– Jim Bearor
Catch Up with The Hard Foul 32
The 23rd and 22nd spots on our rankings belong to the two quarterbacks who were traded for each other this past offseason: Nick Foles and Sam Bradford. Swapping quarterbacks is a funny concept to me, because Foles and Bradford are walking into situations where there is a pressure to perform better than the last guy – who in this case, is the guy he was traded for.
What makes this so interesting is that the Eagles and the Rams both think the trade was a good idea. They both feel like their team is now better because they brought in a new quarterback. Did one of these GMs make a big mistake? Is one of these two quarterbacks really head and shoulders above the other, or is someone being duped here? I don’t think either one is the case.
A change of scenery could make a world of difference for Bradford and Foles. Their 2015 seasons will take place in a different state, under a different head coach and with a different team. They’re both veterans, so I wouldn’t expect their style of play to change much. What will change is how they’re each going to be perceived, given their new surroundings. Just like Wife Swap, The Prince and the Pauper, and Trading Places. Throwing a different color jersey on a player doesn’t change who they are (like Jay Cutler, except he’s still wearing blue and orange), but it does help to clarify what their value truly is.
In Philadelphia and St. Louis, the bars have already been set. We know what Nick Foles was able to do in Chip Kelly’s offense, and we’ve also seen that Bradford is very capable when he’s healthy enough to play. The injury history of Sam Bradford is extensive, and I’m going to bring it up over and over again – because yes, it really is that big of a deal. So instead of finding a hundred different ways to phrase “if Bradford can stay healthy…” , I’m just going to abbreviate it IBCSH.
Each roster underwent a fair amount of change this offseason – especially Philadelphia, where nobody is safe – but we have a general idea of what to expect from both teams, minus the quarterback. We know that the Rams have an elite defense and young talent on offense. The Eagles have an up-tempo offense that will lean heavily on their newly acquired running backs, and a middling defense that relies on their front seven. All St. Louis needs is a competent quarterback that they can rely on to play 16 games (or at least close to it). Philly needs a quarterback who is quick, accurate, and athletic.
When I put it like that, the trade seems to make a lot more sense – these players seem like much better fits on their new teams. The truth is though, nothing is a given here. It’s difficult to say exactly how much of Nick Foles’ success should be attributed to Chip Kelly’s offense, and it’s impossible to predict injuries. I think each of these quarterbacks have the potential to take the next step and be in the Stafford-Newton-Ryan class, but to expect that level of performance out of them at this point would be too optimistic. So here they are, blurring the line between the quarterbacks that might be able to win a Super Bowl right now, and those who cannot.
#23 Rams – Nick Foles
2015 will be Foles’ fourth year in the league, and there is no clear consensus as to how good he actually is. He lit the world on fire when he took over for Michael Vick 4 games into the 2013 season, throwing 27 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions – the highest touchdown-to-interception ratio ever in a single season. His other two years in the league, he posted pedestrian numbers – around 60 percent completion and just about a 1:1 TD/INT ratio.
In my opinion, his 2013 stats were not very representative of who he is as a player. Not to say that he doesn’t protect the ball well, but it doesn’t take a lot of looking to see that everything went right in Foles’ outlier year.
This historic season wasn’t a fluke, but it’s not far from it. First off, the offensive line he had that year was great, especially Jason Peters and Evan Mathis. Chip Kelly is an offensive genius, and LeSean McCoy won the rushing title. It was the perfect storm, and Foles was as big a part of it as anybody.
In that one season, he showed everybody he can play in this league. His lack of mobility and lapses in decision making were forgotten for a year, and he could do no wrong. Week after week, he showcased his arm strength and willingness to take shots down the field.
A less than stellar follow-up performance in 2014 essentially extinguished the Foles hype. He threw 13 touchdowns and 10 picks in 8 games. He wasn’t able to find the same level of success with the deep ball as the year before, and his accuracy dropped significantly with a high volume of passes. He regressed to the mean, he got hurt, and he was traded to the Rams the following offseason. Now he’s expected to be their answer at quarterback, and I think he’s very much up to the challenge.
He’s not ever going to put up the same type of numbers that he did two years ago, but he’s still young to the league and he will more than likely improve with age. He’s a pocket passer with a strong arm and accuracy issues, who isn’t very good under pressure – boasting a 50.1% accuracy percentage when rushed according to PFF (37th out of 39).
Many of the encouraging stats for Foles are misleading, and his shortcomings are more apparent than ever, but he could be just what St. Louis needs. When you think about the number of games that Bradford has missed over the years, and the disappointing quarterbacks they’ve subbed in for him, it’s not so much Foles vs. Bradford as Foles vs. Bradford, Shaun Hill, Austin Davis, and the rest of Bradford’s backups. All it’s going to take for the Rams to consider this trade a success is a full season (or close to it) out of their starting quarterback. He did break a collarbone last year, but otherwise, health really hasn’t been an issue for Foles throughout his career.
He has a lot of promising talent surrounding him in Kenny Britt, Jared Cook, Brian Quick, Tavon Austin, and Todd Gurley. If the injury gods are merciful, this could be quite the explosive offense once it has had time to gel. At least at first, Foles will probably be more of a game manager than a superstar, and it’s better that way for the defensively-built Rams.
#22 Eagles – Sam Bradford
If Sam Bradford can stay healthy (IBCSH), he’ll have a much better 2015 season than Nick Foles. The accuracy that he’s shown this preseason (10-10 this week with 3 touchdowns) has been reminiscent of his days at Oklahoma. Seriously, I can’t stress enough how on point all of his throws have been. It’s crazy. Why don’t we really ever talk about this guy? He was the first overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft!
Oh yeah, he’s hurt all the time. When he’s been on the field, he’s been impressive, but he’s an afterthought in the quarterback discussion year after year, and nothing will change that until Bradford can stay healthy for a whole season.
But what IBCSH? What’s the ceiling? I think he can be Super Bowl winning quarterback. Chip Kelly’s offense fits him like a glove, and IBCSH, he’s pretty much guaranteed to have his best statistical season yet. Bradford is smart and is very much aware of himself and his surroundings on the field. He has the arm strength and accuracy of a number one overall pick, but his biggest asset is definitely his brain. He has what it takes to orchestrate Kelly’s offense exactly as he envisions it.
An area where Bradford needs to show improvement is the long ball. He has the necessary arm strength to make all the throws, but he doesn’t throw deep as often as he should. IBCSH, I can see this issue resolving itself. As he familiarizes himself with the offense and the players around him, he’ll become more comfortable passing it further down the field.
If I’m being honest, IBCSH there isn’t a lot he can’t do. He has all the makings of an elite quarterback, and he couldn’t ask to be in a better situation. Bradford’s career will go one of two ways from here: he continues to get injured until he is forced to quit the game, or he stays relatively healthy and his career finally blossoms in Philadelphia. IBCSH, he will thrive and this trade will go down as an absolute steal for the Eagles.
– Jim Bearor (@jimbearor)