The trade of Nick Foles to the St. Louis Rams for Sam Bradford has been met with some hand-wringing among fans of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Now, this is understandable. Some fans still think Foles is the guy who had just two interceptions in 2013, so trading him for a quarterback who is coming off his second ACL surgery (on the same ACL per ESPN) certainly might make some think head coach Chip Kelly is a bit loony.
I happen to think the jury should still be out, though I am far from Bradford’s biggest fan.
That’s not to say I dismiss the idea that he can be successful in Philadelphia out of hand. In fact, this could be a much better situation for Bradford than anything he had in St. Louis.
Now before we get into this, I should acknowledge that the two ACL injuries are a concern. ACL injuries are freaky things, and unlike a recurring hamstring injury or back problem, better conditioning, weight training or diet won’t help you avoid them. Theoretically, Bradford’s ACL should be stronger now than it was before.
However, that wouldn’t prevent it from tearing it again if he twisted it wrong.
So before anything else, I have to admit that if he cannot stay on the field none of the rest of this matters. But since you can’t predict injuries most of the time, let’s put that aside and pretend health is not an issue while he is an Eagle.
There are several factors which will help Bradford be successful in a way he hasn’t before.
Pro Football Focus has the Eagles’ offensive line ranked as the second best line in the NFL for last season. The line was ranked 10th in pass blocking and 1st in run blocking, but was ranked 27th in penalties (too many false starts).
I often disagree with PFF’s rankings, and I think this is a tad high, but there’s no doubt that the line rebounded at mid-season after a litany of injuries wrecked them in the first half of the year.
This year the line should enter the season at 100 percent healthy and while they could improve pass blocking a little, overall they should be as strong as they were in the second half last season.
Meanwhile the Rams were the second-worst line in the NFL last season and I can’t argue a lot with that, even after several acquisitions to improve the line.
This would be a huge improvement in protection for Bradford, and should see an equal improvement in his effectiveness and to some extent, his health.
Kelly and the Eagles like to keep things moving, which makes it harder for defenses to adjust their attack and making things a bit easier for the offense, especially once the defense wears down.
It’s not that the Rams were slugs or anything, but like most NFL teams, they took their time. Without a good line and with middling weapons, Bradford (and his replacements when he was hurt) were facing defenses which adjusted to their offense frequently and effectively.
A faster pace will test Bradford a little bit, but as it’s a similar offense to what he ran in Oklahoma, he should be able to adjust to the pace more easily given his familiarity.
The quicker decisions and pace could lift Bradford’s numbers again as teams cannot adjust quickly and he can just read and react.
Would you rather have Zac Stacy and Tre Mason or DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews? Behind the offensive line the Eagles have, the latter is a much better combination.
Having a solid running game behind a great offensive line is nothing but good for Bradford. Defenses will have to keep defenders in the box to hold down the running backs and let the receivers get a little more space to move. It also prevents the defense from just pinning their ears back and blitzing because they won’t get burned by a running back.
If there is one way this doesn’t fall in Bradford’s favor, it’s that the receivers he has in Philadelphia are not appreciably better than what he had in St. Louis.
Considering some of the guys he has thrown to, that’s a little scary, right?
But Riley Cooper isn’t a number one receiver by any stretch, nor is Josh Huff. Kenny Britt, Tavon Austin and Brian Quick weren’t world beaters either (and Bradford didn’t get to use Britt because of his injury).
Jared Cook has more talent than Brent Celek, but he hasn’t shown it since joining the Rams.
So one of the things which was problematic for Bradford isn’t better as of right now in Philadelphia. They can still add someone from free agency, though the pickings are slim. Or the team can draft a receiver, although they are too far back in the first round to get the cream of the crop.
Still, overall, things are set up for Bradford to improve this year with the Eagles and potentially reach the potential we thought he had when he was drafted.
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