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QBs Line Up, Talk About The Offense


In the newly configured Eagles locker room, which is really a visit to the way it used to be, the players are lined up by position. So in the case of the quarterbacks, Sam Bradford has the "A" slot – first locker, left side – and Chase Daniel is immediately next to him. McLeod Bethel-Thompson is currently situated in a temporary locker in the middle of the room, sort of a statement for what is the state of the team's quarterback picture right now.

With the draft approaching and the buzz building to a roar, the quarterback position is the focus for so many out there. What will the Eagles do in the draft's first round? A move up? A move back? Stay at No. 8 in the first round? Just how do the Eagles see the quarterback group, not just for this year, but for the long term?

So when Bradford walked into the locker room at the NovaCare Complex on Tuesday as the team's voluntary minicamp opened, he was greeted by a throng of reporters and cameras and spent 15 minutes talking about, well, if the Eagles draft a quarterback, Sam, what happens to you …?

"I've learned to not worry about things I can't control," Bradford said, in various ways, over and over again.

What's important to the quarterbacks, all three of them on this roster, is learning the offense that head coach Doug Pederson and offensive coordinator Frank Reich are installing. It's what Pederson has termed a "hybrid" of the West Coast offense that the Eagles and then Kansas City have run with Andy Reid as the head coach. Daniel knows it well, having played in Kansas City for three seasons before signing with the Eagles as an unrestricted free agent in March.

"There are some tweaks here and there," Daniel said. "A lot of what we're going to be doing is based on what we brought from Kansas City and even in Kansas City, from the time we got there three years ago to when we left, it really took form and became a whole new identity.

"The No. 1 thing in this offense is getting lined up correctly and once you do that, then you're going to be fine. The transition for me is a lot easier because I really don't have to learn the offense. I can just go out there and play and play at a high level. I'm helping the guys around me as much as I can and that's something Doug told me that he wants me to be. A lot of guys are coming to me with questions and I'm here to help. I love that role. You have to be in that role as a quarterback."

For Bradford, this offseason is unlike the ones he has had in recent years. He emerged from the 2015 season healthy and has been able to train in the months since, rather than rehab from an injury. Bradford is stronger than he's ever been and he's confident with his place in the locker room and in the offense.

If there is any such thing as starting over, even with the draft-trade talk endless, Bradford is enjoying it with a new contract, a new coaching staff and an offense that takes a different direction from the one last season.

"Most offenses, there's always some sort of carryover. Obviously, the language is different. The way we call plays is different. The way we communicate is a little bit different, but schematically I think there are some things that are pretty similar to some of the things I've done in the past and things we did here last year," Bradford said. "Then, there are some things that aren't similar, that I haven't done before. I think there's a little bit of both."

The truth is that it comes down to semantics. Bethel-Thompson has played with San Francisco (two different offenses, so two different coaches), Miami, New England, Minnesota and now the Eagles. He knows how offenses are taught. The NFL is a copycat league, so the X's and O's are not particularly different, but the terminology can be radically different. Bethel-Thompson has been in a "digit" system, where the numbers are the plays. New England "had its own breed of language. It's its own animal in terms of verbiage," Bethel-Thompson said. San Francisco had its versions of the West Coast as did Minnesota, although Minnesota also had some elements, said Bethel-Thompson, of the run and shoot, and the Air Coryell system.

"Here, it's quarterback paradise," Bethel-Thompson said. "It's all quarterbacks, all the way through. They make it easier for us and it's so quarterback friendly. I love having the opportunity to show them what I can do."

Of course, most of the attention is on Bradford in his second year in Philadelphia. He came on strong in the second half of 2015, is healthy now – "Physically, my knee feels great," Bradford said – and is looking forward to playing in a more traditional scheme than what he played in last season. There will be some tempo in the offense, but it's not going to be 100 percent of the time. Bradford will have the option to audible, something that Chip Kelly's offense did not often employ.

There's a bit of comfort for Bradford returning to a version of the offense he learned in his early years in St. Louis.

Now he just has to ignore the outside noise and do his job and win games for the Eagles, who plan to challenge for the title in the NFC East.

"I just feel like compared to last year I'm much further along than where I was," Bradford said. "Physically, my knee feels great. I've been able to do everything. To have an offseason to actually train, it's a nice change for once."

The Eagles are looking for stability at a position that has been topsy-turvy since Donovan McNabb played through his prime seasons. The most important position gets the most attention, a fact that was hammered home once again on the first day of the voluntary minicamp at the NovaCare Complex. 

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the Eagles' voluntary minicamp as the team takes the field for the first time in preparation for the 2016 season ...

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