I think we found out last year that the Eagles aren’t the same defense without Stewart Bradley in the middle. He’s the signal caller, who gets everybody lined up properly and the big guy makes plays against both the run and the pass.
Bradley is one of the few middle linebackers in the league who stays on the field in nickel situations because he’s so effective against the pass in both zone or man-to-man coverages.
The concussion he suffered on Sunday when he he launched himself to hit a ball carrier but hit the hip of fellow linebacker Ernie Sims, will keep him out of this week’s contest. That means veteran backup Omar Gaither will step in at middle linebacker.
Gaither can make all of the calls and get the defense set up correctly. He doesn’t make many mental errors, so he will be where he’s supposed to be. Still Gaither’s no match for Bradley as a run stopper or pass defender.
The Lions are sure to try and test him with their running game as well as with throws to their tight end and backs. Gaither doesn’t have Bradley’s speed but he doesn’t find ways to make plays because of his instincts.
I could see them lining up and trying to pound the middle of the Birds defense, if they can get Mike Patterson and Brodrick Bunkley blocked. Gaither weighs about 235 pounds and could be susceptible to the blocking of a big physical fullback.
“I think it’s a challenge as far as playing again”, Gaither said yesterday. “But, I’ve done it before and I’ve done it for a long time before. So, that part of it just really comes natural for me, just going back out there, being in the middle and being the starting guy again.”
The Lions will probably lean on their running game because they don’t want to ask too much of their backup quarterback Shaun Hill, who will be starting in the place of Matthew Stafford. The former number one pick Stafford went down with a shoulder injury on Sunday against the Bears and will be out of action for 4 to 6 weeks.
Detroit is likely to put the ball in the hands of rookie running back Jahvid Best as much as possible. A running game would keep the ball away from the Eagles potentially explosive offense, wear down the smallish Eagles defense and keep the game close so the Lions could try to steal it late.
If the Lions can play well in the first and go to the lockeroom with a close game, they will gain confidence and it will energize their crowd.
I could see them using play action passes to buy time for Hill to throw, then they could have him try to get the ball to star wideout Calvin Johnson or talented tight end, Brandon Pettigrew. I expect to see them throw the ball up to Johnson if he’s found in a one-on-one situation with one of the Eagles little cornerbacks. Johnson’s listed as 6’5″ 236 pounds. Most the Eagles cornerbacks are 5’11 and under.
Eagles will linebacker Ernie Sims who played four years in the Detriot told his Eagles teammates that the Lions are going to be a fired up football team.
“I told them that they’re good, that they’re a good ball club; well-coached, eager players” Sims explained. “And that’s how I was, an eager player. When you have eager players their effort is through the roof. I think that’s very important when you’re playing football, effort. Effort goes a long way. Like I said before, we have to play real, real good and disciplined football and we have to dominate.”
I think Sims is going to have a big day making plays against Detroit’s running game. It’s a standard running game, which features a lot of run plays with the fullback leading the halfback in the hole. Sims will be able to clean up with some big hits from the backside.
Of course we know Sims would like nothing better than to get his first win as an Eagle in the home of the team that traded him.