Sam Bradford (Eagles QB)
Guys, don’t get caught up into the repetitive Sam Bradford talk. Everyone understands the situation. To simplify things going forward, what would you normally think of a #1 overall pick at quarterback playing for Chip Kelly? Have you seen how explosive the Eagles have been, since Kelly revitalized them the past two seasons? They’ve been top five in points and yards, made the postseason, and won 10 games in each season. You might have known some of those stats, but you might have forgotten about the carousel along the O-line and under center. Four of Philly’s five starters missed action to injuries, yet they still made a run at the division. They moved on from DeSean Jackson as a number one receiver to Jeremy Maclin. Now Maclin is out-of-town, along with LeSean McCoy, who still ranked 3rd in rushing when most considered him to have an off-season. Really, it was just a slow start.
That all prefaces the fact that the team was winning games with Michael Vick, Nick Foles, and then Mark Sanchez. Not too many teams find success under any of these circumstances, let alone all of this combined. Alright, so you’re skeptical of Bradford going down again, so is everyone that talks football, so is the QB himself. If you were him, you would rehab, train, practice, and prepare as hard as possible with an optimistic mindset. That’s what you have to do if you were him. The former Offensive Rookie of the Year has had bad luck, so just think, if he gets hurt again then it relegates him to a career backup or to contemplate retirement. On the contrary, the guy ranks among the top half of the league with upside, in a very successful scheme. If this guy suits up in the finals weeks of the season, he’s most likely the Comeback Player of the Year. Don’t be surprised if you see a resurgence here. It is interesting that regardless of how their careers have turn out thus far, Kelly has a trio of former first round signal callers on his team now.
Nick Foles (Rams QB)
No, I didn’t think Nick Foles was going to be an elite quarterback. What I did call, back when he was drafted by the Eagles before playing a preseason game, was that he would make a Pro Bowl, which he did a couple of years ago. If you say he was an alternate, I’ll remind you that he won the Pro Bowl MVP in that game. St. Louis traded for him and recently gave him an extension. Remember, this is still a young QB. The Rams’ defense is elite, as the rushing attack will be with a pair of young go-getters.
Foles does have some things to work on, such as being hesitant at times, which has resulted in unnecessary sacks and picks. He was sensational for a stretch as a new starter. He has that flash going for him, and he also isn’t afraid to take chances downfield. Although Philly had their doubts about him, in part to health, in part to struggles, he is officially a franchise quarterback.
Alfred Morris (Redskins RB)
I’m not shying away from the team name, it is what it is at this point. So, I call them like I call any other team. Alfred Morris is a good running back that improved as a receiver last season. Why I am singling out Morris out of all the good running backs in the league? This guy is a workhorse back that will directly benefit from the most subtle coaching addition in the league. Bill Callahan leaves Dallas for Washing to become their offensive line coach. He basically had a hand in the Cowboys’ offensive play-calling and direction, helping to form that good O-line and playoff offense.
Morris gets a first round pick in Brandon Scherff in front of him, with outside speed to keep defenses honest. DeSean Jackson led the league in yards per catch, and Pierre Garcon was a target monster the season before. Heck, if Robert Griffin clears his head, the offense will open up again, and that includes his threat to run. Morris is going to have lanes to run through this season. The only problem for the team will be if they trail early, but that doesn’t necessarily reflect on Morris’ ability to rank top five in rushing.
Antone Smith (Falcons RB)
Antone Smith is a home run threat. It seemed like every time he touched the ball last season, for the struggling Falcons, that he would either pick up big gains or score a touchdown. I would argue that Smith was the second most explosive player in Atlanta’s offense last season, behind Julio Jones of course. I bring him up because Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are going to be sidelined for a couple of weeks. True, the staff wants to give the bulk of the backfield work to Freeman and Coleman, but I can’t imagine a new staff keeping a productive player on the sidelines.
Ameer Abdullah (Lions RB)
Joique Bell has had a couple of lower body issues all offseason. The club wants him to be the starter and main back. Bell was pretty good when splitting the load in the past, which he would continue to do, but this time around as the first back instead of the second. Rookie Ameer Abdullah has fresh legs, no injury issues at the moment, and the clear advantage heading into the season.
Detroit made a concerted effort to keep the ball grounded last season, and it’s never a good sign for a player to enter the season banged up. Abdullah is the faster back of the two with an outstanding receiver tandem stretching the field. Bell will be back at some point, maybe even week 1, but who knows if he’ll lace up for every game or even be effective with something lingering.
Chris Polk (Texans RB)
Take it from someone who watched a lot of Chris Polk when he played for the Eagles, after signing on as an undrafted free agent. This guy easily jumped out at me in preseason games, as a 3rd and 4th stringer. He moved smoother and played at a higher intensity than the rest of the players on the field. Needless to say, I wasn’t surprised one bit when he made the roster, and then when he cut into LeSean McCoy’s snaps in the redzone.
Polk has been held back because of hamstring issues, similar to his new teammate, Arian Foster. Foster will be out for two months or so with a groin injury. I get that Alfred Blue had some moments last season, as a spell back and as a spot-starter in Foster’s absence. I just didn’t see enough to give him the benefit of the doubt for an extended amount of time, despite him being on the team longer and having the first crack at the lead role. Polk will hit a hole hard, shrug you off, and has deceptive breakaway speed. Plus, you can’t rely on Foster returning and staying on the field. Houston needs to run the ball as much as possible to have a chance at winning every week.