This one isn’t technically a moment, as it involves three different players.
But I cannot express the importance of healthy defensive players to an-already below average defense.
It’s really a miracle that the defense didn’t completely self-destruct after rookie defensive end Brandon Graham, former All-Pro middle linebacker Stewart Bradley, and rookie free safety Nate Allen were lost for the season with injuries.
It started in the Cowboys game on December 12th. Although the Eagles won, the victory was extremely costly.
Rookie defensive end Brandon Graham was lost for the season with a torn ACL. Middle linebacker Stewart Bradley was lost for the season with a dislocated right elbow.
The Eagles actually caught a break with the Bradley injury because rookie middle linebacker Jamar Chaney proved to be an absolute beast during his short stint as starter. He collected 16 tackles in his first game and I’ve even heard rumors of him starting over Bradley next season (or Chaney starting and Bradley being moved to outside linebacker).
The Graham injury was not severe but still costly. Graham had been suffering through a disappointing rookie season. He had admitted to hitting the rookie wall halfway through the season and was replaced as the starter by 32-year old Juqua Parker.
The way the Eagles’ defensive line works though is by shuffling the bodies in and out to always keep fresh men on the field. Graham was a key part of that rotation.
The following week, the Eagles lost Nate Allen for the season to a torn patellar tendon in his right knee. Allen’s injury was overshadowed by the Eagles’ incredible Miracle at the New Meadowlands comeback.
The Eagles used rookie seventh-round draft pick Kurt Coleman to start at free safety for the remaining two games, plus the postseason. Coleman has shown some potential but he’s not ready to be a starter.
The loss of Allen, who had won the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month in September, was probably the biggest loss of the three.
Heading into next season, the Eagles will hopefully have all three healthy, although they say it takes a full year of playing to recover from an ACL injury (meaning Graham won’t be as effective).