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Linebacker Nigel Bradham is a starter-quality option for the Saints

A deep-dive into Bradham’s advanced statics sheds light on his potential contributions in New Orleans.

Wild Card Round - Philadelphia Eagles v Chicago Bears Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

For the New Orleans Saints, any addition at the linebacker position is of benefit. Two of the projected starters in Alex Anzalone and Kiko Alonso are coming off of season-ending injuries and both have an unfortunately extensive injury history. Anzalone has been cleared to return to football activities while Kiko Alonso will start this season’s version of camp on the physically unable to perform list.

If by chance Alonso is not ready for week one or it’s simply too risky to throw him into full-speed action right away, the Saints have made a great investment in Nigel Bradham, who is expected to sign with the team. Let’s also not pretend like Bradham won’t also be competing for a starting job anyway. We know coach Payton and defensive coordinator Dennis Allen like to see all of their options before solidifying spots like linebacker and the trenches where the team is known to shift around a ton in camp.

So if given a chance either as a week one starter or due to injury, how does Bradham fare when compared to the linebackers he would be replacing?

One of the biggest hits on Bradham is his play in the run game. his PFF grades in particular have drawn questions but far more importantly, as CSC contributor Andrew Bell outlined, he has shown some inconsistencies in tackling and essential run defense traits.

While his run defense grades may not compare to Kiko Alonso’s over the last three seasons. He stacks up pretty well in comparison to Alex Anzalone and A.J. Klein who started at the position last season before heading to Buffalo in the offseason.

Saints Linebacker PFF Run Defense Grades

Year Nigel Bradham Kiko Alonso A.J. Klein Alex Anzalone
Year Nigel Bradham Kiko Alonso A.J. Klein Alex Anzalone
2017 53.1 68 48.1 51.7
2018 67.9 64.9 65.1 51.3
2019 46.5 63 41.4 64

Sample size is a big part of this conversation. Anzalone for instance can really only be judges on his 2018 grading as he played on seven run defense snaps in 2017 and 62 in 2019. So his 51.3 is the most usable piece of information, which still ranks below Bradham’s two best performances but above his most recent.

Evan Alonso’s best grade which came with the Saints in 2019 has to be taken lightly as it is compiled off of only 85 run defense snaps. The best comparison available is that of A.J. Klein.

Klein’ 2017 through 2019 with the Saints consisted of 242, 258, and 266 run defense snaps respectively. Meanwhile Bradham racked up 286, 288, and 220 regular season snaps in those years. The comparison between the two is promising for what the Saints would need for Bradham if he needed to step in specifically for Alonso who would otherwise be expected to serve the same role as Klein once held. Bradham’s worst year tops Kleins and so does his best, from which he is only one season removed. Bradham did have an ankle injury that caused him to miss games in 2019 and could have contributed to his play after his return.

In coverage, Bradham is a clear upgrade over Alonso and a great substitute if needed for Anzalone. Look at some of these advanced statics between he and the Saints’ best coverage backer Demario Davis.

Bradham/Davis Coverage Comparison

Metric Nigel Bradham LB Rank (300+ snaps) Demario Davis LB Rank (300+ snaps)
Metric Nigel Bradham LB Rank (300+ snaps) Demario Davis LB Rank (300+ snaps)
Yards Allowed 307 6 343 10
Passer Rating 87.2 9 87.9 11
Yards/Snap 0.75 T-5 0.75 T-5
Snaps/Reception 12.1 T-6 8.3 36

Now this is not at all to argue that Bradham is a better coverage linebacker than Davis, but only to say that he is a welcome complement. Keep in mind that Davis saw far more snaps and targets in 2019 than Bradham did. But Bradham’s new role, should he get snaps, would be far reduced from Davis’s workload.

Stands to mention that Bradham did not allow a touchdown and was credited with five passes defensed and a pivotal interception last season.

It remains to be seen how Bradham will contribute to the Saints’ defense, or if he will even get to as training camp hasn’t even gotten completely underway yet. But if he does, he will be a starter-quality piece to an often injured second level. His versatility more than certainly doesn’t hurt either.

There is also one remaining benefit to the Nigel Bradham signing. Should he take the field, he will be able to take advantage of chemistry and shorthand in the secondary with fellow former Eagle Malcolm Jenkins. After seeing what Demario Davis has done to help benefit this defense and make it a more cohesive unit, one cannot discount familiarity and connection.

How do you feel about the Nigel Bradham signing? Let us know in the comments below. Make sure you follow Canal Street Chronicles on Twitter at @SaintsCSC, “Like” us on Facebook at Canal Street Chronicles, and make sure you’re subscribed to our new YouTube channel. As always, you can follow me on Twitter @RossJacksonNOLA and subscribe to my daily Saints podcast, Locked On Saints.