Before last night it had been over a year since Sam Bradford played in an NFL game and despite obliterating training camp, it takes something else to do it out on the field. Bradford made his debut in Eagles colours last night against the Ravens in the teams second pre-season affair. The former number one pick threw for 35 yards and went 3/5 on the night..but just how good was his performance?
The important thing to remember here is that we are looking at this from a different perspective. We’re not sensationalising his performance nor viewing it through rose tinted lenses. We’re not calling him the next Joe Montana and we’re certainly not saying the opposite..we’re being honest.
For Bradford, the appearance was huge. He was devastated to have not played against the Colts and was adamant that he was going to start against Baltimore. He was correct and the new Eagles number 7 marched his Offense onto the field for a drive of highs and lows.
We have to start with the elephant in the room and that’s the hit from Suggs. Despite what the media are saying and how it was obviously a dangerous and reckless challenge, the Terrell Suggs challenge on Bradford along with the other hits on the night may have actually benefitted him. The thing is that whilst it was way out of order and as brutal as they come, it will toughen him up. Despite making every Eagles fan spit their beer out upon seeing the challenge, seeing him get up after and carry on to lead his team to a running touchdown was a great sign. Bradford even said that he wanted to be hit again and you can’t blame him. This was one drive..he is going to have to adapt to this kind of pressure (aka the Williams hit a little earlier) for a full 60 minute game, weekly. If he went into week one without being hit and took a huge tackle early on, it could shake him up and ruin his confidence..something Suggs tried and failed to do. Bradford got up, knee in tact, and did what he was born to do. Lead.
Towards the end of the drive he really began to settle in the pocket. If you compare the throw to Jordan Matthews on 3rd & 5 to the throw to Riley Cooper early on, you can see how much more comfortable he looks. The movement is a lot smoother, the motion looks a lot less rushed and the ball is an absolute laser beam that almost took Jordan’s hand off! Matthews grasped it with both hands for a first down in a play that was rehearsed consistently in camp. If that’s the kind of short passing we can expect over the middle then its easy to see not only why Sanchez and co favoured those routes so much later on but why he was signed for this team. His accuracy, vision and sheer arm strength are perfect for the Eagles Offense.
The thing is, with all the media hype it was almost as though many people expected Bradford to almost throw an 80 yard reception on the first play and that was never going to happen. He has had an extended amount of time away from the league and has to settle back into a comfortable pattern and get used to not only taking hits, but how to react to pressure coming from players who are not on your team and will drive every bit of force into bringing you to the ground.
It was almost like the deeper into the drive the team got, the more comfortable Bradford became. He started off a little hesitant and almost expecting a hit or two. The Riley Cooper pass was a perfect example early on. A gorgeous pass sent through the air to a wide open man just over thrown by an inch or two and nothing more. Josh Huff almost stumbled over trying to scoop a ball up from almost hitting the ground to make a play but again, the vision and the laser ability were both present. If Bradford had stayed in the game and those plays had happened a few drives later then they would have been certain completions and huge gains.
In terms of feeding the running backs, he looked good. Deceiving on the read option (so much so as to fool and anger Terrell Suggs) and completing the play to its fullest extent. Something needed when you have three hungry wolves waiting to pounce through the trenches!
It would have been nice to see Bradford in the game a little longer but at this stage there is no need to risk a re-injury..especially with such angsty and illegal tackling from Terrell Suggs. The hits won’t always be that bad or that malicious, but if he can come straight back up after a tackle in the most worrying of places to lead his team to six points then Eagles fans have nothing to worry about. It’s like being kicked in the groin and then two minutes later having to do the deed…he soldiered on.
Overall, Bradford looked good. Towards the end he showed his most strength with a huge throw to Matthews and eventually leading the team to a score. Despite some natural rustiness to shake off at the start, he was able to get the job done and most notably..NOT THROW AN INTERCEPTION. It was a worry that had crossed the mind of many but one that was put to rest straight away. No three and outs, good signal calling and natural pocket presence. It would be unfair to judge his potential from just five throws but we can see the raw talent and ability that has been moulded this off-season. This isn’t just a reformed Quarterback, he appears to be a new person..unbreakable. Very reminiscent of the Foles hit against the Redskins, a scary moment that ended in triumph. For Sammy B It’s like riding a bike..you never forget…if that is a man who is at 60%-70% in terms of ability after shaking off some rust..Eagles fans are in for a real treat when he hits 100% in full game flow.
Overall grade: B-