The Eagles come into week four with a few clouds hanging over Sam Bradford’s head. Out of the 32 Quarterbacks that took to the field in week one, 29 of them have a completion for over 40 yards..Bradford is not one of those Quarterbacks. However, that could all be set to change against Washington.
5: Break the mould
Against the Dallas Cowboys, the Eagles failed to get any kind of momentum going. Why? Because the Cowboys knew the Eagles playing style and knew for a fact Bradford is unlikely to air a ball out down the field. The result saw the Cowboys at stages having 8-9 players in the box with the majority of them rushing the passer, knowing it’s going to be a run or a short pass completion.
Against the Jets things improved as the running game was unleashed but during the second half it appeared that they started to get used to the constant Outside Zone runs and began to counter. The result? A scoreless second half.
Against the Redskins, it’s a chance for a clean slate. If the running game is at its best and the short passes are accurate, what better time to implement a third element? If the Redskins begin predicting where the ball is going to go, change things up and throw a deep ball down the field…because the chances statistically of it happening are so low that the Washington side won’t be ready to defend against it or know what the receiving core is capable of. It’s time to break the mould and give the Redskins one more problem to worry about.
4: No Hall, Mo Problems
The Redskins are without their star cornerback DeAngelo Hall for their first meeting with the Eagles this season and that gives the birds one hefty advantage. Behind Hall, there isn’t really a lot of firepower when it comes to cornerbacks. I mean..there’s always Bashaud Breeland? You know, the guy who allowed two touchdowns and over 100 yards on just 10 targets in week three. If there is ever a time to get into a rhythm of airing balls deep down the field..it’s against one of the weakest secondaries in the NFL with some of the most versatile receivers in the division and arguably two of the best route runners.
Sam Bradford recently acknowledged the fact that he hasn’t been able to utilise the deep pass surely hinting to the fact that the Eagles are very much aware of the situation and looking to perhaps change things up. In the press conference, Bradford said the following:
“It would be nice to be able to get the deep ball going, it would be nice to be able to push the ball down the field,” Bradford said after practice. “Hopefully, that’s something that we can get to this week.”
“I have to take what’s there, can’t try to force anything,” he said. “When you try to force it to someone and make an extra effort to get someone the football sometimes you run yourself into problems.”
The last quote does make perfect sense, I would much rather see Bradford attempt the deep balls when he’s comfortable and confident to avoid turnovers..but right now he isn’t even doing that. However against Washington with a weakened secondary if the team are already aware that they are not sending balls deep down the field..it could well be worked into the gameplan to not only catch out the Redskins Defense but try it in a game where you don’t have elite cornerbacks acting as ball hawks.
The Eagles don’t even have to use the receivers when throwing deep balls to score a touchdown. Look at the wheel route Ryan Mathews ran against the Jets. Darren Sproles was lining up in the slot all through training camp and it’s paying dividends now. The Eagles have effectively added the possibility of an extra receiver on any given play. All it takes is someone like Sproles to burst through the trenches unnoticed and then Bradford to take note and evaluate all his options before trying to find just the hot receiver. The potential is there and we caught a glimpse of it against the Jets. The running backs have shown a lot of versatility in the opening games of the season, it’s time to crank it up a notch!
1: All the pieces of the puzzle
The Eagles already have all the pieces of a jigsaw, it’s just down to Bradford to put it all together. We already referenced how dangerous Nelson Agholor can be and after beating Darelle Revis numerous times and still failing to receive attention..that needs to change. Jordan Matthews is the only Eagles wide receiver with over 100 yards receiving to this point and we have learned last year just how much of a deep threat he can be. The problem with Bradford is that like he said “it’s whats given to him”. But ultimately..the Quarterback makes the call. You get given a play and a target receiver..but that doesn’t mean you HAVE to ONLY play a ball to that receiver..especially if someone has beaten coverage a further 30 yards down the field and you fail to acknowledge it.
This is a Redskins Defense who have been woeful to this point and are now without their elite Cornerback. If the Eagles are going to strike with some deep passes and instil confidence between Bradford and his receivers, it’s now. Chip Kelly has arguably assembled one of the best receiving coups in the league in terms of fitting a system..it’s down to Bradford to trust his arm more than his head.