PHILADELPHIA ( - It's been a long time since Jim Schwartz has entered a game with the understanding that he will have his two three-down linebackers at his disposal.

A torn Achilles wiped out the second half of Jordan Hicks' season a year ago and with the veteran back and ready to go Week 1 against Atlanta it was Nigel Bradham who was ruled out due to a personal-conduct policy suspension.

In Tampa, on Sunday both Hicks and Bradham are ready for a reunion and their boss, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, took a little time to reminisce on what the Eagles were able to do during the run to a Super Bowl LII championship run last season as well as the Week 1 win over the Falcons.

There were quite a few moving parts put into play in an effort to make up for Hicks absence in 2017-18 and that continued against Atlanta without Bradham.

"I think there is a silver lining to the fact that those guys haven't been on the field," Schwartz admitted. "We have had to do a lot of different things and cover a lot of bases. It's given us a little bit more -- a few more pitches, I guess you would say, to use my baseball analogy."

In other words, the Eagles became a bit craftier, using multiple formations to mask the loss of really effective playmakers.

"I'll take you back. [Former Major League Baseball pitcher] Frank Tanana could throw some heat, and he hurt his shoulder or elbow or something and became a soft-toss specialist," Schwartz said. "He played forever. It was all about control and things like that."

Like Tanana, a three-time All-Star who lasted two decades in the Major Leagues, Schwartz now has more in his toolbox because he was forced to look for ways to replace what he had at his disposal.

"When you are lacking something, it does force you to try to find another way to do it," Schwartz admitted.

Now that Hicks and Bradham will finally be back together, the ability to do those other things does not dissipate nor does Schwartz's confidence to throw the curveball or the change-up.

However, it's also nice to be able to dial up the high heater when you need it.

"There is nothing like having that fastball," Schwartz conceded.

-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for You can reach him at or on Twitter @JFMcMullen

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