After returning from the Senior Bowl around the end of January, Doug Pederson started the evaluation process of the Eagles roster with his coaching staff, beginning with the most important position: quarterback.
According to Pederson, “it didn’t take long” for him to determine that he wanted Bradford back, whom he liked as a prospect coming out of Oklahoma.
“We’re so excited. I’m so excited.” Pederson said. “I also want these players that are free agents to want to be here, and he wants to be here. That’s probably 90 percent — I want all of them to be here, but having Sam is obviously a big boost now heading into free agency.”
Pederson called Bradford’s tape toward the end of last season “very promising” because the quarterback felt more comfortable in the pocket, he trusted his teammates more and he was calm under pressure.
“His best days are ahead of him,” Pederson said. “What he did toward the end of the season last year, building on that. He mentioned continuity — he knows the team, he knows the players. It might be a little different set of plays that we’re installing, but he knows the guys. That right there leads me to believe that we can have success.”
Although the perception after Pederson’s hiring was that he was partially brought in to be Howie Roseman’s ‘Yes Man’ on personnel decisions, the head coach said he wasn’t shy about sharing his opinion on Bradford.
“[I was] real vocal, actually, to be quite honest with you. As I evaluated the tape from last year and got together with [offensive coordinator] Frank [Reich] and [quarterbacks] coach [John] DeFilippo, just getting everybody’s opinion, [we] felt strongly about having Sam back.
“I think having played the position [in the NFL] and understanding the position, and coached the position, [that] makes a big impact with the people you talk to in the organization. They want your opinion. They want you to voice your opinion. With this situation here, I think it was key that they understood where I was coming from in order to get Sam signed.”
One reason to believe Bradford will improve in 2016, according to Pederson, is that the quarterback will have much more freedom at the line of scrimmage to change plays or calls. He said the way Pat Shurmur organized the offense in the last week of the season is “very similar” to the offensive structure Pederson brings in terms of flexibility for the quarterback.
“That’s a big weapon in today’s football, because defenses are so complex nowadays,” Pederson said. “Not so much audibles and checks, but just subtle things that can really make a big difference in the course of a football game. He’s accustomed to that, he’s been used to that. He’s an extremely sharp guy, intelligent guy. Offensively, we’ll benefit from having his mind.”
Although the Eagles re-signed Bradford, they may still draft a quarterback next month. Pederson appeared open to the idea of selecting a quarterback, but he seemed a bit more dubious that it would happen in the first round.
“Oh, I don’t know about 13,” Pederson said. “Obviously, if the right guy is at 13. We’ve also got to do what’s best for the Philadelphia Eagles and that’s a critical spot.”
Pederson touched on a few other topics, including how the Eagles will remain at the NovaCare Complex for training camp instead of returning to Lehigh. He was also asked whether DeMarco Murray is happy in Philadelphia, which he responded to with much less certainty.
“I don’t know. I haven’t talked to him,” Pederson said. “I can’t tell you one way or the other if he is or not. I’d love to have him.”