Philadelphia Eagles fans have been through just about every emotion possible when it comes to Sam Bradford. Many were hesitant to get behind the former number one pick when it was announced he would leading the Eagles Offense in 2015 and the hesitation quickly turned into angst and upset for many.
But there were a handful who remained loyal, who saw what he could bring to the team and in the last few weeks that handful began to grow. Bradford seemed more comfortable, more versatile and far more accurate, even if his receivers were letting him down.
Then he led the Eagles to their first opening drive touchdown of the season and the hype finally blossomed. More and more fans were seeing what we were trying to convey he was capable of all along…and then just as the grass was looking greener, he went down with an AC Joint injury. The hearts dropped as the realisation that the success of this season could well come down to Mark Sanchez sunk in. But it runs beyond that..
Bradford was involved in numerous contract discussions before the seasons opening game to discuss extension options before settling on a single season contract. This made perfect sense for the Eagles who would get a full season to see what Bradford could do and if their worst fears were realised then he would no longer be in Philadelphia at the end of the year. But that decision may come round to bite him in the behind and here’s why…
The decision benefitted the Eagles because there were doubts over the following:
Bradford’s ability to stay healthy for a season
If he could live up to the hype predicted by many back in 2010
If he’s the right man to lead this Offense
If he could close out games in the way Foles never could (in 2014..)
And this is where it gets tricky. Because through games 1-5, there were very few highlights for Sam Bradford. Sure a lot of the blame can be placed on the O-Line, the dependence on the QB because of the lack of running game and the shambolic weekly drops and tips by wide receivers. But the “deer in headlights” comments continued to come and the signs of leadership were minimal.
But from team talks in the shower to telling Jordan Matthews to “win the game” before that emphatic game winning touchdown against Dallas, Bradford rapidly evolved as a leader in recent weeks. The nervousness seemed to minimise as the helmet clashes with teammates and chemistry begin to flow more than ever.
Bradford began to look much stronger than he had all season, the read option was being utilised much more and not only that but he was actually taking the ball himself a large percentage of the time. The tight-ends were being utilised, the accuracy was there and has only thrown under 200 yards in a game once all season. It was as though the package was finally coming together. That we didn’t need this elite mobile Quarterback so run this Offense, just an accurate pocket passer who was specially aware.
But then this is the big one. Many predicted it and unfortunately, they were right. Bradford went down with an injury that is bound to keep him sidelined for at least one week but estimated to keep him out longer. The Eagles haven’t had a Quarterback stay healthy for a full season in 7 years and whilst it’s not a torn ACL, it’s a repeat injury from what he suffered in 2009.
So the Eagles have a dilemma on their hands, for several reasons.
- IF Bradford returns before the season is up (likely) then how long will it take him to heat up again? Chances are that the game he returns for will be against the Patriots…it’s a trial by fire..again.
- Will Mark Sanchez perform better in his absence and IF he does then can the Eagles afford to let Bradford go and either stay with the Sanchize or sign someone else?
- When analysing Bradford’s 2015 campaign, do the negatives outweigh the positives?
- He’s no longer a low risk, high reward Quarterback, in fact he’s probably a high risk, medium reward..do the Eagles want to roll with that for another season after Chip’s most disappointing season yet?
If Mark Sanchez can come in and somehow light up the field and lead this team to a couple of wins and indeed the playoffs then things won’t look great for Sam Bradford. The two are almost identical when it comes to stats in the Chip Kelly Offense as it is despite vastly different situations.
If he had stayed healthy all season and played miraculously then maybe this wouldn’t even be a discussion. But up until the last three weeks he has been inconsistent for many reasons and not all fall down to him. But with the injury cloud now once again raining down over him, Chip Kelly has to decide if the inconsistencies and injury tendencies are worth enduring, or if there is a better option available in the draft or through trade/ Free Agency.
The injury may not impact his fate directly just yet, especially considering it’s his non throwing arm..but the lack of practice, game fitness etc will all come in to effect. If Sanchez begins to play well or Bradford returns and starts slow then this could well be the defining point in his season.