The Juice and the Squeeze

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Sam Bradford, Quarterback

By: Justin Salmasi

Sam Bradford’s career up to this point has been a roller coaster ride. Coming out of Oklahoma University as one of the highest graded college quarterback prospects in recent history, Bradford  hit the ground running. He broke multiple rookie records and almost led his inept Rams squad to the playoffs. Since then, Bradford’s career has been plagued with injuries and inconsistency. In many cases, he was surrounded by a less than stellar supporting cast, but nevertheless, Bradford began trending downward and was all but written off as a bust in the minds of Ram’s fans and coaches alike.

In fact, when the Eagles traded Nick Foles and a second round pick for the former first overall pick, I thought Chip had officially lost his mind. Why would he trade a proven QB who we at least believe is in “good-not-great” territory for a QB that the St Louis Rams deemed unfit to lead their impotent franchise? Why should Eagles fans feel confident about Sam Bradford?

Never Had Talent Around Him

It’s easy, and irresponsible, to say that a great QB should make his entire team better. While cases have been made in some outliers (Andrew Luck, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, etc.), most quarterbacks need at least some talent around them in order to reach their potential. The Rams fielded below average pass protection consistently over the course of Bradford’s tenure. Most of that time, if Bradford wasn’t being sacked, he had roughly three seconds to find his target before getting pummeled anyway by the opposing defense. When he was afforded time, he was normally on the money with his throws. Even those efforts were futile, because the Ram’s receiving corps also led the league in drop percentage with 13% and frequently abandoned their routes. In short, the line was useless and his receivers rarely bailed him out.

Chip Kelly never ceases to amaze me. Just when I thought he rid our offense of any talent, Bradford may be working with the most complete offense this team has had since Chip took over. DeMarco Murray, Bradford’s former college roommate and the NFL’s reigning rushing champion, is a workhorse tailback that will take much of the pressure off much like his days with Stephen Jackson. Additionally, the new receiving corps Chip has assembled is predicated on route running and getting open in space. While Nelson Agholor and Jordan Matthews may lack elite top-end speed, they were both 100+ catch possession receivers in college that rely heavily on fundamentals and physicality. They both have high motors and will push each other to be the #1 option, which will only make things easier for Bradford. While the Eagles offensive line isn’t getting any younger, they are laughably better than any unit Bradford worked with in St Louis.

Never Had a System that Catered to his Talents

While Bradford ran both Pro Style and Spread offenses during his time at OU, he particularly dominated when running the latter. Bradford doesn’t like to hold onto the ball. He has the ability to throw long, but would rather find the open receiver and move the chains. This was evident when Bradford played in St. Louis, where most of his success came in their 2-minute no huddle offense. When Pat Shurmer was the offensive coordinator during his rookie season, he realized this and called his plays accordingly. Bradford showed tremendous efficiency, which ultimately led him to winning Rookie of the Year. Since Shurmer’s departure, the Rams traditional Pro Style offense has not complimented Bradford.

Theoretically, this makes the Philadelphia Eagles and Sam Bradford a match made in heaven. In addition to reuniting with Pat Shurmer, who’s now the Eagles offensive coordinator, Bradford will be running Chip Kelly’s exclusively no-huddle, up-tempo offense. His targets will be running in space and getting open quickly, putting Bradford’s decisiveness to good use. What would otherwise resemble “game-managing” in a traditional offense could become elite level efficiency in Philadelphia. Factor all of this in along with Bradford’s highly touted mobility in the pocket, and this offense may be rolling better than ever in 2015.

The Juice is Worth the Squeeze

The only thing stopping Sam Bradford from career highs this season statistically speaking, is another freak injury. While that has proven to be a worthwhile concern, recent history has proven that athletes can bounce back from multiple ACL injuries. Also, while Bradford frequently uses his mobility to his advantage in the pocket, he is by no means a running quarterback. An ACL tear to Bradford is not the same as an ACL tear to Colin Kaepernick. He is a pure passer that has athletic ability to occasionally scamper for extra yardage, but his game does not rely on this. Also, as weird as it sounds, Chip makes a great point when he says that the Eagles were lucky that Bradford got injured again. Had that not happened, the Eagles would have had very little chance of acquiring him, as he was playing at his highest level as a pro before the setback. While that may sound a little optimistic, the reasoning is defensible and it doesn’t hurt to look at the proverbial glass as being half-full, especially if you’re an Eagles fan…

Chip Kelly sufficiently tore down “Andy’s Philadelphia Eagles” and rebuilt the team his way. Whether this will be a better team than what was fielded in 2013 remains to be seen. The only certainty is that Sam Bradford has never been in a better situation in his professional career. He now will play in an offensive system that fits his abilities. On top of that, he finally has the protection and pass-catching weapons that he has long yearned for. There’s a reason why Sam Bradford was the top overall pick and the Eagles’ highest graded QB coming out of the draft since Peyton Manning. 2015 might be the year that he finally lives up to the hype.

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