Inconsistent Bradford struggling in Kelly's offense
PHILADELPHIA (AP) Sam Bradford and his coaches insist the quarterback is healthy and isn't worried about injuring his knee again.
His performance says something isn't right. Or maybe he's just an average player.
Bradford has been inconsistent in his first six games with the Philadelphia Eagles (3-3). He has nine interceptions and nine touchdown passes and his passer rating (80.0) is seventh worst in the NFL.
''Would I like to have been sharper? Absolutely,'' Bradford said. ''But I've done some things well and I want to continue to improve.''
Expectations were high for Bradford when the Eagles acquired him from St. Louis. The biggest question was whether he would hold up after two operations to repair a torn ACL in his left knee.
He excelled in limited preseason action - Bradford led the Eagles to four touchdowns on four drives in two games - so many observers thought he would thrive in Chip Kelly's offense.
Nick Foles had one of the best statistical seasons in NFL history in his first year playing under Kelly. Foles threw 29 TD passes and only two interceptions, including the playoffs, in 2013. Mark Sanchez had his best season in his first year playing for Kelly in 2014.
Bradford, the No. 1 overall pick in 2010, was supposed to be even better than both of them. He's shown flashes of excellence but hasn't played a strong game start to finish yet.
''There are way more good plays than bad,'' offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. ''But I do think there are some things that become glaring because they're significant plays that we've just got to eliminate, and I think he understands that.''
The Eagles have won two straight games despite five interceptions from Bradford. He tossed two red-zone picks into the end zone in a 39-17 win over New Orleans two weeks ago. He had another pick into the end zone in a 27-7 victory over the New York Giants on Monday night.
A dominant defense helped the Eagles overcome those turnovers. But they can't continue to waste similar opportunities and win games.
''I thought he was really good with the football before he got here,'' Kelly said. ''That's one of the reasons we really liked him.''
Bradford has never been a threat to run and he's more reluctant to take off with it now even though Kelly calls some zone-read plays. He did move around the pocket a little more against the Giants.
''He's certainly healthy enough to play, and as you come back from injury, you're out there and you're fine, but you become more and more fine as you go,'' Shurmur said. ''You get used to your body a little bit more. You get more used to it as you get further and further away from the injury and the surgery.''
Bradford has to clear another mental hurdle Sunday when the Eagles visit the Panthers (5-0). His first knee injury occurred in Carolina against the Panthers on Oct. 20, 2013.
Bradford was having his best season (14 TDs, four interceptions) before he got hurt when Panthers safety Mike Mitchell shoved him as he ran toward the sideline. He then injured the same knee in a preseason game in 2014.
''He hasn't played a lot of football in the last two years, and we're bringing him back,'' Shurmur said. ''We're fortunate enough to be winning games, however we're doing it.''
NOTES: WR Nelson Agholor (ankle) and LB Kiko Alonso (knee) were ruled out for Sunday's game. LBs Mychal Kendricks (hamstring) and DeMeco Ryans (hamstring), DE Brandon Bair (groin) and WR Riley Cooper (knee) are questionable.
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