No pain, no gain in the playoff chase
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Nigel Bradham played nearly an entire game with a broken thumb that required surgery afterward.
The Philadelphia Eagles are fighting for a playoff spot and needed their best linebacker.
“It was definitely painful but it was something I had to get through,” Bradham said after having six screws inserted into his right hand.
Bradham plans to be out there again when the Eagles (5-6) host the Washington Redskins (6-5) on Monday night in an important NFC East matchup. The defense is already missing several key starters and can’t afford to lose another one.
“I want to be out there regardless,” Bradham said. “That’s just my thing. I’m always trying to be available.”
The defending Super Bowl champions need a victory to stay one game behind the division-leading Cowboys (7-5) with a showdown in Dallas coming up next week.
Cornerbacks Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills, safety Rodney McLeod and linebacker Jordan Hicks are among the injured starters on Philadelphia’s defense. But the Redskins are also dealing with several injuries, including losing quarterback Alex Smith for the rest of the season.
Colt McCoy made his first start in four years in a 31-23 loss at Dallas on Thanksgiving. He’s had more time to prepare for the Eagles after only a couple walkthrough practices last week.
“Repetition is king and he doesn’t get any reps,” coach Jay Gruden said. “When you’re calling the plays, making protection adjustments, seeing the route concepts versus cover 2, versus cover 3, versus man to man, sitting your foot in the ground, avoiding the rush. Doing that in practice is very, very important for a quarterback’s progression.”
Here are some things to watch for Monday night:
Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins had an interception that turned the momentum and helped the team rally to beat the Giants 25-22 win last week. He filled several roles on defense, including nickel cornerback and linebacker, and also played on special teams.
“I don’t know if we could have won that game without having a guy like Malcolm Jenkins that has the flexibility to move to different positions, and the athletic ability to do it,” defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. “It’s easier said than done. It’s not just knowing what to do. … but we played at a high level with him in there.”
Adrian Peterson is on his way to his eighth 1,000-yard rushing season and will face a defense that has struggled against the run, allowing 100-yard rushers in three straight games. The 33-year-old slowed down in November, gaining only 171 of his 758 yards. But the Eagles no longer are the same unit that had the NFL’s best run defense in 2017.
“He’s found the fountain of youth,” Jenkins said of Peterson. “We have to do a good job bottling him up if we’re going to have any success.”
Since acquiring wide receiver Golden Tate, the Eagles have struggled on offense and Carson Wentz is having a difficult time distributing the ball to his receivers. Tate has only 11 catches for 97 yards in three games. Nelson Agholor has just one reception in the past two games. Alshon Jeffery has 11 catches and no touchdowns in the last three.
Washington’s defense that was ranked first in the NFL early in the season has slumped in recent weeks, struggling against the run and pass. The Redskins have the fourth-most takeaways but are near the bottom of the league in third-down stops, which comes down to a mix of game plans, ill-timed matchups and missed tackles — all things they’ve tried to correct since losing to the Cowboys.
“It’s really about just focusing,” linebacker Mason Foster said. “You can’t let little things here or there, motions and all that stuff, get you distracted and get your eyes in the wrong place. You end up chasing ghosts. Really it’s just about being locked in and trusting the man next to you, get back to the way that we play football and be physical and tackle.”
Undrafted rookie Josh Adams, who went to Notre Dame, has emerged as Philadelphia’s lead running back following a season-high 84 yards on 22 carries last week, including a 1-yard TD run and a 2-point conversion. The Eagles lost Jay Ajayi to a season-ending knee injury and veteran Darren Sproles has been out since Week 1.