[Ed. note: The following is authored by BGN Radio host John Barchard. John has been tweeting about Sam Bradford a lot lately so he figured it would be best to turn his thoughts into a series of posts. Here's the third and final piece in his three-part series. Check out "Misconceptions about Sam Bradford" and "Reasons to be concerned about Sam Bradford" here.]
The Sam Goodford
Last week I went over four things that concerned me with Sam Bradford's game. As important as it was to see the unspectacular parts of his career, it's minimal compared to how good he is and how great he can be here in Philadelphia. Obviously his success relies on his health and shaking off rust, but even if it's only for a day here's why you should get excited for Sam Bradford.
It's the first thing that jumps off the screen when you look at his tape. It's not only his power, but also his accuracy on intermediate and deep passes. Bradford's bread and butter throw is on out routes. Whether it's 5, 10, or 15 yards, that ball is humming and it's exactly where it needs be... even if Bradford is on the run:
The other thing that sticks out is his incredible touch on the deeper routes and the jaw dropping accuracy. It almost fools you the first time you watch it, like there's not enough oomph on the pass but time after time he's dropping these throws in the bucket.
The Tight Window Throw, Back Shoulder Throw, and Ball Placement
What impressed me the most was Bradford's ability to not only fit a lot of throws into tight windows but also to put his passes where only his receivers can make a play. This is another thing great quarterbacks do: not only does Bradford protect the ball before he throws it but he also does so while it's in the air. His back shoulder throws are just as accurate as everything else that he throws and at times you see those flashes of Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. Not only does this benefit the deep ball but it's huge in the red zone where the space is really tight. I would imagine (in the first example below) if this was Zach Ertz, Jordan Matthews, or Nelson Agholor it's probably a touchdown.
Footwork, Mobility, and Rolling Out
There were a lot of things that impressed me, but what I found most encouraging was Bradford's ability to protect his own pocket and move up in it. He's the anti-Foles. Despite the struggles of the Rams' offensive line, Bradford never regressed into any type of happy feet, running too early, or breaking his own pocket. He will take the hit for the benefit of the completed pass and it will be just as accurate as if he had a clean pocket to throw from. I am not sure how the back-to-back ACL injuries will impact his mobility but he does have some sneaky wheels. There were a couple of times where I saw him beat the outside linebacker for a 12-yard scamper and first down. I wouldn't be surprised to see a couple of big runs if he pulls the ball down here. His mobility also helps one of his best traits and that's rolling out to his right (and sometimes left) to make a play. He's quick enough to beat defensive ends off of the edge, extend the play, and make something good happen.
The No Huddle and Throwing From Shotgun
If you paid close attention to Bradford's college career, this strength comes as no surprise. Bradford looks more comfortable and more fluid when he's throwing from shotgun. That's not to say he can't do it under center either because most of his five step drop throws looked great. But he's so good from shotgun it baffles me that the Rams didn't keep him there the majority of the time. I was watching the Falcons vs. Rams (Week 2 - 2013) which was the only time I got a good glimpse of how effective he was running an uptempo offense. The Rams were down 21 and from the end of the 3rd quarter on, they stayed in a no huddle offense. The result? Three straight touchdown drives. Having Bradford in shotgun allows his quick decision making to flourish. He sees it, he throws it, first down, rinse and repeat.
So What's The Conclusion?
We've seen the bad, we've the misunderstood, and now we've seen the good from 2011-2013... so what's the verdict? It's a tough one to answer in June. We don't know if Bradford can make it out of training camp healthy or if he will be the same guy even if he does make it to Week 1. But what I can say is this: the Rams cut his abilities in half from the limited offense they ran, to the poor offensive line they had, and the lack of weapons they put around him (not to mention a defense that couldn't stop anyone). It would have been tough to succeed with any QB you put in there.
If everything goes right in Philadelphia, Sam Bradford is a top 7 QB in the NFL. Some will view that as a scorching hot take but that's the reality. That's what his skill set can do here. If everything goes wrong, he's weird combination of Andy Dalton and Ryan Tannehill.
Overall, the good far outweighs the bad. What I originally thought to be a terrible trade now has the potential to be steal for the Eagles. If Bradford can stay healthy the majority of the season and into the hopes of the playoffs, you could be seeing this team in the NFC Championship Game.