If anything is to be read into the first practice without middle linebacker Stewart Bradley, Joe Mays has the upper hand over Omar Gaither as the starter.

However, a likely scenario for new coordinator Sean McDermott might be what the Eagles showed in practice -- Mays playing in the base defense on first and second down with Gaither playing in the nickel package on passing downs.

Mays, a sixth-round pick in 2008 from North Dakota State, appeared in two games last season and said he is eager to step in.

"I think I'm ready," Mays said. "As long as I keep taking reps, keep getting coached up and keep doing the little things, I'll be ready. I think the [biggest challenge] will be mental. There are going to be a lot of things thrown at me being the No. 1 middle linebacker, but I'm looking forward to it.

"This is something I've been looking forward to. I sat out last year, and now I'm eager and hungry to play."

Said safety Quintin Mikell of Mays: "He's got to grow quickly. I think he's ready. He's definitely hungry and ready to do that."

Gaither initially lost the middle linebacker job to Bradley and then lost the weakside linebacker to Akeem Jordan late last season. Now he could have a chance to regain his old job.

"I felt like I was going to earn a starting job coming into camp, whether it was at MIKE or WILL," Gaither said. "So yeah, I feel that way, but we'll see what happens in the end."

Coach Andy Reid also indicated that Gaither is still in competition for the job on the weak side, but he would continue to take reps in the middle.


Here is another view on Bradley's injury, that of an opponent -- Cowboys tight end Jason Witten:

"That's huge (losing Bradley). Playing against that defense last year, he was really the one that made it go. He probably didn't get as much credit as he deserved. He was as good as any middle linebacker we played last year. I thought he was a really, really good player.

"That's a tough injury too. Anytime something like that happens, especially now, you don't just have MIKE linebackers just waiting in that defense. He's a smart, physical player. It's a huge, huge loss for them. I hate it for him because he was a young player on the rise."

To read our earlier coverage on Stewart Bradley's injury, click here.