Sam Bradford plays like an average quarterback. Ask anyone to describe Bradford. Mediocre probably best describes Bradford, while overpaid and overrated chronicle him, too.
Bradford completed the most passes for a rookie in NFL history in 2010. He won Offensive Rookie of the Year later that season. The former Heisman trophy winner looked like one of the next best NFL quarterbacks. But coaching changes, injuries and inconsistent performances greatly redirected Bradford’s career. Now he’s set to begin his second year in Philadelphia with a highly paid back-up waiting for him to fall, and the 2016 second overall pick that an entire fan base would rather see play.
It’s hard to imagine a stranger football season in Philadelphia. There are some expectations since the Eagles should have one of the better defenses in football. But with a new coach whose only head coaching experience primarily took place on Friday nights, and the lack of skill position players, the Eagles could be in for a long season. Philly cannot afford to be bad, though. The Eagles do not have a first round pick. That pick was used to draft a player who will most likely begin the season inactive.
The case for Bradford has been that even though his numbers sometimes proved otherwise he’s an accurate passer. Some credit Chip Kelly’s simple offense for the reason Bradford broke the Eagles’ completion percentage record last year, but Bradford had precision dating back to his Oklahoma days. His numbers were terrible at times in St. Louis. He completed only 53.3 percent of his passes in his sophomore year. It’s easy to dismiss Bradford’s ability, because of his poor performance in St. Louis. But Bradford saw new coordinator after new coordinator, and Bradford’s wide receivers were bad. Kenny Britt had 748 yards in 2014 when Bradford missed the entire season after tearing his ACL. Since 2010 every NFL team has had a receiver with 750 or more yards. Every team except the St. Louis Rams. Last season Bradford had two receivers with more than 850 yards (Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz).
I didn’t watch many St. Louis games when Bradford played, but I’m a believer in continuity. Now the Eagles changed their head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterback coach. The Eagles plan on using Bradford as trade bait after this season ends. But Bradford at least had a fully healthy off-season. He didn’t rehab. He just focused on becoming a better quarterback, and he even worked out with Matthews and Ertz. Bradford’s role in the offense will be different. That type of continuity matters. Look back to the Eagles’ season opener a year ago. Bradford had timing issues with nearly every wide out in a game that set the tone for Philly’s season. Over the course of the season it approved, but Bradford’s receivers had plenty of drops. Enough to make a nine and a half minute video. Watching Bradford connect with Ertz and Matthews down the stretch in meaningful football games brings hope for this year’s offense.
It’s unclear exactly how a Doug Pederson offense will look. Only New England had a fewer turnover percentage than Kansas City’s offense last year, and only Minnesota, Tampa Bay and Buffalo averaged more yards per carry, so anticipate a more conservative offensive approach. Bradford will be asked to change the play at the line of scrimmage based on the defense. He’ll have more freedom than he did last year. The key to Bradford having a productive season begins and ends with the offensive line. Offensive lines make any average or below average running back look good. The Eagles’ biggest question mark lies at running back depth, because Ryan Mathews has only once played a full season, and Darren Sproles serves more as a scat back than a traditional inside the tackle back. Wendell Smallwood might have to give 10-15 touches a game.
This, in all likelihood, will be Bradford’s final season in Philadelphia. He’s auditioning for any quarterback needy team every time he steps on the field. Bradford has the opportunity to create new labels, and maybe Bradford can finally breakthrough at age 28.