Sam Bradford has been very impressive this summer. Various reporters, myself included, have raved about how sharp he's looked in practice. The 27-year-old quarterback has flashed the kind of promise that should have Eagles fans excited for the upcoming season.
The biggest concern moving forward, however, is the obvious issue: Bradford's health. Looking great in practice won't mean much if he can't take a hit and stay on the field. So far, Bradford hasn't had to deal with any kind of real pressure. Despite this, Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis he's liked what he's seen out of the quarterback. Based on the past, Davis isn't too concerned about Bradford's ability to take a hit.
"I'm highly impressed with Sam," said Davis. "I always have been. I've always known the skill set that man has got. I was the defensive coordinator at Arizona during his rookie year, the first game he played, and Pat Shurmur was the [St. Louis Rams offensive] coordinator. We blitzed him ‑‑ I blitzed [former Cardinals safety] Adrian Wilson off the edge probably 10 to 15 times. He kept hitting Sam and hitting Sam and it must have been in the third quarter, Adrian comes over to me and says, ‘Hey, Billy D, we are in for a long one. This boy's not rattled. I keep hitting him with everything I have and he won't rattle. I can't shake him.’ So we knew right then that Sam has the mental toughness and capacity. Then his throwing ability, you've just got to watch practice to know that he throws a real accurate, real pretty ball."
Davis touched on a number of other topics during his Thursday press conference.
Byron Maxwell shadowing top wide receivers
"Yeah, it will be a game‑to‑game thing. But we traveled Cary [Williams] last year in a game or two. The last game of the year he did that and we had the ability to. But you have to really see a difference or a reason why to do that and take him out, because a lot of times, those guys get in a nice little pattern of the footwork in left and right. At practice last year and the first year, we always switched them right and left every other day, so their footwork, we can do that at any time we choose to."
What Davis is looking for in the first preseason game
"I'm looking for the tackling piece, to me, because you don't see that. The communication, when the lights are on, who can communicate. I tell the guys all the time, it's about evaluating your ability combined with your coachability. In defense, playing great defense is 11 guys playing as one.
So there's the communication. There's the effort to the ball. There's the technique. Are you down-in and down-out consistently using the technique we have been working on the whole offseason? We have been working on it in training camp. If you can show that you can handle your spot using the techniques, alignments, communication, all the things we have taught you, that's a big plus. You don't have to give us a bunch of wow plays to impress us. We have to see that the defense in its whole, the 11 guys, are doing what they are supposed to do."
The progress of Marcus Smith
"Oh, he's way ahead of where he was. I think the biggest thing that changes from a rookie year, especially when you end up in that first-round-draft-pick-pressure mode, the confidence level and the pressure you put on yourself and others are putting on you, kind of calms a little bit or you actually have some coping skills to where you can handle it and still function and play and put your focus on the football part. I think Marcus has got his focus on the football part and controlling what he can control and he's in a much better place. He's playing faster. He's reacting faster. He's seeing the field better and those are all indications that he's really taking some big leaps forward."
Marcus Smith is an outside linebacker
"I believe he's an outside backer. That's who he is. But the good piece is he can swing. In this game, we swing a lot of guys and when you have a person who has the ability, again, it's a mental and a physical ability to play inside and out.
It just makes us stronger. It actually gives the linebacker himself a much broader understanding of the defense because those guys inside are our quarterbacks. The guys outside listen to calls. The guys inside make calls. And when you have to make the calls, then you move to a position of listening, you have a much better understanding of why and what is about to be called."
Eric Rowe's progress at nickel cornerback
"Good. We just threw him in there. Right now, the plan is to have the corners move in and out of that nickel spot. They have been training in it since the offseason. We hadn't put Eric in there. Due to the injury though, we threw Eric in there. Eric is a real bright, young man and he's had two days under his belt, maybe eight to ten reps. So he's got a lot of reps to go. But so far, so good. We're early in camp still."
Does starting Walter Thurmond at safety allow the defense to be more creative?
"Yes, it does, and that's also what Jenk [S Malcolm Jenkins] brings us, too. Our safeties that are converted corners, that's something we look for because they have that ability. But our ability to stay in our base personnel group and against three wide receiver sets, if your safety can drop down and cover like a nickel covers in the slot, then you have the ability to stay in there and you're a little stronger in the run game and you're still solid in the pass game."
Byron Maxwell in the slot?
"He's in the conversation, but it's the latter part of the conversation. Right now we are so excited about having him out there wide and having him cover the big, longer receivers and matching up there.
He absolutely could get some reps in there, but right now, again, it's his first year learning the defense and it's kind of our philosophy to try to let him really understand that spot first, before you bounce him around too much. But if at any point we felt the game‑winning decision would be to put him in the slot, we could."
What's stood out with Jordan Hicks
"Athleticism probably, and intelligence. The kid really is a three‑down linebacker, athleticism‑wise, and he's got a very good football IQ and instinct. So I'm excited to see him against the Colts with the lights on to see how he plays, but he's a really good athlete."
Value of continuity
"What happens in the discussion in Year One, is everybody is learning for the first time. When you get to Year Three, your veterans are helping teaching and coaching your new guys. So there's like triple the coaching. There's coaching from us and there's coaching from each other, and that understanding sometimes from a fellow player explaining it, or when you're in a locker room, it's easier for the new guys to pick up because more people can give them the proper answer that you don't have in Year One."