The Minnesota Vikings shook up the NFL by trading a 2017 first round draft pick and a 2018 fourth round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles to acquire quarterback Sam Bradford. It was a bold move met with split reaction from a fanbase still reeling from the loss of its starting quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater.
The Tennessee Titans are slated to meet the Vikings in their opening game of the regular season on Sunday, and the formation of any game-specific strategy centered on one quarterback is already out the window. Depending on what the Vikings do at the position, the Titans will have to be prepared for Bradford, Shaun Hill or possibly even both at some point taking snaps behind center.
Mark Craig of Star Tribune reported Hill would get the start against the Titans, while Bradford takes an extra week to learn the playbook.
“The tentative plan heading into Monday’s practice is to start Shaun Hill in next Sunday’s season opener at Tennessee,” wrote Craig. “Bradford will be armed with a simplified portion of the offense in case Hill is injured. After that, the coaches will huddle to discuss starting Bradford in the Week 2 home opener against the Packers on Sunday Night Football.”
The Vikings paid a king’s ransom for Bradford to step in and fill the vacant role left by Bridgewater. No sane general manager is doling out a first and fourth round pick for a player to ride the bench. Per WSMV Nashville sports anchor Chris Harris, Titans head coach Mike Mularkey told reporters on Monday that he expected Bradford to open as the starting quarterback.
If that’s the case, expect the Titans defense to get after him early and often.
It’s preposterous to think that even a player as intelligent as Bradford, who is entering his seventh season, will be fluent in the Vikings’ playbook in a little over a week’s time. Just ask Houston Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler about the transition between offenses. He likened his transition from Denver to Houston to a native Spanish speaker expected to learn French in the offseason.
Bradford won’t have an offseason. He won’t even have a few weeks. That could be a recipe for disaster against a highly underrated Titan defense. The unit jumped from the 27th overall defense in the league to 12th with the arrival of defensive guru Dick LeBeau last season. It is a feisty bunch that is capable of getting after the quarterback.
The front seven has playmakers in Jurrell Casey, Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan — not to mention rookie linebacker Kevin Dodd. Bradford didn’t fare well against the blitz last season as an Eagle. He completed only 50 percent of his passes while under pressure, which was the second worst among all quarterbacks in the league. His passer rating was 65.9, and his QBR was 28.0.
But those statistics are nothing new. Bradford has remained relatively inconsistent since his first pro start. He has thrown 78 career touchdown passes and 52 interceptions. That’s too close of a stat for comfort.
Whether it’s Bradford or Hill leading the offense, the Vikings will look to superstar running back Adrian Peterson to carry the load. Stopping him will be a daunting task for the Titans, but if they can at least slow him down and force the quarterback to drop back and pass, they could definitely cause some problems.
Force Bradford to play hero ball, and the Titans should be sitting pretty.