Four Downs: Sam Bradford’s Debut
The Eagles beat the Ravens, 40-17, in their second preseason game. Here’s what we noted.
MOST TELLING STAT
6.3: That’s how many yards per carry the Eagles averaged last night. Both DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews ran for touchdowns—Kevin Monangai added 87 yards and one of his own—but the spotlight shouldn’t be on the running backs. Instead, it should be on the left side of the Eagles’ offensive line.
Jason Peters handled Terrell Suggs masterfully on passing plays, but he may have been even more impressive in the run game. He did a fantastic job of second-level blocking, which was the key to Mathews’ 14-yard touchdown.
Watch below (courtesy of the Eagles) as Peters quickly stands up Suggs so Brent Celek has time to get inside leverage and seal off the ‘C’ gap. Peters then runs five yards down field to block inside linebacker C.J. Mosley, a 2014 Pro Bowler, to allow Mathews to run into the end zone untouched.
However, Allen Barbre, Jason Kelce and Celek also did well with run-blocking; even Trey Burton has shown significant improvement in that area. After Evan Mathis’ departure, all of the attention has been on the right guard position. But Barbre’s preseason performance explains why few people are concerned about the left guard spot.
DID YOU NOTICE?
The defensive line has a lot of talent. No, I’m not talking about Bennie Logan or Fletcher Cox or Cedric Thornton. I’m talking about the back-ups, like Brandon Bair. Or even the third-stringers who may not make the roster, like Brian Mihalik.
Their depth is particularly evident in the run game.
“The run technique and the run fits have been really solid,” Bill Davis said recently about his defense in training camp and the first preseason game. “We’re building nice walls in the run game [and that] is what we try to do as a two‑gap base defense.”
I think he’s still on the outside looking in, but Mihalik is making a push to survive the cut when the roster is trimmed to 53 players. He did a nice job rushing the passer and caused disruption in the backfield several times last night.
Sam Bradford’s performance in his Eagles debut showed why some media criticized Chip Kelly’s decision to sit the quarterback in the preseason opener. Bradford looked unsurprisingly rusty in his first NFL game in 355 days—although I still consider that criticism unwarranted as he has two more preseason games to get reacquainted.
Bradford completed three of his five passes for 35 yards and overthrew the receiver on each incompletion. Although he was only credited with a pair of incomplete passes, he had two more that were nullified because of penalties. He consistently overthrew his receivers, whether it was on short, intermediate or deep routes.
Bradford missed Riley Cooper on a seam route that could have been a big play and was hesitant—with a hitch in his motion—on another incompletion. Bradford’s performance leaves me unconcerned, however, and I’d be surprised if his accuracy doesn’t improve as he gets more in-game experience under his belt.
Why were each QB's passes incomplete?
|Quarterback||Bad Throw||Dropped||Thrown Away||Pressure|
As for his backups, Mark Sanchez had the best performance after turning in the worst game last week. Many thought immediately after the game that Matt Barkley looked better in the “eye test,” but the biggest criticism of Sanchez proved unwarranted.
Some pointed to the fact that many of Sanchez’s throws were check-downs, which was true. Only five of Sanchez’s 14 completions traveled more than five yards. However, only one of Barkley’s six completions was a throw longer than five yards. Sanchez completed 14 of his 20 passes for 118 yards, whereas Barkley finished 6-for-14 for 86 yards.
Tim Tebow, meanwhile, was unimpressive through the air. He often held onto the ball for a long time and missed open targets twice in the end zone. On one play, he made a very inaccurate throw to Freddie Martino. On another, he tucked the ball and ran it, despite Mike Johnson standing wide open in the end zone after his defender fell.
Tebow did, however, run the ball three times for 31 yards.
The Eagles have played extremely well so far in the preseason, but don’t get carried away. One reason the offense has put so many points on the board is their pace.
“When you add the tempo, it just doesn’t give them enough time to really react,” Bradford said after the win over the Ravens. “I think they’re still trying to communicate when we’re snapping the ball.”
Why does that matter? Well, opposing teams don’t game-plan for Kelly’s tempo, and are often at a disadvantage because of it.
“The tempo of the offense was tough and that’s something that we hadn’t prepared for,” John Harbaugh said. “We didn’t prepare for it by design. It’s not something we’re going to prepare for. I guess in the preseason it’s pretty effective in that sense.”
Yes, tempo didn’t help Kenjon Barner on his punt returns and it didn’t help the defensive line dominate. But don’t start dreaming of the Super Bowl just yet because of the Eagles’ impressive performance in the preseason.