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Stewart Bradley's Loss for Eagles Shows Importance of Middle Linebacker Position

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 07: Stewart Bradley #55 of the Philadelphia Eagles celebrates against the New York Giants at Giants Stadium on December 7, 2008 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images
Haran KnightCorrespondent IJanuary 11, 2010

The majority of the Philadelphia Eagles offseason talk among fans and media will probably focus on what will happen with Donovan McNabb.

The reality, however, is that there are plenty of other areas that will need just as much attention, if not more.

To be particular, the defensive side had too many holes this season.

It didn't just become obvious in these final two games against Dallas. Who can forget how TE Zach Miller ran past everybody in Oakland earlier this year?

You can point to Brian Dawkins departing for Denver. You can say that defensive coordinator Sean McDermott was wet behind the ears trying to continue what Jim Johnson (R.I.P.) implemented.

Overall, the biggest loss the Eagles faced occurred Aug. 2 at their inaugural Flight Night. Middle linebacker Stewart Bradley's season-ending ACL tear completely altered the blueprint McDermott had in place for 2009.

See, Bradley wasn't just supposed to be a productive starter. He was slated to transform into "that guy." When I say "that guy," I'm talking about a Pro Bowler whose level of play would be compared to Ray Lewis or Brian Urlacher.

Speaking of which, both Lewis (2002 and 2005) and Urlacher (2005 and 2009) have had season-ending injuries. These injuries not only caused their respective defenses to struggle, but their team finished below .500 each time as well.

An inside linebacker, especially in a 4-3 defense, is supposed to be the quarterback of the defense. Just like the offensive signal caller position, you need consistency there in order to be successful. You can't try six different players (who are too small, too slow, or too unfamiliar with the system) and expect to dominate the opponent.

A dominant MLB like Bradley is expected to become has the size and speed to play both the run and the pass. When a young Jeremiah Trotter left for the Redskins in 2002, the Eagles resorted to shuffling between Levon Kirkland and Barry Gardner. We all know the end result of that.

One of the keys to the Eagles in 2010 is a healthy Stewart Bradley and/or a competent backup if he isn't 100 percent recovered from his surgery.

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