The fact that anyone is giving Sam Bradford the blame for the Philadelphia Eagles‘ loss in Week 1 is absurd. By no means did Bradford have a perfect game, but for someone who hadn’t played a regular season game in nearly two years, that was pretty darn good.
He finished the game 36-for-52 with 336 passing yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Again, that stat line isn’t amazing, as many of his passes were short underneath throws. But remember that that’s the kind of offense that the Eagles run, and it’s exactly what they wanted Bradford to do. In terms of execution, he got it done.
One of Bradford’s best attributes ever since college was his accuracy, which he seemed to apply again in Week 1 against the Falcons. He did struggle a bit with this in the first half, missing a few of his throws while he got back in the groove of things. But this was to be expected. The offensive line featured two new guards, and he was playing with an entire new group of guys. It would be naive to think he wasn’t going to be rusty.
As a Pro Football Focus article pointed out today, Bradford only averaged 3.7 yards per attempt in the first quarter, a very low number. However, I think this was by design. It would be foolish to bring in someone who has missed as much time as Bradford and have him slinging down the field every other play. You have to give him a few short, quick passes early on in order to give him some confidence for the rest of the game. The same article pointed out that each quarter his average yards per attempt increased, including 9.1 in the fourth quarter.
While I do deem Bradford’s performance as “strong,” I’m using that term relatively. He did grade negatively overall (-1.4) according to PFF, as he did throw two interceptions. The first one was definitely his fault, but the second one was thrown right into the hands of Jordan Matthews, who let it slip through and into the hands of a defender. Punishing Bradford for that throw would be wrong.
Also, Bradford was under pressure the whole night, as the Eagles’ offensive line allowed Falcons’ defenders through plenty of times. According to PFF, he was pressured on 11 drop-backs, completing 5-of-11 of those throws for 48 yards. He actually threw his one touchdown while getting blitzed. While he certainly will need to improve his throws while under pressure, he’s faced this before while in St. Louis, so he has experience. In addition, he will have plenty of time to work on this as the season goes on.
Also, even though he seemed to be dealing with a lot of pressure, he was still sacked zero times. I chalk this up more to the fast release and decision-making of Bradford than the offensive line’s performance. Based on all the penalties the line got (six, plus one by Brent Celek), they were having trouble handling the Atlanta front seven. I truly believe that if the Eagles still had a quarterback who took too long to throw (I’m looking at you, Nick Foles), they would’ve been sacked three to four times. Even getting a pass off out of bounds is better than taking a loss due to a sack. This attribute is another that will help the Eagles throughout the season.
The biggest takeaway I had from Bradford’s performance was actually related to all the pressure he dealt with. The fact that he was able to take as many hits as he did and still get up each time was telling. It proves that he can indeed hang around in a full NFL game, something that many people questioned going into the season. Bradford’s health is a key factor in the Eagles’ success this year, so they will have to protect him better, but he did a good job of getting rid of the ball when he needed to and taking the hit.
If Bradford can use the accuracy he employed in the second half against the Falcons and maintain that for the rest of the season, he will surely continue to have a productive year as the quarterback in Philadelphia.
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