The Eagles have a stud cornerback not named Slay

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The Eagles have a Pro Bowl cornerback who leads the team in interceptions and has the best opposing QB passer rating among all NFL cornerbacks.

And it’s not Slay.

Four games into his Eagles career, James Bradberry has been everything the Eagles could have dreamed of when they signed him.

“I think things are just going right, right now,” Bradberry said before practice Thursday. “I think I”ve played well in the past, but I didn’t catch a break here or there and things went bad then. 

"But I think things are just going well right now and that’s on top of me preparing and trying to perform to the best of my ability.

“I’ve been preparing the same way as always, it’s just falling in line right now.”

Bradberry is off to the best start of his career, the Eagles are unbeaten, and if he keeps playing the way he’s been playing, a massive payday awaits him in the spring.

Last year, opposing QBs had a 94.8 passer rating against Bradberry.

The year before, that figure was 84.9.

This year? It’s 22.2, best in the league among cornerbacks with 10 or more targets.

Bradberry has been targeted 24 times and allowed 96 yards. That’s 4.0 yards per target, and that’s third-best among all NFL cornerbacks.

He’s got two interceptions – only two off his career high – and in the opener he recorded the first pick-6 of his career.

“He’s just so smart,” safety Marcus Epps said. “I knew he was a really good player, but he just came in starting with OTAs and started working and by the time the season started we were all on the same page and it feels like we’ve been playing together a lot longer (than four games).”

The Eagles never had any intention of re-signing 2021 starter Steven Nelson, but two months into free agency they still didn’t have a CB2, and it looked like Zech McPhearson might wind up as an outside corner starter opposite Darius Slay.

“I think early on in free agency it was like, ‘They only got Haason Reddick! What's going on!,’’’ Nick Sirianni said. “I think that was the sentiment. Hey, the way Haason has been playing, if we would've only got Haason Reddick, that would've been pretty good, too.

“You’ve got to let things progress, and Howie did a great job of that, of just letting things progress. Look at some of the pieces we got from doing that. If that happens next year I'll try to remind everybody about that.”

The Eagles didn’t overpay for a corner and in mid-May Bradberry fell in their lap. 

Everybody knew the Giants weren’t going to keep the veteran corner. But when they were unable to trade him, the Eagles pounced.

A week after the Giants cut him in a salary-cap move, Bradberry signed a one-year, $7.25 million deal with the Eagles.

“He was on our radar early,” Jonathan Gannon said. “Good job, Howie.”

And just like Kyzir White, A.J. Brown and Reddick, Bradberry has fit in seamlessly both in the locker room and on the field.

“You know, it's like all the guys we bring in here,” Gannon said. “They're high football character. He's extremely intelligent. He can play different styles, which you're seeing that show up. He's a team-first guy. He's another one that's producing at a high level.

“It's hard to complete balls to him. He's got length. He's got range. He's sticky. He's got ball skills that you've seen. He's a corner with a very unique skill set that can kind of do it all. I'm really pleased with where he's at, and he's going to continue to ascend, too.” 

The Eagles are the only team that has two cornerbacks with two interceptions, and while Slay might be the bigger name and the bigger star, Bradberry has been huge so far this year.

His pick-6 of Jared Goff in Detroit in the opener gave the Eagles a 14-point lead late in the first half on the way to a too-close-for-comfort 38-35 win over the Lions, and his acrobatic diving pick of Trevor Lawrence Sunday was pretty much a clincher, stopping a Jaguars drive inside the 10 late in the third quarter with the Eagles clinging to a six-point lead.

“Yeah, James is a very important addition,” Sirianni said. “I try to make sure I tell him once or twice a month how happy I am that he's here.

“So happy he's here, so happy that he's an Eagle, and it’s pretty cool how we added him late.”

Bradberry has only reached the playoffs once in his career, and that was five years ago with the Panthers, who lost in the wild-card round to the Saints.

Since then, he’s been on four teams that have gone a combined 22-43.

It’s hard to enjoy football when you’re going 7-9, 5-11, 6-10 and 4-13.

Now he’s on a team that’s 4-0 going into Arizona Sunday.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Bradberry said of his first month as an Eagle. “I feel like winning solves anything. When you’re winning, it’s easy to do everything else.” 

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