Dangerous Yet Diminished
When Sam Bradford had a compliment of healthy teammates, he was a precise, down-field threat with the arm-talent to challenge every blade of grass on the field. Once his offensive line became a kindergartener’s art project held together by popsicle sticks and glue, the Vikings adapted the offense and obstructed Bradford’s breakout year.
Early in the year, he was throwing receivers open with perfectly located passes, deciphering coverage pre-snap and getting the football out of his hands and down the field. He was incredibly accurate to the deep portions of the field and automatic in the short and intermediate area throwing receivers open when they were tightly-covered.
The timing and rhythm he displayed after joining the team just one-week prior the season is rather astonishing. He developed a rapport with his receivers and made a name of Adam Thielen while allowing Stefon Diggs to continue to flourish.
His experience in the league is evident by his general football acumen. He never loses track of situations and is constantly attacking the first down sticks.
That was until the aerial attack became a pop-gun offense.
The offense was forced into a catch and throw group and, while Bradford was consistent in this regard, it allowed defenders to squat on top of routes and made the offense extremely one-dimensional.
It diminished, not only Bradford’s downfield prowess, but his ability to manipulate defenses with his eyes and ball fakes as progression-reading became nearly impossible.
He throws with touch on seam routes, can thread the needle on slants, comebacks and outs and drives the ball off his back foot with sound mechanics.
The field vision is evident when Bradford bootlegs on play-action surveying not just play-side, but the back-side of a route combination often finding forgotten players running free behind the defense.
Accuracy under pressure is vital and Bradford showed it in spades. His Vikings teammates became endeared to him by his willingness to stand in the pocket, stare down the gun-barrel and take a shot before delivering a perfectly located strike.
No quarterback is without his warts and Bradford could be a little more creative within the pocket. He loses awareness of the edge and will cock to throw with a defender bearing down on him causing too many strip-sacks. He rarely creates plays with his legs or opens up passing lanes by fleeing the pocket. He is slow to react and move from the top of his drop.
Bradford is entirely capable of playing big-ball but he was reduced into a game-manager when the Vikings season was undone by injuries. On top of that, he protects the ball while challenging tight-windows to the intermediate portions of the field.
As the season progressed, Bradford took his lumps. He took fewer risks and starting neglecting potential explosive-play targets.
With a star collegiate running back in the fold and reinforcements to the offensive line, the Vikings are a team to look out for in 2017 and Sam Bradford is at the forefront of the organization.