Through six weeks of the 2015 NFL season we’re no closer to finding out if Sam Bradford is on the verge of a career revival in Philadelphia, or figuring out which one of Nick Foles’ last two seasons was the aberration.
Neither the Rams nor Eagles have taken the lead in March’s Bradford-for-Foles swap. Both signal-callers have been erratic, inconsistent and downright careless at times through the first month-and-a-half of the season.
Undoubtedly there will be fans that suggest Philadelphia is winning the trade because they have one more win than St. Louis, but wins are not, and never will be, a measure of individual success. It’s a team statistic.
Take Monday night, for example.
Bradford completed 24-of-38 passes for 280 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions in the Eagles’ 27-7 victory over the Giants. His touchdown pass was slightly underthrown, as he dropped a 32-yard pass into the hands of Riley Cooper between multiple defenders.
But the interceptions were a combination of misreads, overthrows and head-scratching decision-making for a quarterback often praised for protecting the football.
If not for the Eagles’ defensive line dominating the Giants in the trenches and making Eli Manning’s life hell for three quarters, Bradford may have willed New York to victory.
Bradford fans will continue to make the same excuses they did for him in St. Louis: He needs more help. He needs more weapons. His offensive line isn’t good enough. It’s the play-calling. The lights are too dim and it’s hard for him to find open receivers. The concession stands are too long and it’s distracting.
It’s true that Bradford hasn’t received a ton of help in Philadelphia. The interior of the Eagles’ offensive line has signal-handedly destroyed DeMarco Murray and the running game. (Although Murray did rush for over 100 yards against the Giants this week.) Without a strong running game, defenses feast on Bradford because he’s constantly in third and long.
It’s also not his fault that Jordan Matthews fumbled the ball in New York territory on Monday night or had a catchable ball go off his fingertips for a game-sealing interception for Atlanta in Week One. But Bradford hasn’t helped the situation with his sporadic play.
Bradford simply doesn’t look comfortable in Chip Kelly’s offense, which is telling considering it’s a quarterback-friendly system. The offense is designed for the quarterback to make simple reads so it can be run at break-neck speed. Based on the defense, Bradford has up to four options on a given play and because Kelly wants to go fast, that means the quarterback doesn’t have to worry about a complex playbook. Think of a point guard in basketball: Read the defense, distribute the ball efficiently and keep moving.
Accuracy was supposed to be one of Bradford’s strong suits and when you look at the stat sheet, you’ll see he’s completing passes at a 63.2% clip – highest of his career. But watch the games and you’ll see a signal-caller that’s constantly overthrowing passes, misreading routes/passing concepts and taking unnecessary risks. Too many times Bradford is confused by a route that one of his receivers just ran and completing the deep ball also remains a problem, as his yards per attempt average is a meager 6.85.
This isn’t to say that Foles is lighting the world on fire.
Foles’ YPA is actually worse at 6.78 and he too has been inconsistent through the Rams’ first five games. One week he’s dropping the ball in the bucket to Stedman Bailey, the next he’s making pre-determined reads in the red zone and firing passes to the other team.
But Foles didn’t cost a second-round pick to acquire. Along with Foles, that was part of the Eagles’ compensation to acquire Bradford, who, as detailed above, hasn’t shown a great return on investment.
Perhaps Bradford is ready to break out in Kelly’s system. After all, more reps means more experience and more experience could translate into production. Given the positives for both teams the last two weeks (strong defensive play, Murray’s 100-yard effort, Todd Gurley’s emergence, etc.), perhaps Bradford and Foles are each ready to catch fire.
But as of now, the Rams might not be winning the Foles/Bradford trade but they’re far from losing it.
There’s no way of knowing how Bradford would be playing right now in St. Louis, but chances are if he can’t find a rhythm in Kelly’s offense, it’s unlikely he’d be succeeding Frank Cignetti’s system.
And given that notion, perhaps the Rams are winning by default.