Twitter Mailbag: On Bradford, Wentz And Cox

Photo by: Jeff Fusco

Photo by: Jeff Fusco

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I don’t think it is viable. 

The fan-player relationship is one factor to consider. While the merits of Bradford’s actions can be (and have been) debated, the general perception will be difficult to overcome — that a well-paid quarterback, a fresh $5.5 million in his pocket,  opted not to show up to work and tried to bail on this team and this city when the going got tough. 

Again, the situation is more nuanced than that, but this is about perception. And if there are two things Philadelphians can’t stand, it’s 1) people shying away from adversity and 2) feeling rejected. In the case of Bradford, it’s a double-whammy.

If Bradford comes back and crushes it, much will be forgiven. Anything less than that, and yeah, it will be a tough season for No. 7 down at the Linc.

The bigger concern is whether Bradford can win back the locker room. I actually think this will be the easier feat of the two. Players tend to be more sympathetic towards their own as opposed to siding with corporate (goes for just about all professions, I guess). I’m sure many of his teammates will understand where Bradford is coming from, and might even say to themselves: You know what, Sam did get kind of screwed here. If Bradford shows up, says the right things and puts in the work, the situation could very well normalize internally. 

The problem, though, is that everyone realizes that this is nothing more than a one-year arrangement now. Even if Bradford does everything right from here on out, there’s no denying that he has one foot out the door. That’s a tough environment to be operating in. We have seen time and again how important chemistry is to a football team. I’m not sure how proper chemistry can be developed when the chosen leader essentially has his bags packed. How invested will he really be in the cause? How invested will the players allow themselves to be in him?

Every season tests the strength of the relationships inside the locker room. Under the current set-up, there is reason to wonder whether this thing is built to make it through 16-game grind. So while I think things can be patched for the short-term, I just don’t see it holding up.  

You must be reading all the pro-Wentz literature — and there’s plenty of it. Some believe that he’ll be ready to play right away including Ryan Lindley, who worked with Wentz leading up to the draft. But others forecast a rather sizable learning curve ahead.

Here are some concerns pointed out by the Pro Football Focus analysis team in its scouting report of Wentz:

• Slow to process in the passing game. Will be late on short and intermediate throws, but arm strength bails him out. Will this still work at the next level?
• Rarely got to a third read in his progression, even when running common, staple passing concepts. Their boot play had three options and Wentz would regularly miss the third receiver, even when the first two receivers were covered
• Inexperienced. Much of Wentz’s lure is the physical size and arm, but will he progress and maximize his potential?
• Accuracy at 21-30 yard range was well below average, his adjusted completion percentage of 43.5 percent ranked 23rd in the draft class. For a big-armed quarterback, has to take advantage of throws in this range to maximize his potential
• Not always nimble maneuvering the pocket. Attempted only eight passes after breaking the pocket and completed one for negative-five yards

And from Dane Brugler of CBS Sports and NFLDraftScout:

Starring at the FCS level, there will be obvious competition concerns for Wentz as he makes the leap to the NFL. He has a bad habit of staring down his reads, leading defenders to his target and making decisions pre-snap where he is going with the pass. Wentz will throw without coming to balance or setting his base and needs to improve his lower body mechanics, especially when on the move and adjusting his platform.

There are plenty of positives in both of those reports, and just about everyone recognizes the amount of upside in the QB. But most seem to feel that Wentz needs time to polish up his game for it to be NFL ready — including the Eagles, far as I can tell.

I think that’s part of the appeal of keeping Bradford on the roster. Besides giving them the best chance to win this season in their opinion, the presence of Bradford keeps Wentz tucked away deep on the depth chart, the glass to be broken only in case of emergency. Remove Bradford, and suddenly Wentz is one chinstrap away from seeing action, as an old friend liked to say.

If Bradford and the Eagles part ways, maybe we do see Wentz by midseason for one reason or another. But if Bradford stays on the team, I don’t think Wentz plays this season.

I’m leaning that way, yes, based off the following logic:

— It’s in Fletcher Cox‘s best interest. He doesn’t need to sign a new deal. He noted at the end of the year that he would be fine playing this season at his current salary of $8 million. If he makes it through unscathed, he’ll either get tagged at a handsome number or cash in with a ridiculous free-agent contract. Not bad options. There is risk involved, though. What if he gets hurt? All of a sudden, the huge numbers that are currently being discussed might be taken off the table. The lifetime financial security that was within your grasp is no longer guaranteed. From that perspective, striking a deal is the practical thing to do. 

— It is in the Eagles’ best interest. First, they want to remove this distraction to ensure that it doesn’t affect the relationship with the player or Cox’s performance moving forward. And while they do have the option to control Cox for the next couple seasons without a deal, they would just be delaying the inevitable. The longer they wait, the larger the check they will have to write. 

Given how long this has dragged out, it’s understandable that people are getting anxious about the situation. But I’m betting something gets done. That’s what makes the most sense for both sides. 

Guess I’ll go with Wendell Smallwood here. This was a unique draft for the Eagles, obviously, with the top pick likely to take the equivalent of a redshirt year and no second-rounder to speak of. Isaac Seumalo has a shot to be an impact player if he can claim the starting left guard spot, but he has competition. 

Meanwhile, there is plenty of opportunity at running back. Ryan Mathews has had trouble staying healthy over his career and Darren Sproles is going to be 33 in June. Seems to me the backfield is crying for another contributor. Add the fact that running back seems like one of the easier positions to make the NFL transition at, and it would not be very surprising to see Smallwood carve out a role in his rookie year.