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Eagles' Rookie Linebackers Enduring NFL Education

Davion Taylor goes to bed hoping to dream about his late-night film study while Shaun Bradley keeps his head in the playbook
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PHILADELPHIA – To say that Eagles rookie linebacker Davion Taylor eats, sleeps, and breathes football is not an overstatement.

There’s probably a 30-minute window in the course of each day during training camp that he tries to get his mind off the game, tries to watch some television after returning to his hotel room after a long day at the team facility practicing, watching video, and meetings.

After his half-hour respite, it’s on to film study, note-taking, and preparing for the next day of practice, meetings, treatment, and more meetings.

“I try to go to sleep just thinking about the plays, so that when I go to sleep maybe I’m dreaming about the playbook, or maybe I’m dreaming about what I have to do for the next day,” said Taylor, who was a third-round pick last spring.

It’s a lifestyle that probably isn’t much different than that of any other rookie trying to catch a coach’s eye this summer, including the three rookie linebackers – Taylor, Shaun Bradley, and undrafted free agent Dante Olson.

“They have a lot on their plate, not just with defense but with special teams, and all those guys have shown some really good things in training camp so far,” said defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. “It's just a matter of being up against the clock and how quickly they can have complete command, not just mentally but then command physically to be able to go in and play the position for us. Been very impressed by those guys, though. It's a tough situation, but they have handled it really well.”

The adjustment from college to the pros is vast.

Taylor’s speed was his greatest asset in college. At this level, it's negated a bit.

“One thing I realize is that the speed and the athleticism is about the same as mine,” he said. “Everybody is fast. Everybody is strong. Now I have to make sure I pay attention to the details. Now it’s not just about trying to run to ball … or about going out of my way to make a play. It’s all about doing my assignment.

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“So, if I have the A gap, stay in that A gap until like the ball break and then I can go chase the ball, so it’s not all just about trying to go make a play right away like I did in college. Now it’s all about just paying attention to my assignment and making sure I do my job right before I go out of my way to do something else.”

For Bradley, a sixth-round pick out of Temple, it’s about getting into the playbook to pick whatever nuances he can.

“At Temple, it was a lot of basic things - you have basic coverages, you had basic assignments and basic adjustments, but this one, you have to know where everyone’s at - the D-line, the safeties, where they’re coming down and all that,” he said. “So, learning all that, and trying to think at the same time, that’s the challenge for me.”

If only it was just about the playbook for Taylor.

His story has been well told at this point, about how being a Seventh Day Adventist prevented him from playing high school football, so his first taste came at a community college prior to earning a scholarship to Colorado.

He was asked about whether or not he has had any ‘wow’ moments now that he is has reached the sport’s highest level.

“I think that’s every day,” he said. “Every day when I walk out there to practice, I’m like, ‘I’m really in the NFL, I’m really playing with these guys.’”

Being a relative newcomer to the sport, he is thirsting to be great and doing whatever it takes to get there. Even if it means eating, sleeping, and breathing football.

“I’ve been leaning on a lot of these guys just asking them questions about what I need to do to become a successful player because me being so late and so raw I know I have a lot of stuff to catch up on,” he said. “I’m making sure I’m asking so many questions of the veteran linebacker and the veteran players on this team just making sure what I have to do to stay in this league and play for a very long time.”

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