Football is a team sport. We have heard this time and again. However, the function of a football team, and especially its offense, largely weighs on the performance of the quarterback. Of course, there are ways to "hide" a quarterback with a strong running game and good defensive play, but sometimes, a quarterbacks negative impact is so great, it transcends any attempt to masque it. A week ago, I spoke briefly on the major issues with the Eagles offense after an embarrassing loss to the Dallas Cowboys. A week later, after a win over the New York Jets, it is clear that the Eagles biggest weakness is the quarterback, Sam Bradford.
Samuel pic.twitter.com/W7Ah3pqitY— Kyle Scott (@CrossingBroad) September 28, 2015
So what is this? It is severe ineptitude at the quarterback position at is killing the team's chances to win.
Bradford is rarely going throwing down the field and in his attempts, he has been hugely inadequate. His yards per attempt this season of 5.8 would be the lowest of his career, which is filled with low yearly YPA to begin with, and one of the worst in the league. Constantly, he is going through his reads only to check down to the running back, or he will check immediately to the running back whenever he feels like the play is breaking down. He is playing scared football (and even Brian Dawkins thinks so). Seen in the above clips, even in his attempts to get downfield, his accuracy is all over the place. A lot of his completed pass, even, happen with poor accuracy where he is not leading his receivers and severely limits their ability to run after the catch. Yes, the Eagles lead the NFL in drops and that is something that needs to be addressed, but solely pointing to that number to cape for Bradford's shortcomings is incredibly narrow-minded. Bradford does not want to go downfield, is misfiring when he does, and has rarely been able to hit on target even when attempting the simplest of passes.
Bradford, almost entirely by himself, is killing the passing game's potential of explosive plays. Defenses know this and thus, they do not respect the explosive play. When a defense does not respect the explosive play, the offense is cooked.
When teams don't respect your ability to attack them vertically in the passing game, they get extra aggressive & shrink the field on you— Emory Hunt (@FBallGameplan) September 29, 2015
Boom. That is the Eagles offensive issues in one tweet. If you take nothing else away from this, remember that sentence. Defenses aren't worrying about playing beyond 20 yards because Bradford has yet to beat anyone over the top and he is not allowing his receivers to get yards after the catch. All eleven defenders can play closer to the line and thus, limit the ceiling of what the running game can do. The Eagles do not have a home run threat in the running game either. The running game is largely dependent on picking up four to five yards at a time, wearing down defenses and staying consistent. However, with no "creator" in the running game, the rushing offense's efficiency is hurt tremendously.
Until Bradford can threaten over the top or, at the very least, be a lot more efficient and accurate in the intermediate passing game, the overall efficiency of the offense is impacted very negatively. Because the Eagles are a high tempo offense, the awful passing game gets the offense off the field incredibly quickly and keeps the defense on the field as much as possible. The Eagles are last in the NFL in time of possession per drive, 30th in points per drive and have the 31st rate of 3 and outs per drive. That is not a winning formula. The only reason the Eagles have *a* win is because of great defensive play on Sunday and Darren Sproles' agelessness.
If the Eagles were scoring at a rate that they were in 2013 or even 2014, we might be 3-0 with the way our defense has been playing. They are 11th in the league in Points and Yards allowed per drive, and I would argue the figures would look a lot better if the defense didn't spend over 37 minutes of game time on the field, by far the last in the NFL.
It is a multifaceted equation. Bradford is limiting the explosiveness of the passing offense. The impotency of the offense allows defenses to play aggressively and close to the line of scrimmage, smothering the running game. The over inability to move the ball, combined with the tempo of which the offense moves puts immense strain on the defense. Finally, the Eagles are 1-2, only after the defense was able to hold a 24 point lead after the offense could not score a single point in the second half of Sunday's game.
The team needs to solve the X factor instead of working retroactively to "hide" Bradford. There is not much more "hiding" that can be done. Bradford must play better and the rest will fall into place. It is possible he is still in the process of shaking off rust after not playing for a while. However, he is revealing a lot of the issues that plagued him in St. Louis, while also showing worrying timidity. He and the coaching staff need to find a way to increase the explosiveness of the passing game, be it through design or just Bradford nutting up, setting his feet and start hitting receivers accurately and, dear god, down the field. Otherwise, it will eventually be imperative for Chip Kelly and the staff to take the L on Bradford and see if Mark Sanchez can move the offense more efficiently.