James Bradberry is what most NFL defensive coordinators crave when they think about cornerbacks, a lengthy player with athleticism, ball skills, and smarts.
It all showed up in practice on Saturday morning when the Samford product blanketed one of the best receivers in football, A.J. Brown, during a one-on-drill.
Brown was able to create a sliver of separation with a savvy stop-and-go hesitation before the preying mantis-like Bradberry showed enough recovery speed to quickly get back in Brown’s personal space.
When Brown’s eyes widened, Bradberry’s arm went up and Jalen Hurts’ throw was batted away.
It was just one of a number of impressive plays by Bradberry on Saturday when the veteran seemed to be feeling it whether he was dealing with Brown or the Eagles’ other talented receiver DeVonta Smith.
“James is a very intelligent football player,” Eagles defensive backs coach Dennard Wilson said. “He’s a fast processor. He’s another guy that wants to be the best he can be.”
A former Pro Bowl player with the New York Giants, Bradberry is known for baiting quarterbacks in zone coverage.
His impressive first few days of camp with the Eagles have included PBUs and exceptional coverage to the point that Bradberry has looked like every bit a CB1 just like his running mate, four-time Pro Bowl selection Darius Slay.
Slay and Bradberry seem like a little bit of a yin and yang as well with the former being the outgoing, energetic explosive personality and the latter preferring a more stoic, business-like presence, at least in a public setting.
“I think he definitely loosens up the room,” Bradberry said of Slay. “But I would say away from the cameras and stuff, I’m pretty loose too. I’m not always serious. Of course, when I’m meeting room, trying to learn, and I’m on the field, I’m trying to get better and whatnot.”
The good news for Hurts, Brown, and Smith is that they will not be seeing many CB trios as the group they see in practice every day this season. If really iron sharpens iron, working against Slay, Bradberry, and Avonte Maddox every day is only going to make Philadelphia’s playmakers all the more dangerous.
While the defensive backs have taken the early advantage in camp things will surely get tougher whether it’s in the coming days when the Philadelphia offense develops a little more chemistry or in the regular season when others start game-planning with the Eagles’ flaws in mind.
Right now, it's been a seamless transition for a player on a one-year, prove-it deal who could make up to $10 million this season and set himself up for a bigger payday down the road.
“It’s going pretty smooth,” Bradberry said. “[The secondary has] all veteran guys, as far as Avonte and the rest of the guys on the back end. We’re back there talking well, communicating. We all get on the same page, and it all goes pretty smooth.”
-John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's Eagles Today and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Sports. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talker Jody McDonald, every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on YouTube.com and JAKIBSports.com. You can reach John at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen