Bradford appeared in total command of the huddle during Thursday’s training camp practice at the NovaCare Complex, making sharp throws and dazzling teammates while Sanchez, his only competitor for the starting job, endured ups and downs.
Bradford, who’s coming back from two ACL tears in a 10-month span and wasn’t medically cleared for full practice until the start of training camp, shined in the 7-on-7s, team drills and was the only quarterback to lead the offense to paydirt in the hurry-up drill near the end of practice.
“He was throwing lots of touchdowns today,” right tackle Lane Johnson said. “He’s very accurate. I haven’t seen accuracy like that from a quarterback in a long time.”
Bradford, who’s shown as-advertised accuracy throughout camp, came out firing, starting with the first set of 7s. He arced a pretty fade over rookie cornerback Eric Rowe into the hands of Riley Cooper down the left side and then rifled his next pass in the end zone to tight end Trey Burton. He connected with Burton again during a red-zone 11-on-11 drill for another touchdown and found Seyi Ajirotutu in the left corner of the end zone for another.
After a slow start on day one of camp, Bradford seems to be finding his way. It's still only camp, and we all know the key to Bradford is going to be staying healthy, but so far the news is encouraging for adding Bradford to a deep fantasy QB class. He continues to be one of those many QB2 options who has fantasy upside to succeed in the Eagles offensive system.
If Eagles HC Chip Kelly needed to pick a starter right this second, no question he’d hand the ball to Sam Bradford and direct Mark Sanchez toward the sideline. Bradford masterfully picked apart the defense and threw with more confidence than he’d shown since the start of camp. In 7-on-7s, he arced a lovely fade to Riley Cooper past Eric Rowe that set up his TD pass to Trey Burton on the very next play. In red zone drills, he zipped another TD pass to Burton, and then another TD on a fade to Seyi Ajirotutu. In the hurry-up drill at the end of practice, with 63 ticks on the clock and the ball near midfield, he was the only quarterback to lead the offense to a touchdown. Bradford’s consistency is key. The other three QBs tend to have good and bad days. Bradford has some down moments but is stringing together some pretty good practices.
Over the last two seasons, Philadelphia quarterbacks have averaged 16.7 passing game-only fantasy points. Bradford isn’t much of a runner, but he adds about 0.7 FP per game as a rusher. That adds up to 17.4 FP, or about what Eli Manning averaged as the #10 QB in 2014. The Eagles’ offense has lost their top receiver – DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin – in each of the last two seasons, but Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz are emerging and the team added Nelson Agholor in the draft. If Bradford ends up starting for the Eagles, we wouldn’t expect anything more than high-end QB2 numbers, but this is a definite system upgrade due to the overall effectiveness of Chip Kelly’s offense.
Eagles writer Dave Spadaro:
The key player in this entire equation could be Josh Huff, who has lined up with Riley Cooper as a starter early in camp. Huff has all kinds of explosiveness and he's really applied himself in the offseason. Can he jump into the 50-plus catch range? Is he going to be consistent catching the football and making big plays and keeping the mental mistakes to a minimum? The Eagles are pleased with Huff and the way he's attacked his second season. He is being counted on to help a lot.
At some point, and maybe soon, Eagles WR Nelson Agholor needs to get some first-team reps. He’s very impressive. He might already be their best outside wideout. Riley Cooper and Josh Huff get almost all of the first-team outside reps, but the argument can be made that Agholor is already better.
Agholor joins a receiving corps that has lost its best receiver (DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin) in each of the past two offseasons. He’s expected to win a starting job, likely outside opposite Riley Cooper (or Josh Huff) with Jordan Matthews in the slot. If that’s the case, he’ll definitely be a fantasy factor as a rookie.
Monday, August 3, 2015, 4:19pm
Eagles camp notes from Monday:
- Jordan Matthews gets my “Camper of the Day” award. Practices that limit contact tend to highlight the passing game and those mostly involved, but Matthews had a standout performance by any estimate. He did most of his damage from the slot. I think we’ll see more of Matthews on the outside than we did last year, but why limit his effectiveness when there probably isn’t another option as comparable on the roster? Most of his catches came from Sam Bradford and there were a variety.
- DeMarco Murray was back in action after sitting out team and 7-on-7 drills yesterday. He said it was a coach’s decision to limit his action on the first day of camp. I’m not sure why he would need to rest after a six-week layoff, but he looked fine on Monday. He didn’t seem to go 100 percent when he was involved, but after last season when he logged almost 500 touches, it doesn’t seem necessary for Murray to push himself this early.
- A day after taking all of the first team repetitions at quarterback, Bradford was under center for the majority. He looked a little more comfortable on Day 2.
- Mark Sanchez took his first series of snaps with the first team. I’m not sure that constitutes as a quarterback competition, but it’s a start. His best toss during the series was downfield to Huff on a comeback route. Working with the second team, Sanchez knew who would butter his bread. He kept going to Nelson Agholor on the outside. The rookie wide receiver continued to get the best of rookie corner Eric Rowe. Contact at the line is limited, so I wouldn’t make any assumptions about Rowe just yet, but Agholor has looked more than competent.
- Matt Barkley and Tim Tebow split third team reps again. If Kelly wants a pure quarterback at the third spot, the job is clearly Barkley’s. But if he wants someone that has an “X” factor or can be effective in zone read plays, then Tebow would seem to have the advantage.
Sunday, August 2, 2015, 8:12pm
It seems likely Huff is a place-holder for first-round pick Nelson Agholor. This way, Huff runs with the first team while Matthews remains in his slot position. When Agholor is ready to move into the lineup, he would replace Huff, according to the story. It seems like the team likes Matthews in the slot. It's very possible Huff could perhaps win time over Cooper at some point after Cooper struggled last season.
Beat writer Jimmy Kempski broke down the Eagles' WR competition:
In my view, I think it'd be crazy to take Jordan Matthews off the field. The Eagles mostly stay in three wide receiver sets, and in those situations, expect Matthews to resume his role in the slot. However, when they go with two wides, Matthews should stay in and line up on the outside.
I also expect Nelson Agholor to start Week 1, and produce immediately. He just looks like the real deal to me.
So the real battle here is Josh Huff vs Riley Cooper vs Miles Austin. Huff has the most natural ability and explosion of the three, but he needs to refine some of the more nuanced aspects of the position. The Eagles would love to see Huff go out and earn more playing time, but they're not just going to hand it to him. Their opinion of Cooper is clearly far higher than yours is.
This comes on the heels of another column declaring Josh Huff as the biggest breakout candidate in the Eagles' receiving corps. Agholor figures to have the edge, as reports have been almost universally positive this offseason. Ultimately, we see Matthews, Agholor and Huff playing the most snaps, but it may not happen early or even this season. Chip Kelly likes Cooper more than the rest of us do.
With Jeremy Maclin now in Kansas City, many expected the Eagles to move Jordan Matthews to the outside, and line Josh Huff up in the slot. That is not, however, what the plan is. Huff has been lining up with the first team offense on the outside in Maclin's place, with Matthews remaining in the slot.
Huff could see some time inside, but the plan is for Huff to run many of the same routes Maclin did -- including going deep. Huff is the quickest receiver on the team, and the Eagles will be giving him a chance to stretch the field, much like DeSean Jackson did two seasons ago.
Ask Riley Cooper how much the Eagles like their receivers to be able to block, and he will respond by pointing out he played 980 snaps last season, second most on the team. That is a good sign for Huff, who is perhaps the second-best run-blocking receiver on the Eagles, behind only Cooper. Huff should be able to stay on the field, and keep rookie Nelson Agholor off of it, by being a strong run blocker.
When the team drafted Agholor, it was assumed that he would start. That could still end up being the case, and Agholor has the skills to be a star in the NFL. It will be Huff, however, that gets the first crack at the starting job, with Agholor on the bench.
Agholor could end up taking one of the starting spots, from Huff or Cooper, but he will have to do it in training camp, and won't be handed the job.
The prevailing assumption is that Agholor will start alongside Matthews, who could play outside or in the slot. If Matthews is in the slot, then there's an opening for Huff or Cooper on the other side. Then there's the matter of Zach Ertz, who is rumored to be in line for more snaps as he pushes Brent Celek for the starting job. Ertz could also play more in two-TE sets, but that will send two of the aforementioned receivers to the bench. Training camp will be key for all the Eagles' receivers -- the only player seemingly assured of a big role is Matthews.
Eagles beat writer Sheil Kapadia was asked which rookies would contribute in 2015:
Agholor joins a receiving corps that has lost its best receiver (DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin) in each of the past two offseasons. He’s expected to win a starting job, likely outside opposite Riley Cooper with Jordan Matthews in the slot. If that’s the case, he’ll be a fantasy factor as a rookie. Matthews finished #25 in PPR formats as a rookie last season. That sort of production is certainly feasible for Agholor if he plays starter's snaps and the team gets good play out of the quarterback position.
First-round pick WR Nelson Agholor worked almost primarily with the second and third team offenses during the Philadelphia Eagles' spring practices. Jordan Matthews, Riley Cooper and Josh Huff all worked ahead of him. According to one NFL executive, this won't be the case for very long.
"He should be good, real good,'' the executive said to Mark Eckel, of True Jersey. "I'd bet on him. He'll come in and produce right away. He has the right mentality and just a great approach to the game. He's going to help them.''
The exec believes that Agholor's arrival will also help Matthews reach a higher level of play.
The Eagles need a WR1 with the departure of Jeremy Maclin. This exec also said he thinks Matthews is a nice WR, but not a number one; however the two will work well together. Rookie WRs don't always come in and put up big numbers, but perhaps that trend is starting to show signs of changing a bit. Given the Eagles offense and the amount of plays they like to run, Agholor is at least in a good offensive situation. We have Agholor ranked 39th among our WRs which puts him as a low-end WR4. His ADP, though, is the 8th round in ten team leagues - a round or two, or even three, higher than a lot of the guys ranked around him. There may be some safer options on the board to think about.
The reality is he hasn’t had a productive season since 2012, when he caught 66 passes for 943 yards and six touchdowns, but the Eagles would sign right now for anything close to those numbers.
Think about this: On an awful Browns team with quarterback havoc, Austin was on pace for 63 catches, 757 yards and three TDs before lacerating his kidney in a freak injury. Last year, Riley Cooper caught 55 passes for 577 yards and three TDs.
If sports science can keep him healthy, and with some stability at QB in Chip Kelly’s offense, Austin could at very least be more productive than Cooper and is probably more reliable than Josh Huff, who still has to prove he can be consistent and values the football.
Austin will have to battle some young guys drafted by Chip Kelly in order to get on the field, but like the piece mentions, Austin is pretty much the veteran presence at the position. With pass-catching RB Darren Sproles and emerging TE Zach Ertz also around, there are going to be a lot of targets to get the ball to, but Austin could be a guy who makes a move in camp and jumps on the fantasy radar, so he's perhaps worth keeping an eye on in this fast-paced offense.
Eagles beat writer Jimmy Kempski of the Philly Voice:
He's legit. Players in the Eagles secondary are already saying he's been the most impressive receiver they've faced so far this offseason, and the media seems to be in unanimous agreement that he looks very fast and shifty. As we noted in the final notes of minicamp, there are some players who don't play to their timed speed. Agholor ran a 4.42 at the Combine, and he plays every bit as fast as that would indicate, and then some. I'd be very surprised if he didn't start Week 1.
Agholor joins a receiving corps that has lost its best receiver (DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin) in each of the past two offseasons. He’s expected to win a starting job, likely outside opposite Riley Cooper with Jordan Matthews in the slot. If that’s the case, he’ll be a fantasy factor as a rookie.
As Chip Kelly likes to say, it is only June, and the depth chart at this point is almost meaningless. Still, it is pretty clear so far that the Eagles starting receivers on the outside are going to be Riley Cooper and Josh Huff, with Jordan Matthews in the slot. Rookie Nelson Agholor will certainly factor into the rotation, but it is Huff's job to lose right now. Agholor has been up-and-down in camp, making some impressive catches, but he had a bad drop on Wednesday. Huff, meanwhile, had a nice catch that would have gone for a touchdown in a game.
This is mildly surprising, but it's something to monitor as the offseason wears on. It sounds as if Huff has made strides since last year and is currently playing ahead of Agholor. If this continues, then Huff would be fantasy relevant while Agholor will struggle to make much of an impact in limited snaps. Keep in mind that Cooper is hardly entrenched in a starting role after a rough 2014 campaign.
Likely being thrust into an outside role in the starting lineup, Eagles WR Josh Huff hopes to live up to the expectations he set for himself after talking about how familiar he was both with scheme and personnel coming from Oregon where Eagles head coach Chip Kelly recruited and coached him for two seasons.
With the growing pains of a rookie campaign behind him, Huff has drawn rave reviews from Kelly about his maturity heading into his second season, something the wide receiver says he's noticed even about himself.
The article also says that Jordan Matthews is 'likely' to start in the slot, so that would mean RIley Cooper or rookie Nelson Agholor would also start outside. The Eagles' pecking order is difficult to predict, but we expect Matthews to see the most targets and fantasy production. It gets murky after that.
Nelson Agholor continued to make a strong impression. It should be noted that receivers tend to have the upper hand during spring workouts when defensive backs are restricted, but you can often see whether rookie receivers have at the very least the skills to compete at this level. Agholor clearly does. He’s fast. Not DeSean Jackson fast, but he’s gets down the field in a hurry. He’s athletic. He made several catches when he out-jumped a defender. And he appears to run crisp routes.
On a Matt Barkley pass over the middle, Agholor high-pointed the ball and pulled it in. Later, when Tim Tebow threw a fade to his back shoulder in the end zone, Agholor went up and caught the ball away from his body. The Eagles’ top pick had a good day. It’s just one practice in shorts, but the signs so far suggest he was worth the investment.
Agholor joins a receiving corps that has lost its best receiver (DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin) in each of the past two offseasons. We expect him to beat out Riley Cooper, Josh Huff and Miles Austin for a starter’s role opposite Jordan Matthews. If he does, he’ll certainly be fantasy relevant in 2015.
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