Sam Bradford had a pretty good game against Miami before he got injured. But looking at the coaches’ tape emphasizes how skewed he was in favor of short passes. The three big catch-and-runs to Brent Celek hid this fact statistically, but Bradford left a lot of meat on the bone with his reluctance to throw long. Either he just hates to throw long, or he literally can’t see receivers more than 8 yards away. Let’s chip in to get the man an eye exam.
This was a big factor when things started to sour in the second quarter. Just after the two minute warning, Sam threw short of the sticks on 3rd and five — which takes some effort — but Huff fought through three defenders to get the first down anyway.
Then, after a run was stuffed, it was 2nd and 14. Bradford threw to Sproles just over the line of scrimmage, even though he had Nelson Agholor and Jordan Matthews five yards down field, crossing each other on mesh routes, wide open. Yes, Sproles is good in the open field, but on this play he was flat-footed and facing the backfield, while Agholor and Matthews (if hit in stride) were in much better position to run past nearby defenders for a big gain.
Sproles in the flat? Why?
Even if they were tackled immediately, they would have had five more yards than Sproles got. No matter how short the passes available to him are, Bradford seems more comfortable throwing shorter yet.
The following play was 3rd and 12. (See the photo at the top of this post.) Cooper came wide open running an out from the seam, safely past the sticks. Sam threw instead to Ertz, with two men on him, six yards short of a first down. (He also threw behind him, resulting in an incompletion and a punt.)
When a short catch-and-run might have been a good choice, Bradford still picked the wrong one. On the play right before the blocked punt, facing 3rd and 14, he didn’t wait quite long enough for the stick route by Huff to develop, out near the first down marker. Instead, he threw at Ryan Mathews in the flat, 12 yards short of the promised land.
Checkdown to Mathews; Ertz was wide open, Huff had a stick route
OK, I don’t have to face Ndamukong Suh racing in to flatten me. I get that. But there were two check down receivers wide open on the play– Mathews running toward the left sideline and Zach Ertz mid-field. Sam threw to (and way behind) Mathews, who spun counter-clockwise to get his hands on it but couldn’t hang on. But even if he had pulled it in, or Bradford had hit him in stride, the odds of getting the first down were very slim. All the closing CB had to do was push him out of bounds, with Mathews’ own momentum helping.
Ertz was on the right hash mark with room to run, and Eagles tight ends already had 120 yards on three tight end crosses at that point in the game. I still think the longer pass to Huff was the better choice, despite a tighter window, but hitting Ertz in stride was the only way a short pass was going to pick up this first down.
Sam Bradford was generally pretty good Sunday (19-25 for 236 yards, 1 TD), and I haven’t given up on him yet as a quarterback. He has even shown he can go long, in the Washington game. But he defaults to ultra-short, and the Eagles’ coaches need to correct this tendency. Bradford now has a couple of weeks to study film all day and get on top of this. If he doesn’t, I’ll join everyone else in concluding he has no upside worth exploring.
UPDATE: Some commenters argued that the first picture was taken after the ball was thrown and reflected the DBs moving to the ball. OK, here’s an earlier still taken as the ball was thrown. That cornerback (McCain) was not in any position to contest a sideline pass to Cooper. He was flat-footed and never dropped below the 36, while Cooper was in stride crossing the 30 and headed downfield. The other CB, Jamar Taylor, actually would have been in a better position to make a play but he was plastered to Miles Austin and going the other direction full speed.
Mathews INC as Bradford threw; McCain flat-footed at the 36