Stewart Bradley is a smart man. He reads Nietzsche and James Joyce. He studies French. He loves architecture and hopes to one day build his own house.
The linebacker, however, is still learning about the Cardinals’ defense, and the nuances of the 3-4 compared to the 4-3, the scheme he played his first four NFL seasons while with the Eagles. The players he is with at inside linebacker – Paris Lenon, Daryl Washington and Reggie Walker – all played the 3-4 last year, albeit with a different defensive coordinator. So Bradley is playing catch-up after an absent offseason, and that’s the big reason why he played little on defense in the season opener.
It was a surprise, to be sure. Bradley signed a five-year contract worth about $25 million to come to the Cards. An immediate impact was expected. It just hasn’t turned out that way – yet.
“I don’t know if struggling is the right word,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “I just think he needs more reps.
“There are quite a few guys who can’t just look at a book and enact what they see in the book. A lot of guys have to go out and actually experience it. They have to get the reps or they have to walk through it. … It’s a big difference, as far as adjustments, where your eyes have to be, what you’re looking at, calls you have to make, gaps you have to fit.”
Bradley played only in the Cards’ goal-line defense in the opener (plus special teams). He is remarkably good-natured about his situation. He understands his learning curve, and if the frustration is getting to him, he hides it well. He just wants to keep plugging away, knowing it will come.
“I’ll make little quizzes, write all the plays out and time myself, see how quickly I can write all the adjustments out without thinking,” said Bradley, who has been used to mentoring other players on the playbook when he was in Philly. “It has to be automatic.”
Bradley said a big difference is gap coverage – in a 4-3, he said, your gap is your gap, and “there’s solidarity in your brain.” That changes in a 3-4, and he is still gaining a comfort level. He made the point that learning an offense has an advantage because the offense is picking the plays. The defense doesn’t have that luxury, so a more wide-ranging playbook is essential. “We don’t have a first 15 (script) on defense,” Bradley said with a smile. “‘OK, guys, we’re going to go nickel and then try goal-line, regardless of how they line up.’ ”
The Cards do have some packages in where Bradley doesn’t have a lot of responsibility, he noted, and those are “nice.” “But the deeper we get into this, the more reps I will get (everywhere),” Bradley said. “It’s just nose to the grindstone and help where I can. It’s all about winning games.”
And it’s reps, not just self-times tests at home at the dining room table, that Bradley needs.
He said his biggest adjustment was something as basic staying square to the ball. “In Cover 3 and red zone, I used to man everything up,” Bradley said. “I’d turn my body and get with a man, and now it’s ‘Stay square.’ I used to get my ass ripped for staying square, now it’s like, I better stay square.
“I know what all my assignments are. I know my coverages. I can pick that stuff up. It’s having reps … you’ve just got to see it.”
Tags: Ken Whisenhunt, Stewart Bradley
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