All-22: What To Expect From Sam Bradford
Before Sam Bradford had fielded the first question, he smiled, looked around and offered up an observation.
“It’s already more people than in St. Louis,” he said to a roomful of reporters at the NovaCare Complex.
When a quarterback is taken with the No. 1 overall pick, the expectation is that he’ll make it to the second contract with the team that drafted him. But that expectation does not always become reality. Bradford started 49 games in five seasons with the Rams. He’s been on the field for just seven games in the past two seasons, and the last time Bradford took a meaningful snap was 17 months ago.
But two ACL injuries did not dissuade Chip Kelly from making a move for the former Heisman Trophy winner.
“I think we had some inside information because [offensive coordinator] Pat Shurmur had the opportunity to coach the kid for a year [in St. Louis], so he knows what he’s like in the meeting room, and he knows what he is like on a daily basis. He knows the consistency that comes with him, and he understands his work ethic. He’s an unbelievable competitor.
“I talked to the people who have been around him who were his coaches in the NFL and who were his coaches in college. Kevin Wilson is now the head coach at Indiana and was his offensive coordinator [at Oklahoma]. I talked to Kevin about him. I talked to [Oklahoma head coach] Bob Stoops about him. The kid is wired right. He’s a competitor.”
But did Kelly make a wise gamble, giving up on Nick Foles, parting with a 2016 second-round pick and taking on $12.895 million in salary for 2015?
Below is an All-22 look at what the Eagles have in their new quarterback.
** Note that the post is split into two pages because of all the GIFs.
WHAT DOES KELLY SEE IN HIM?
Take a look at Bradford’s career stats, and there’s not a whole lot to be impressed about. He’s completed 58.6 percent of his passes, averaged 6.3 YPA, thrown 59 touchdowns and been intercepted 38 times. Among the 26 active quarterbacks who have attempted at least 1,700 passes, Bradford is the only one who has averaged under 6.5 YPA.
Only Matt Cassel, Mark Sanchez and Bradford have completed under 59 percent of their passes and averaged less than 6.9 YPA. That’s obviously not great company.
But the one number that stands out is 2.2 percent. That’s Bradford’s interception rate. Only Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady have posted a better mark among active QBs with at least 1,500 attempts. Throughout his career, Bradford has proven to be a good decision-maker who takes care of the football.
There’s been a lot of talk this offseason about the effect Kelly’s scheme can have on quarterbacks. Sanchez, for example, completed 56.3 percent of his passes and averaged 6.7 YPA with the Jets. In nine games with the Eagles, those numbers jumped to 64.1 percent and 7.8. But Sanchez’s interception rate was nearly identical (3.7 percent with the Jets; 3.6 with the Eagles).
The hope for Eagles fans is that Bradford will see a Sanchez-like jump in the first two numbers and maintain his low interception rate. If the quarterback in Kelly’s system can take care of the football, perhaps scheme can help with the rest.
“I think any QB in this league would love to play for Chip and his offense,” Bradford said. “It’s extremely QB-friendly. In the tape that I’ve watched, it looks like it’s a lot of fun to play in, and I think it’s similar to what I did in college at Oklahoma. So I’m extremely excited to be here, and I’m ready to get rolling.”
What specifically is QB-friendly about it?
“The way they set up progressions, the way the ball comes out of your hands, the way they deal with protections the run game,” Bradford continued. “Like I said, I haven’t gone into too many details. It’s only been from what I’ve seen, but from what I’ve seen it looks like everything goes through the quarterback. What do you like? How do you see things? And then they’re going to tailor it from there. They’re never going to put you in a bad situation where you have nowhere to go with the ball, and you’re standing back there holding onto the ball for five seconds.”
Bradford possesses the “repetitive accuracy” Kelly is looking for, even if the numbers don’t always show it. In 2013, Bradford completed a career high 60.7 percent of his passes. Per Pro Football Focus, the Rams had 21 drops that year, and eight balls were batted at the line of scrimmage.
Many of Bradford’s throws were shallow crossers, screens, check-downs and slants. Per PFF, just 45.9 percent of Bradford’s passing yards were through the air. That ranked 40th out of 41 quarterbacks. Put more simply, 54.1 percent of his passing yards were accounted for by receivers after the catch.
Bradford did show the ability to fit the ball into tight windows. Here’s an example where he squeezes one in between Falcons defenders.
And a similar play here against the Cowboys:
He does a good job with ball placement too, here getting it past the diving linebacker, but still in a place where the receiver can make the grab:
Accuracy and decision-making. The guess here is that those are the two traits Kelly saw on tape when deciding whether or not to make a play for Bradford.
CAN HE GET IT DOWNFIELD?
The 2013 Rams offense was the definition of dink and dunk. Per PFF, only 8.4 percent of Bradford’s passes traveled 20+ yards downfield. That ranked 37th out of 40 quarterbacks. Remember last year when it seemed like the Eagles never went downfield once Sanchez took over? Even then, 12 percent of Sanchez’s passes went 20+ yards downfield.
Overall, 133 of Bradford’s 159 completions in 2013 (83.6 percent) came within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage.
But much of the Eagles’ offense the past two years has been about chucking it downfield. They see a lot of single-high looks, and defenses have had to respect the run game. In 2014, the Eagles’ passing game produced 63 plays of 20+ yards, third in the league. In 2013, that number was 80, tops in the NFL.
It’s fair to wonder whether Bradford can push the ball downfield effectively in this offense.
The tape suggests he can. Bradford’s 40.9 percent accuracy mark (PFF) was middle of the pack (21st out of 40). But he shows good touch and doesn’t miss a lot of wide-open guys downfield when he has time in the pocket.
Here, against the Panthers, Bradford steps up in the pocket and unloads a beautiful bomb on the post. The ball travels about 50 yards through the air and hits the receiver in stride:
Here against the Jaguars, Bradford looks off the middle-of-the-field safety and drops one in the bucket down the right sideline:
Both the plays above came off play-action. For some reason, with Bradford, the Rams only used play-action on 19 percent of their passes, per PFF. That ranked 26th out of 41 quarterbacks. But his numbers on those throws were really good – 65.4 percent completions, 9.7 YPA. Bradford’s 111.5 passer rating off play-action in 2013 ranked seventh.
The Eagles are a big play-action team. And Bradford should get plenty of more opportunities to lure defenders up with play-fakes before taking shots downfield.
Questioning whether Bradford’s lack of deep attempts in St. Louis was his fault or offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer’s fault is fair. In 2013, after Kellen Clemens took over, the Rams still were mostly dink and dunk. Just 10.3 percent of Clemens’ passes went 20+ yards downfield (33rd).
But in 2014, Austin Davis ranked 12th in that category (13.7 percent), and Shaun Hill ranked 16th (12.7 percent). Perhaps the Rams made an effort to push the ball downfield more in 2014, or maybe the specific quarterbacks just liked to take more shots.
On tape, there were not a lot of instances where Bradford had guys open downfield and checked it down. But he also didn’t seem like much of a risk-taker either.