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How Will Eagles Go About Replacing Jordan Hicks?

[CSNPhily] How will Eagles go about replacing Jordan Hicks?

At this point, the Eagles' defense should be used to playing shorthanded. Now it's the linebackers' turn, and at least for Monday night, the unit rose to the challenge.

The Eagles were already without Mychal Kendricks to begin with. Then, two plays into the game against Washington, Jordan Hicks went down with a season-ending Achilles tear.

"We're praying for him and best wishes for him," Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham said postgame. "That's a freak injury, and it's going to hurt us to lose one like that."

Hicks' injury had disaster written all over it, especially with Kendricks already out. Once again, the Eagles' depth came through in the 34-24 win.

"It really changed everything," Bradham said. "As you know, me, Jordan and Mychal are really the main three guys that can rotate, but we had guys step up.

"(Najee Goode) stepped in and played well. Joe Walker stepped in and played well, too. We keep plugging guys in and guys keep stepping up for us. They make plays when their opportunity comes."

Bradham was on the field for all 64 defensive snaps, recording three tackles and two quarterback hits (see snap counts). Goode expected to play but saw extensive action after the injury to Hicks, finishing with four tackles in 49 snaps. And Walker lined up for 11 plays, though he did not make his mark in the box score.

The numbers weren't flashy, but collectively, the makeshift trio got the job done.

"The confidence level is boosted tremendously," Bradham said, "when we're able to plug a different guy in who hasn't really seen all the reps all week, hasn't had as many opportunities getting prepared for the game, then comes in the game and shows up.

Goode, in particular, wound up being thrust into an outsized role. A sixth-year veteran who's carved out a niche on special teams, his 49 snaps were by far the most he played since 2013.

It showed initially. Washington went after Goode in coverage in the first half, eventually causing a breakdown on a seven-yard touchdown pass to Chris Thompson.

"I put that all on me," Goode said. "I didn't get out there to cover. They ran a pick route and were able to get me.

"We were able to come back and get it corrected, but I'm a man of my word. I put it on me. We were able to step up and make plays and keep going."

But Goode settled in as the game wore on, and there were no more notable missed assignments the rest of the way.

"The game moves you so fast, you just have to plug and play," Goode said. "The best thing is when it moves that fast, you can't get caught up on the play before."

While their reserves performed valiantly, the Eagles were fortunate to have Bradham healthy. The 28-year-old took over Hicks' responsibilities as the middle linebacker and became much more than somebody who punishes ball carriers.

With Hicks going in and out of the lineup all season, Bradham has become a leader.

"I pretty much take his role," Bradham said. "I get the calls, take control of the defense, make all the calls, make all the checks and just try to keep everyone calm just like he does.

"He's been doing a tremendous job. I actually learned a lot from him being able to do it."

The Eagles confirmed a ruptured Achilles for Hicks on Tuesday, likely cementing Bradham's spot in the middle of the defense for the time being. That may have been of greater concern last season, but in 2017, his teammates are confident he's up to the task.

"He has a chip on his shoulder," Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "That's his entire game, that he's going to run to the ball, and when he gets to the ball, he's arriving violently. We've needed that. And the biggest thing that stepped his game up - even last year, he played well, but this year, he's gone to another level with his understanding of the defense, his understanding of read offenses and the flow of the ball.

"He's somebody that's been constantly around the football for us. With the amount of injuries we've had, especially with Jordan Hicks being out, having that steady guy in there is important, and Nigel has really stepped and taken that role. He's been a huge part of the success of the defense."

The other silver lining here is Kendricks (hamstring) isn't expected to be out long term. Eagles coach Doug Pederson expressed optimism about his returning to the lineup next Sunday against the 49ers.

That would leave Bradham and Kendricks as the starting linebackers, with Goode joining them in base personnel and Walker as the first man off the bench. All things considered, there's a lot of talent and experience among that group.

Still, replacing a playmaker of Hicks' caliber is not easy, and on Tuesday, Pederson did not rule out a rotation at middle linebacker to help fill that void.

"It's definitely the next man up," Pederson said. "They rally around the guys that are hurt, number one, support them, but at the same time, the bigger picture is we still have a lot of football left, and we have a game this Sunday. The season's not over."

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