been slowly progressing toward
that. It might be moving toward that. I think he [Castillo] is going to
kind of tweak things here and there. It’s gong to be kind of the same
4-3 but I think it’s going to be a little less based on scheme and more
based on guys just kicking somebody’s butt.”

Q’s theory makes
sense. Castillo has repeatedly promised to “simplify” the defense. One
way he specifically plans to do this is by streamlining the terminology
used in the huddle. Yet another way is to utilize less complicated
schemes.

The late Jim Johnson was always known as a master of the
zone blitz, disguising coverages and using misdirection to give pass
rushers a free path to the quarterback. Sean McDermott continued many of
the same exotic principles, but for whatever reasons (and I’m sure
there were several), he did not achieve nearly the same success.

A
Cover 2, by comparison, is extremely basic. The defense generally sends
four rushers while dropping everybody else back into zone coverage.
It’s designed to keep everything in front of the defense, while
minimizing the number of big plays by the offense.

And it’s one of
the few remaining styles of 4-3 defenses still consistently employed in
the league, particularly Tony Dungy’s Tampa 2 system. Of course, much
of its success is based on getting push from the defensive line,
especially from the interior, which has been a major issue for the Birds
in recent seasons.

Without a marked improvement out of front
four, there will probably be some growing pains if they really rely on
the Cover 2. That said, it’s not a bad idea to take a step back from the
wild approach to which Eagles fans have become accustomed, if for no
other reason because it hasn’t worked in recent years.

Stewart Bradley Wants to Stay

At one point, Bradley was the
middle linebacker of the future, perhaps a Pro Bowler in the making.
Now, he is one of many Eagles who are currently without a contract, and
even if he returns, he will likely compete for a job.

That hasn’t stopped Bradley from making Philly his “first choice,” according to his agent via Philly Sports Daily.

“We’re
open to anything,” said Bradley’s agent, Eric Metz. “If they offer him a
long-term contract that we feel is fair then he would have no problem
signing in Philadelphia. I think he would like to finish what he started
there and help bring a Super Bowl to the city.”

The problem, as I
see it, is Bradley’s agent suggests it will take a multi-year deal for
the linebacker to stay. After the former third round pick spent all of
’09 and the end of ’10 out with injuries, it’s hard to envision the
organization being open to a long term commitment.

And why should
they be? Bradley showed a ton of promise at middle linebacker in ’08,
but there is no telling if he’ll ever get back to that level. Knee
injuries might be catching up with the Nebraska product, and even his
one season success could be attributed to the guys around him, people
like Jim Johnson and Brian Dawkins.

For that matter, why would any
franchise be willing to go big on years? In an off-season loaded with
quality free agents, Bradley isn’t like to be a priority. By the time
teams get around to making that phone call, many of the larger contracts
will have already been eaten up by players who actually deserve them.

Which
is not to say Bradley is without value. His size alone (6-5, 258) sets
him apart from many other linebackers, and he has decent range when
healthy along with quality NFL experience. I wouldn’t mind seeing the
fifth-year player get another shot with the Birds this season if the
price is right.

But in the end, this is a player with one good
season under his belt, who has apparently lost his job to seventh round
sophomore Jamar Chaney. He would either have to compete for his old
spot, or move over to strongside where he began his NFL career. My hope
is he wouldn’t play hard ball, ultimately come back, and help solidify
the Eagles’ linebacker corps.

>>Agent: Bradley’s “First Choice” To Play For Eagles [Philly Sports Daily]
>>Sight Set on Training Camp [Wing Tips]