Sam Bradford was accurate last Thursday, but he did so without throwing the ball down field. He’ll micromanage the game, especially if Philadelphia does not have the vertical threats necessary for a high-power offense. It’s the smart approach to this season, because the Eagles desperately need to win as many games as possible since they do not have a pick in the first round in 2017. Pederson said yesterday he wanted Bradford to complete 65 to 67 percent of his pass attempts. Bradford completed 65 percent of his passes last season, while averaging a pedestrian seven yards per attempt. For the sake of keeping the defense honest, Bradford will have to throw the ball down the field every once in a while. The Eagles hoped Chris Givens would provide a deep threat, but he’s not a guarantee to make the roster. The Eagles hope Dorial Green-Beckham can quickly learn the playbook since he has the physical tools to make a difference in the passing game. DGB averaged 17.2 yards per catch his rookie season, which would’ve ranked first among Eagles with 30 or more catches last season. According to Pro-Football-Reference, Green-Beckham joined Sammy Watkins, James Jones, Allen Robinson, Kenny Britt and Torrey Smith as wide outs with at least 32 receptions and 17.1 yards per reception. Green-Beckham had a relative small sample size, but the Eagles desperately need a playmaker to stretch the defense.
Kansas City, with Alex Smith at quarterback, put up big play after big play last season. Only Buffalo, Minnesota, Seattle and Carolina had a higher big play percentage (rush plays over 10 yards and pass plays over 25) than Kansas City. Kansas City had four players with over 350 rushing yards, including Smith. The Chiefs usually had a workhorse in Jamaal Charles handle the bulk of the carries, but he tore his ACL five games into the season, which gave Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware opportunities behind a terrific offensive line.
The Eagles don’t have a guy you can pencil in for 20 carries every game since Ryan Mathews has only played one full season. Kenjon Barner flashed his ability through the first two preseason games. Wendell Smallwood hasn’t played yet, but that’ll change against the Colts. Darren Sproles should give the Eagles plenty of lift in the screen and short yardage game, but the Eagles probably need Smallwood to be a bigger factor than many fifth-round rookies. Only four active fifth-round running backs, according to Pro-Football-Reference, carried the ball at least 70 times during their rookie season (Tim Hightower, Karlos Williams, Zac Stacey and Vick Ballard). Smallwood should carry the ball at least 70 times this season unless Barner plays better than expected. Sproles has the ability to completely change the course of two or three games every year. At times it felt like Sproles wasn’t utilized correctly last season. He made some big impact plays, most notably against New England, but after scoring a touchdown on a beautiful fade from Bradford against Green Bay in the infamous third preseason game it felt like Bradford and Sproles would develop a nice connection, and that just wasn’t the case. Sproles had a strong first game against Atlanta with 76 receiving, and 126 total yards, which was 18 percent of his yards on the season. Sproles only had one more game with more than 50 yards receiving.
Philadelphia’s offensive line does have potential, but with Lane Johnson’s 10-game suspension looming, one injury to Jason Peters severely hampers their depth. The Eagles, however, could use plenty of three tight end formations to help with the run game. Jimmy Kempski wrote a wonderful breakdown of how Kansas City used their tight ends in each phase of a highly rated offense. Philly has two proven receiving tight ends in Brent Celek and Zach Ertz, and they’re hopeful Trey Burton can piggyback on a strong training camp once the season begins. Burton’s big highlight took place last season on Thanksgiving against the Lions, which Kempski references in his piece.
Houston and Denver each made the playoffs last season with offenses ranked in the bottom 10, but Houston’s defense, according to Football Outsiders, ranked eight overall, and Denver had a historical defense. Eight of the 12 playoff teams finished in top-15 in offense and defense ranking.
The playoffs are definitely possible, but it won’t be the offense that leads them there