This is the second season for Sam Bradford and for an offense that has had its share of warts and inconsistencies and traumas in Season No. 1. A deep breath. A new focus. A sense of purpose, understanding that the wrongs must be righted starting on Sunday night in Arlington, Texas against the Dallas Cowboys.
The minute-by-minute progress report on Bradford, playing in 2015 after missing all of 2014 and the final nine games of 2013 with back-to-back knee injuries is trending in the right direction.
"I think I feel more comfortable in the pocket. I feel like my pocket movement and awareness has been better. I think my play has still been inconsistent and I think there are things that I've got to do better to put us in better situations out there, but I do feel like I have improved," Bradford said, having just finished a conference call with Dallas reporters, explaining everything from his progress to the Dallas defense, to a reported contract offer from the Eagles that Bradford says never came, to a scouting report on running back DeMarco Murray.
And, yeah, there were questions about his play and the offense and the steps, tiny at times, made by Bradford and his offensive mates through seven games this season.
"I think, sometimes, our culture and society today, people want to see results right now," Bradford said. "But it takes time."
Ah, but gradual improvement is hard to digest for a fan base that saw Bradford tear up the preseason operating a breakneck offense that led the NFL in scoring. And it's not exactly as Bradford and the Eagles planned as they carefully measured his reps in the spring Organized Team Activities and his action in Training Camp and then made sure he got through the preseason games healthy and, they thought, sharp.
Turns out, it's impossible to replicate the speed of the regular season, along with the coaching adjustments and the defensive schemes and the overall precision needed to excel at the quarterback position once the games count in the standings.
"I think when you come into a situation like this you obviously hope that the adjustment period is going to be as short as possible, but I think any time you change systems, you're learning a new offense, I think there is sort of a period of time when you're still learning the offense," Bradford said. "You're still learning your personnel. Obviously, the way we played in the preseason it appeared that it was going to be shorter than it was, but realistically when you look at it you know it's going to take some time and you just trust in the process and you continue to work and you continue to get better knowing that eventually things are going to turn around."
They haven't turned around, not all the way. The Eagles are coming off a welcomed bye week and Bradford used it to get away from the game and exhale. In retrospect, it was a tall order for the Eagles to come out firing on all cylinders in September with an offense featuring a new quarterback, two new starters up front, a new backfield and new pieces at receiver. Too much, too quickly.
The Eagles have made a lot of progress offensively since the Week 1 loss in Atlanta, and they're going to have a chance to see what kind of steps they've taken on Sunday night. Dallas shut the Eagles down at Lincoln Financial Field in a 20-10 Cowboys victory in September, one of the ugliest games in a long, long time.
"You could ask anyone in our locker room. I think we all feel better with what we're doing now. We've all grown more confident with what we're doing now and I think the overall feeling is that we just have a better feeling about things now," Bradford said. "Dallas has some key guys back since we played them and in the last couple of weeks they've been playing really well on defense. It's not extremely complex scheme-wise, but the guys they have play hard and I think their pass rush is much improved since we played them. They seem to be getting after the quarterback so we have to be balanced and do a good job running the football and I've got to do a good job making decisions and getting the ball out of my hand."
It's a one-game season – one game, one week, actually. That is the message from head coach Chip Kelly and the players certainly understand the scenarios. The NFC East is a jumble of four teams. Dallas has lost five straight games and a modest winning streak away from rising to the top of the foursome. The Eagles are just looking for it all to come together as they chase the elusive 60-minute top-notch performance.
"It's coming together. I really believe that," Bradford said. "That's what we're working for. One game, one week and we're focused on Dallas."