Sam Bradford came out swinging on Sunday Night and for the first time this season, he and this Offense looked like how fans thought it could look at the start of the season. Bradford was obviously aided my receivers making their catches and a weakened Offensive Line doing a brilliant job but you cannot ignore how good Bradford was, especially in Overtime.
But this season has been one of harsh criticism for the former Heisman winner and a lot of the time, it’s been uncalled for. A portion of fans were keen to start Sanchez until just a couple of weeks ago whilst another was adamant that Nick Foles was the man to lead this team. Respectable media outlets were quick to pick up any minor mistake he made, but Sam Bradford has every chance of becoming the long term option for this team and here’s why.
To start with there’s always been the argument about needing a mobile Quarterback for this Offense. If this team truly needed one do you not think Chip would have drafted a sleeper or signed a mobile free agent? He replaced Foles with a pocket Quarterback because he feels that’s the type of guy that can lead this team. Nick Foles was great in 2014 and a disappointment a year later..so Chip took a gamble and traded for a QB who shared the same qualities as Foles, but was more successful in each element. Let’s be honest, if Bradford didn’t get injured twice do you really think the trade stakes would have been so low? Chip wanted Bradford because Foles showed glimpses of what this Offense could produce with an excellent pocket passer and that’s where Sammy B comes in.
Before we get into the nitty gritty, if you look at Nick Foles’ 2014 stats and Bradford’s stats on this season, you’ll begin to see some surprising patterns.
Are the Foles brigade still calling the trade a terrible move? The two after eight games are surprisingly close in terms of stats despite their seasons being incredibly different. Foles had Jeremy Maclin, LeSean McCoy and of course the breakouts Zach Ertz and Jordan Matthews. Bradford had a receiving core who were dropping passes every game. Both started the season weakly, but only one rebounded and showed constant signs of improvement.
“A deer in headlights” was one of the more popular terms used on social media to describe Bradford’s play in the opening few weeks, but despite this not being entirely correct..they had a point. He did look uncomfortable, his footwork looked anxious and the poor reads early on, the constant three and outs and embarrassing spurts of games without a first half touchdown were a huge cause for concern. But as the season progressed, so did Bradford’s confidence..in himself and the Offense.
In the last three games he has even ran the ball 9 times…that’s more than the rest of this season combined. That may not show signs of becoming Johnny Football but for a Quarterback shrouded by an injury cloud and one known for his pocket presence, the ability to escape the pocket and the confidence to do so is encouraging. Not only that but we saw the first read option play against Dallas where Bradford ACTUALLY TOOK THE BALL..normally it would be a handoff and a fake but for the first time this year Bradford decided to run..it speaks volumes about how much more comfortable he is becoming in this team.
Then there’s the leadership. He’s gone from criticism about being too quiet and contained to giving team talks in the showers and telling Jordan Matthews to “win the game” before that crucial final throw. The record may not be incredibly convincing and his own season stats aren’t as intimidating as they could be, but recently he had earned the respect of the locker room and has began to lead from the sidelines as his comfort and confidence in those around him increased.
After opening up the field to add the deep pass to his arsenal, Bradford again showed signs of adjustment. It was almost as if every time something new was introduced, there were teething problems for a week. It’s his first season after two consecutive ACL’s, he was always going to be rusty. Then they implement the deep ball which was met with some embarrassing reads. The screen passes when first used at a high percentage were met with balls thrown at the floor or above their intended back. But the Cowboys game was the perfect game to symbolise the evolution of Sam Bradford..every single aspect of his game looked complete.
The accuracy had always been there, it’s what made Chip so adamant he was their guy but it seemed as though Bradford needed to take a few hits to warm up. Now there’s a balance and he’s able to start games just as strong when his receivers help him out. The ball is being spread around much more evenly and the playbook has seen adaptations to suit his style. The poor reads against Dallas were few and far between and his vision was as “eagle eyed” as we have ever seen..this game was the closest we have seen to his pre-season form to date. He didn’t fire a single incompletion in overtime and averaged over 8 yards per pass, his most since the Redskins..only this time he put in a performance in all four quarters.
It’s not as though Bradford is an elite Quarterback coming into a team that plays a familiar system. This is a new, young team, with a system that is the opposite of what the Heisman winner is used to. He wasn’t going to be elite out of the box and this was very much a project. If it failed, there’s no extension..and if it passed well, we may just have our new future QB. Honestly right now, I would be happy to take Bradford into another season. It’s taken a while and it hasn’t been easy but the progression rate would have been much higher if he actually had some support. Despite this not only is he on par with Foles, he’s projected to have a career season judging off of his current stats by throwing for over 4,000 yards and could well challenge some Eagles single season records.
The thing is, Bradford hasn’t been BAD this season. He’s had moments where you want to slap him with a wet cloth to wake him up but it was never consistently on him. Every bad performance can be countered with a lack of receiving efficiency or lack of running game to help him. There were some worrying games and some moments that you did debate if this move was correct but at the half way point, this much is obvious. Bradford DOES have the ability that many claimed he didn’t. He DOES have a higher ceiling than projected and he DOES have the ability to lead this team..it was just a case of unlocking it. He’s come good at the right time as there are some tricky fixtures left to play..but if he can play as he did last weekend against the Phins and the Pats then why wouldn’t fans be excited about Bradford?!
Sam Bradford is what Nick Foles should have become. That’s why the Eagles signed him. Sure Nick Foles had that huge game against the Raiders..but most of his passes also came through short routes. Sam Bradford is able to unleash a ball down the field with such pinpoint accuracy that he could go toe to toe with the best in the business on a good day, it’s something Foles could never do along with protect the ball..or slide. Should Chip have made the trade? Absolutely. Should we sign Bradford to an extension? 70% yes, let’s wait and see what the rest of the year brings.