"You know, the coaches kind of know where things are headed before we do," Bradley said. "It's not like you have a starting party."
Bradley, the Eagles' man in the middle, has started all six games this season, and while not everything has gone as planned - there's been that little detail of covering the tight ends and not getting caught up in play-action - the early reviews are good. He's fast. He's smart. He moves well laterally. And he's a leader.
He is second on the team in tackles with 62 and has one sack.
Not bad for a 24-year-old one month shy of his birthday.
With Bradley, Chris Gocong and Omar Gaither, the Eagles are as young at linebacker as they've been in the Andy Reid-Jim Johnson era. But last season, when he decided that Bradley would be the starting middle linebacker, Johnson viewed the youth as a plus, in part because of Bradley's football savvy.
When the Eagles selected Bradley in the third round of the 2007 draft, the plan wasn't for him to start as a rookie. He spent most of the season on special teams, impressing the coaches with his enthusiasm and kick coverage.
But after Spikes' injury, Johnson tinkered with his lineup. He moved Gaither from the middle to the weak side and put Bradley, a three-year starter at strong-side linebacker at Nebraska, in the middle.
"When we moved him, all of a sudden he looked good," Johnson said. "He blitzed a couple times, he did a great job with the blitz, and his pass coverage was good inside. All of a sudden, he looked comfortable. I didn't know he was going to make that transition that fast, but he looked comfortable. It seems like he's never wavered since."
Not that everything went smoothly. Bradley had to learn a new position and get used to wearing a headset in his helmet so he could communicate with Johnson on the sideline. And Gaither wasn't thrilled when he was told that, after switching last year to middle linebacker, he would move back to the weak side.
Gaither led the team in tackles and quarterback hurries last season, and said he liked his role as the signal-caller on defense.
"Nobody likes change, and I had already changed," Gaither said. "I was at 'wil,' then I went to 'mike,' and I felt like I did well. It's like learning another position all over again."
"Wil" is the Eagles' term for weakside linebacker, and "mike" the one for middle linebacker.
Although reluctant at first, Gaither said that during the Eagles' win over Pittsburgh in Week 3, he finally became sold on the idea of playing on the outside. By the nature of the position, Gaither has more freedom to rush the passer and get into the offensive backfield; against the Steelers, he had 1 1/2 sacks and a chance for a couple of more.
"At mike, they key on you," Gaither said. "You're the guy they set the defense off of, so when you're blitzing and things like that, odds are you're accounted for [because] they put a lineman on you.
"At wil, you have a lot more stuff with the [running] back. I had some pressure rushes at Chicago where I was one-on-one with the backs that I normally wouldn't have. It's more freedom."
Bradley admittedly is a work in progress, but he has impressed his teammates and coaches with his study habits. He is typically at the Eagles' practice facility on the players' days off, and takes game film home with him.
Johnson said that Bradley rarely makes the same mistake twice.
"He's a smart kid, and he's just seeing things well," Johnson said. "Every game he seems more comfortable. I think we'll see more production out of him as the year goes by.
"I think he's solid right now, handling the defense, getting guys lined up, making the checks, tackling well. He's around the football. That's all you can ask, but I think he can be more productive."
When did Bradley find out he would be the starter?
"When you look on the depth chart and it says your name on the top, that's kind of how it was," Bradley said.
"We didn't sit down and have a conversation about it," he said. "It was a job I was fighting for. That was the take I had on it. I never had a feeling I was set in it. I wanted to come in and earn it - that's the mentality I took toward it."
Contact staff writer Ashley Fox at 215-854-5064 or firstname.lastname@example.org.