Now that Kiko Alonso is out for the 2014 season, there has been a lot of speculation about who might take his vacated playing time. One player that might fill at least some of the Alonso void is Nigel Bradham, Buffalo’s fourth round draft pick from 2012.
Bradham had a limited role in the 2013 defense, but his snap counts rose towards the end of the season. When he did play, Bradham was used mostly as a run defender.
Because he was used mostly on run downs (and Searcy was often swapped in on obvious passing situations), most of Bradham’s snaps came on first and second down. Here are the percent of the teams plays in which Bradham participated, by down.
His presnap alignment was all over the field, however, as he played alongside Alonso. Bradham’s athleticism allowed Mike Pettine to use him in a variety of ways, from blitzing off the edge to covering a tight end down field. Here’s where Bradham lined up in all situations.
Despite being put all over the field, Bradham produced the most when lined up above a tackle. There, he was able to shed blockers and flow towards the play. Here’s where his tackles came from presnap.
Speaking of presnap alignment, Bradham lined up on the line of scrimmage inside Mario Williams more than a few times. Both players looked as if they were going to rush off the edge, but Bradham would usually drop into coverage. In the play below, the linebacker dropped back to cover the tight end while Williams rushed the quarterback around the edge (the play ended up being a LeGarrette Blount two yard rush to the other side of the field).
Bradham has the athleticism and versatility to make up for at least some of Alonso’s snaps in 2014. However, the linebacker has struggled to take a hold of a starting position since joining the team. Will 2014 be his chance to be a regular starter on the roster? Will his playing time still be limited to first and second downs even if he can make the first team?