As the 2018 season unfolded and the Eagles struggled to get much momentum going to make the playoffs and defend their Super Bowl title, many fans and observers claimed the Birds had succumbed to the “Super Bowl hangover.”
There was evidence to support those claims. Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles and head coach Doug Pederson spent a large portion of the offseason promoting books they had written.
There were numerous award shows to attend. There was the mammoth parade, the Super Bowl ring party and TV appearances, including kicker Jake Elliott taking on Queen Latifah in a nationally televised lip sync battle for charity wearing a white hair band wig while pretending to sing Whitesnake’s hit song Here I Go Again.
It was all fun, but certainly these events, along with a pressing franchise quarterback named Carson Wentz, contributed to the Birds’ 6-7 record after 13 games.
It took a Foles-led, three-game win streak and some luck for the Eagles to sneak into the playoffs.
None of what happened in 2018 is sitting well with many veteran players who lived through it.
When ESPN ranked the current Eagles roster in the top three for the next three years and the top roster – minus the quarterback – for 2019, the expectations started to soar again.
Two veterans, linebacker Nigel Bradham and right tackle Lane Johnson, talked about training camp, their approach and what to do with all the noise surrounding the Eagles’ 2019 season.
“I never really paid any attention to ratings,” Bradham said at his locker after a recent training camp practice. “There’s always politics. A couple of years ago when we won the (Super) Bowl. It was all politics, no one thought we could do it. We did it. It’s all politics and opinions. At the end of the day, we’ve got to go out there and play and make things happen.”
Bradham was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the fourth round (No. 105 overall) of the 2012 NFL Draft. After four seasons with the Bills, Bradham became an unrestricted free agent. On March 9, 2016, the 6-foot-2, 241-pounder signed a two-year, $7 million contract with the Eagles.
The contract reportedly included $4.5 million in guaranteed money and a signing bonus of $1.5 million.
Bradham has said one of the reasons he came to Philadelphia was so he could be reunited with defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, whom he played under in 2014.
In 2018, the Eagles signed Bradham to a five-year, $40 million contract that included $14 million in guaranteed money and a signing bonus of $5 million.
Bradham said he does not get too high or too low when training camp comes around.
“It’s training camp,” Bradham said with a little chuckle. “I’ve always been up for it, I’ve never really been down about it. It’s the time to get the body right and ready for the season. That’s all I focus on.”
In 2018, Bradham recorded 97 total tackles (67 solo), two sacks, four tackles for loss, four quarterback hits, four defended passes and a fumble recovery.
He said he tries to keep that balance because your NFL career can change at any moment.
“You never know when it’s over…either through injury, my decision or somebody else’s decision, you never know,” Bradham said. “So I just come in, work my technique and try to be the best linebacker I can be.”
Johnson said he has been around the NFL block and has learned – at times the hard way – to stay in the moment and never vary from your level of intensity, regardless of what you’ve accomplished or how many awards you win.
“I’ve learned. I’ve been part of very talented teams that under-performed,” said Johnson, who was drafted in the first round (fourth overall) of the 2013 NFL Draft. “It’s when you put those expectations, that you’re talented, that you’re automatically supposed to win these games or that you’re going to win these games. That defeats the whole process. The process is you have to put in the work, and if you don’t, you’re going to get exposed. That’s really it. I want to see the confidence going, but at the end of the day you know that you’ve got to put in the work and the due diligence moving forward.”
Johnson is a two-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro. In a preseason poll by athlonsports.com, the 6-6, 325-pounder is ranked No. 6 overall among all offensive linemen, regardless of position.
Johnson was asked if putting in the right amount of work was a given.
“Yes, it’s understood but it’s hard to follow,” Johnson said. “Sometimes, the simplest rule is the hardest one to follow because you think you’re above them. That’s it. Try to make the main thing, the main thing. You can’t out-smart the hard work and putting the time in. That’s something you can’t substitute, so that’s what we’re trying to do now.” ••
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompson111.