Philadelphia Eagles News

Bradford Set For His Best NFL Football

Sam Bradford is the starting quarterback for the Eagles now, no matter how many times and in how many different ways the media ask the question. He emerged from the spring playing football that inspired his coaches to rave about his performance.

"Sam hasn't only been good in OTAs, he's been great," offensive coordinator Frank Reich said in early June. "His production, everything about the way he has performed in OTAs has been, and it's not an overstatement to say this, off the charts. He's really been good."

Said quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo about Bradford: "The first thing I noticed with Sam is that his confidence seems to be where he left off last season. As I came in here and watched the end of the (2015) season you could see his confidence grow as the season went on. I think the majority of that confidence came with the fact that he was healthy and that's carried over. When you watch Sam practice, the ball doesn't touch the ground a lot. He's going to the right places with the football, he throws a very catchable ball and our receivers are doing a nice job for him."

Quarterback is, of course, a position of great scrutiny and conversation with the Eagles, as it is with every team. This big picture is different, yes, and it is unique. The Eagles signed Bradford to a two-year contract prior to the start of free agency, added Chase Daniel on a three-year deal once free agency began and then, through a two-step trade process, moved up to No. 2 in the first round of the draft to select Carson Wentz from North Dakota State.

And after all of the external chatter and conjecture cleared, it became obvious how the Eagles planned to align the room. The pecking order is Bradford at the front as the starting quarterback, and then Daniel at No. 2 as the veteran steady hand, and then Wentz as the rookie learning the ins and outs of the NFL as the quarterback of the future.  Every player understands the situation in the quarterback room. Each of them has been asked extensively about the relationships within that room and each of them have spoken in positive, team-oriented, all-for-one, one-for-all terms.

A quarterback "conundrum," as is suggested in the media? That's not how the Eagles see it. The Eagles are bullish on Bradford as he enters Training Camp fully healthy and well-versed in the X's and O's. A year ago, if you recall, Bradford had not yet taken a snap in 11-on-11 practices. His spring work, coming off two knee surgeries and after the Eagles acquired him in a trade with St. Louis, was limited to 7-on-7 work and positional drills as the Eagles worked him slowly back to shape.

Bradford and the Eagles' offense struggled early in the 2015 season, but by the end of the year he was a much-improved player. His leg strength was evident. His accuracy was better. He trusted his receivers and at the end of the schedule Bradford completed 65 percent of his passes and threw for more than 3,700 yards and showed enough that the Eagles made it a priority to sign him before free agency began.

The Sam Bradford of 2016 is on track to play his best football in an offense that has his skill set in mind and that understands, with former quarterbacks Doug Pederson, Reich and DeFilippo at the helm, the challenges of the position.

"I do think my best football is ahead of me," Bradford said in the spring. "I'm healthy and I'm comfortable in this offense. It's been a really good spring for me and for all of us as we have learned the offense. I like what we're doing out there."

Of course, the football in the fall hardly resembles the spring two-handed-touch version. The tempo changes, the quarterbacks put their red jerseys (do not touch!) to the side and defenses game plan to disrupt the flow and rhythm of the guy dropping back and delivering the football. It is all speculative at this point to project Bradford's performance starting on September 11.

But the Eagles are giving Bradford what he needs to succeed. The offensive line has improved greatly with the addition of Brandon Brooks at right guard. Veteran additions Rueben Randle and Chris Givens bolster the wide receiver corps. Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, Kenjon Barner and rookie Wendell Smallwood comprise a running back corps that is wide open and competitive for playing time.

The idea is that Bradford carries forward the momentum generated in the spring and that the Eagles' offense quickly finds its personality and confidence. There are no quarterback questions inside the Eagles' organization, just enthusiasm for Bradford to be the starter, for Daniel to be the know-everything No. 2 and for Wentz to develop for the future.

As Training Camp begins and the scrutiny ratchets up, the Eagles like what they've created at quarterback. Now we're about to see how it all unfolds, when what happens on the field does all the talking.

"I really like where Sam is," DeFilippo said in the spring. "I'm very pleased with the progress he's made. I love what I've seen with him being 'the guy.' His confidence is growing. In the last six or seven practices he has been more boisterous and his cadence is getting stronger and those little things that you see with a veteran as he takes over an offense are impressive to all of us."

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