All-22: What To Expect From Sam Bradford
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CONCERNS?
The biggest issue here is whether Bradford can stay healthy.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t going to be a little nervous the first time I stepped on the field,” Bradford said. “I think anyone who has gone through what I’ve gone through will be a little nervous to step back on the field, but I’m sure once I get out there and the bullets start flying, when I take that first it, I’ll probably shake it off and I’ll be just fine.
“The second time around, it was probably harder mentally than it was physically. To put all the work in to come back and to be ready, I felt like I was playing at a very high level in training camp last year. To have that all taken away again, there was a brief period of time where I really wasn’t sure that I wanted to go through it again. I went home, kind of cleared my head for a week and realized that there’s no way that football can not be a part of my life.”
On the field, the biggest concern is one that applies to many quarterbacks: reacting to pressure.
In many of the clips above, Bradford had a nice, clean pocket. When that’s the case, he can be very effective. But when things start to break down around him, the results are often disastrous.
According to PFF, Bradford completed just 38.8 percent of his attempts and averaged 5.0 YPA in 2013 when pressured. Granted, every QB’s numbers are going to go down when pressured, but those are particularly ugly.
On tape, a couple things stand out. One, Bradford has very little escapability. Russell Wilson, for example, gets more dangerous the longer he holds onto the ball. The opposite is true for Bradford. His attempts to extend plays and get away from pressure often lead to negative results.
Here against the 49ers, it looks like there’s a giant lane to take off and scramble. Bradford tries that, and the edge defender closes quickly for the sack:
Here against the Cardinals, he clumsily reacts to pressure, tries to take off and loses the football:
While Bradford’s interception rate is excellent, he’s fumbled 27 times in 49 games.
The feel for navigating the pocket just isn’t there at times. Here against Jacksonville, it looks like Bradford initially has a clean pocket, but he shuffles right into the left tackle who’s getting pushed back, trips and takes a sack:
Greg Cosell and other analysts often talk about making plays inside and outside of structure. With Bradford, it’s never good when he gets outside of structure.
Even when he gets passes off, pressure really affects Bradford’s accuracy and decision-making. And eight batted passes in seven games for a 6-foot-4 quarterback is concerning.
Here against the 49ers, he has a defender in his face and is nearly picked off.
Against Dallas, the right guard gets walked back into his face, and Bradford sails one for the interception.
When the pocket is clean, and Bradford can get rid of the ball in a timely manner, he’s pretty good. When receivers are covered or protection breaks down, he’s a mess.
Bradford played in a spread offense at Oklahoma and sees some similarities to what the Eagles do.
“I think making quick decisions, getting the ball out of your hands,” he said. “A lot of the run-pass options are similar to what we did in college. Obviously not me running the football, but the running backs with some of the quick game and then pushing the ball down the field and play-action. There’s just a lot of carry-over to what we did at Oklahoma. And I think my skill set fits that perfectly.”
The good news? Through two years, Kelly’s scheme has produced far more open receivers than Bradford saw with the Rams. Bradford’s completion percentage and YPA should jump in this offense. If he can stay healthy and continue to make good decisions, the Eagles might have something. Bradford threw 13 touchdowns and no interceptions in the red zone in 2013. And he had a 112.4 passer rating against the blitz.
The bad news? With Jeremy Maclin gone, the Eagles have an unimpressive group of pass-catchers. And if they suffer injuries or decline on the offensive line, things could get ugly with Bradford.
From an athleticism standpoint, he ran a 4.79 coming out of Oklahoma. But in the NFL, Bradford has not been a threat to make plays with his legs. He had one 23-yard scramble in 2013, but ran for just 8 yards on his other 14 attempts. On designed rollouts and bootlegs, he’s fine. But don’t expect Bradford to keep the ball much on zone reads.
There’s no guarantee that Bradford is in Philadelphia after the draft. Given his salary and injury history, there are obvious risks. But Kelly clearly saw enough to pull the trigger on last week’s deal and believes Bradford can resurrect his career in a new home.
“I think that I have a lot to prove,” Bradford said. “I have a lot to prove to everyone in this building. I think Coach Kelly took a leap of faith bringing me here. Obviously he believes in me, and now it is time to prove to everyone else in this building that I belong here.
“I’ve had [football] taken away from me twice in the past two years. And I think when something’s taken away from you, you really realize how much you love it.”