As we edge closer to Philadelphia Eagles preseason action, there’s a lot to digest in regard to the state of the team. Here are a few thoughts and observations on the Eagles as they inch towards their Sunday showdown with the Indianapolis Colts.
Sam Bradford has looked good but lacks some confidence
When I traveled to “the Linc” this past Sunday, my focus was set predominantly on the performance of Sam Bradford. While Bradford earned high marks from me in regard to his ability to throw the football and operate within the pocket, the same can’t be said from a mobility standpoint. In the drills where Bradford had to move laterally and break the pocket to make an athletic play, I noticed that he looked tentative, and unwilling to move freely. This is a problem that others have identified, as Jimmy Kempski points out:
There’s no doubt that Bradford has done an excellent job in practice, however, this is within a controlled environment where he is at very little risk of re-injury. Against the Colts, Bradford will be tested, and if either his confidence in his knee or his knee itself is anything less than 100%, he is at risk.
Speaking from experience, any time you have ligaments surgically repaired, the mental-physical process of returning to form is a formidable obstacle. No matter how skilled the doctor or successful the surgery, things are never quite how they were prior to the injury, and there is a long adjustment period to once again feel comfortable. Watching Sam, its evident that he doesn’t carry himself with confidence, and doesn’t demonstrate the same athleticism that he has put on tape in previous years. Now, this isn’t a reason to panic, however, it is reason to believe that Eagles’ staff could hold out Bradford for the preseason opener.
Chip Kelly and Pat Shurmur have both declined to commit to Bradford playing in any capacity against the Colts, and its easy to understand why. Kelly simply will not put Bradford at risk if he’s moving tentatively on his knee, regardless of how proficient he’s been behind center. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bradford held out for multiple preseason games. The risk just isn’t worth the reward. Having Bradford 100% for week one is the number one priority.
Coaching staff being cautious with DeMarco Murray
I love the way that the coaching staff has handled DeMarco Murray. Murray has missed quite a bit of practice — granted, some of that was due to illness — and when he has participated, it has been on a somewhat limited basis.
Murray is coming off of a season in which he played 18 games, and touched the ball nearly 500 times; a staggering number of touches for any running back. I know this, you know this, and you better believe Chip Kelly the coach knows this after Chip Kelly the GM gave Murray $18 million guaranteed this offseason.
The Eagles are going to continue to protect their investment, and while this isn’t necessarily a huge shock, it is refreshing to see Kelly adjust and scale back his strenuous training camp program to accommodate a player who needs added recovery time. Now, I’m sure there are other variables at work here, however, given the evidence I feel as though Kelly is being cautious with Murray — at least in some capacity.
As Kelly noted earlier in camp, Murray is perhaps the most well conditioned player on the team. Murray is still getting reps, and there is little doubt in my mind that when he takes his first live hand-off that he will be ready to pound the rock.
Nelson Agholor looks dangerous…in a good way
Another player that I was excited to see in person was Nelson Agholor, and while he has been somewhat up and down during his first training camp, I liked what I saw: Agholor is the twitchiest player on the roster not named Darren Sproles, and my bet is he will quickly carve out a pretty significant offensive role. The staff continues to mix Agholor in with the 1st team during practice; it’s obvious that they want him to push for snaps.
After watching Agholor, it’s clear that he will have his issues against press-man in year one, but against zone looks he should thrive, and with the vision and suddenness that he possesses, the staff will work to get him the ball in space. Expect a lot of screens, crossers, etc., for Agholor this season.
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