With Mandatory Minicamp coming to a close and the quarterback controversy in Philadelphia finally resolved, it means we can finally take a step back and look at the bigger picture. We have learned a lot about Pederson’s Offense since OTA’s began and while there’s plenty to be excited about, from the backfield to the use of tight ends..there should be a lot of promise around one player in particular. A player Eagles fans were quick to turn their backs on a few weeks ago, Sam Bradford.
Bradford returned from his holdout with an accepting demeanor and went on to have some very promising practice sessions. For those doubting his leadership, he’s even arranged a passing camp in San Diego. A passing camp that rookie quarterback Carson Wentz is also invited to.
In terms of what we know about Pederson’s Offense to this point, the fundamentals are as follows.
– A heavy focus on the backfield
– Emphasis on versatility & developing tight ends and wide receivers
– Pederson believes in the talent and depth on the O-line
– Quarterback will have substantial control over Offense during the game
– Unpredictability and experimental formations mean the Offense is hard to plan for early on..giving the Eagles an edge
What does this mean for Sam Bradford? We’ll start with the backfield. Everybody is quick to slam the former number one overall pick, claiming that his record is disappointing for someone with as much experience and prestige as Bradford. He’s never been to the playoffs and has a 25-37 record. But what people fail to realize is that he suffered many of the same problems with the Rams as he did under Chip Kelly. A weak offensive line and a lack of help both behind him and around him.
So what about when there IS help around Bradford? I wrote an article earlier this year detailing how when his team has rushed for 100 yards, he’s a much better quarterback. This may sound like an obvious statement but if you examine the records of some notable quarterbacks in 2015 when their team has 100 rushing yards, it becomes anything but.
Alex Smith 10-3
Russell Wilson 10-5
Sam Bradford 7-1
Ryan Fitzpatrick 7-1
Kirk Cousins 6-1
Jameis Winston 5-7
Matt Ryan 5-4
Tom Brady 5-1
Derek Carr 4-2
Matt Stafford 4-2
Drew Brees 4-2
Blake Bortles 3-2
Ryan Tannehill 3-3
Eli Manning 2-2
Marcus Mariota 2-5
As you can see, Bradford fared extremely well when the Offense had a balance between the pass and the rush. The name at the top of the list? Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith. With Doug Pederson as his Offensive Coordinator, Smith experienced a committee backfield similar to the one that the Eagles will deploy in 2016. Pederson not only knows how to balance his Offense (after taking the reins for the second half of games after week 7), but does so in a way where the quarterback is able to thrive. What made the Reid/Pederson Offense last year so dangerous? The same things we’re talking about in this article..
I’m sure there will be those who wonder if the above statistic is misleading? Again, it’s anything but when you look at the pass/run distribution for both teams last year. The Chiefs ran a total of 473 passing plays in 2015 and 436 rushing. The Eagles however, ran 623 passing plays and 442 rushing..a stark contrast that if anything further highlights Bradford’s suitability to a balanced scheme.
We also learned more about how much control the quarterback will have at the line of scrimmage under Doug Pederson. Sam Bradford will be able to call audibles, make adjustments and have a much more significant role on the Offense in comparison to last year..but just how much more control will he have?
— Neil Hornsby (@PFF_Neil) June 9, 2016
The Eagles ranked dead last in the NFL when it came to a “shift or motion” before the snap of the ball with just 11% of their plays seeing one. The Chiefs? 33%. If we’re to use this as a rough guideline, that’s three times the amount of audibles that could well be available to Bradford in 2016. For those who criticized his leadership throughout the 2015 campaign, there’s only so much leadership you can demonstrate on the field in such a plug-and-play Offense.
With Travis Kelce enjoying a monster year in 2015 and Zach Ertz ending his season in a historical fashion, it’s safe to assume that Ertz will play a prominent role in 2016..especially after signing a new contract during the offseason. A reliable pair of hands for Bradford is exactly what he needs as the receiving corps is set to discover its identity under Doug Pederson..just as The Chiefs began to in 2014.
In terms of the Offensive Line, the Chiefs absorbed a lot of pressure in 2015, ranking as the 30th most efficient line in the league when it comes to pass blocking. The good news for Pederson is that the birds have invested heavily in their offensive line this off-season. From third round pick Isaac Seumalo to the huge signing of Brandon Brooks, the right side of the line looks extremely intimidating while the left hand side will likely play host to competition and slight weakness in 2016. A slight weakness on the left hand side is nothing compared to the inconsistencies faced last year by both the Chiefs and the Eagles.
Then, there’s the similarities between Bradford and Alex Smith. Like Smith prior to the Jim Harbaugh affiliation, Bradford is still searching for stability and comfort..something he is yet to find in the NFL. Even during his time with the Rams, Bradford played in a carousel of Offensive Coordinators and Head Coaches.
Yet during a six year span, Bradford has actually had more success than Alex Smith. Smith’s development after he got over the hump has spiked. It’s not crazy to think that Bradford’s career won’t at least show signs of promise as he plays under a Head Coach who helped turn Alex Smith’s career around.
The bad news is that this could well be Bradford’s last season in Philadelphia. With Wentz in the wings and the controversy being buried in the ground as quickly as possible, Bradford is very aware of the situation and if he plays to the level that this offense could be setting him up to reach, then there could be a very competitive market for him at the end of the season. The good news is of course that it instills confidence in Carson Wentz and gives him a season to marinate under a veteran quarterback on the rise and a coaching system primed to aid his development.
Pederson’s Offense essentially leaves Bradford no excuses. It’s his last ride. His one last shot to prove that IF:
He can stay healthy
There is help around him
The Offensive Line can protect the quarterback efficiently
The Eagles can establish a running game
He has control over the Offense and can demonstrate his leadership
His receivers aren’t plagued with issues of their own
then he can emerge as a top tier NFL quarterback. It’s both a blessing and a curse for Sam Bradford..who along with A group of coaches who have developed some of the most exciting names in the game, has everything he’s ever wanted. It’s sink or swim for Sam Bradford in 2016..the excuses have dried out and he’s dug himself a hole at the worst possible time. All chips are on the table for Sam Bradford. No more excuses, no more rose tinted glasses, no more second chances. This HAS to be the year he was destined to have if his career is to extend past the end of his contract with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Photo credit: Steve DelVecchio / Larry Brown Sports / Yardbarker