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Eagles' Chip Kelly says Sam Bradford has progressed

EXPERIENCE IN an offense is crucial to getting a quarterback to perform at an elite level, Chip Kelly said Monday.

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford (7) drops back to pass against the Buffalo Bills in the first quarter at Lincoln Financial Field.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford (7) drops back to pass against the Buffalo Bills in the first quarter at Lincoln Financial Field.Read more(James Lang/USA Today)

Experience in an offense is crucial to getting a quarterback to perform at an elite level, Chip Kelly said Monday.

When someone followed up by connecting the dots - does this mean Kelly envisions Sam Bradford running his offense next season? - Kelly didn't hesitate.

"We've always wanted Sam here. We wouldn't have traded for him if we thought he was (only) going to be here for a year," said Kelly, who sent Nick Foles and a 2016 second-round pick to St. Louis for Bradford back in March.

Reportedly, the Eagles tried to work out a long-term extension for Bradford before the season but were unsuccessful. He is in the final season of the rookie deal he signed with the Rams in 2010, which will pay him about $13 million this year. He will be a free agent next spring if the Eagles don't sign or franchise him. (Of course, it's always possible to franchise and then sign long-term.) Franchising Bradford, if it comes to that, seems likely to cost the team about $20 million off its 2016 salary cap.

Kelly's words Monday weren't stunning, given that Bradford has played well lately and is emerging as a leader. (And given the lack of attainable better alternatives.) But it was a significant declaration for a coach who usually avoids discussing the future.

Bradford, 5-1 in the last six games he has started and finished, looked out of sync and overwhelmed early in the season; he'd missed the second half of 2013 and all of 2014 with back-to-back ACL tears. But Bradford's knees have held up well. His two missed games, both blowout Eagles losses, came after he suffered a concussion and a left AC joint sprain. And he seems much more comfortable in the pocket now.

Bradford, 28, is 251-for-397 (63.2 percent) for 2,664 yards, 14 touchdowns and 11 interceptions this season. His interception Sunday - on a ball taken away from Brent Celek as Celek was coming down - was his first in four games.

"I just think Sam as a whole has progressed as the season's gone along," Kelly said, when asked about Bradford's improved footwork. "It takes a long while to play quarterback in this league, there's so many things you have to get. When we got Sam, we knew . . . it was going to take time. You look at any quarterback playing at a really high level right now and they've been playing in the same system for years, not for months, and that's what Sam's case is, he's just been playing in our system for months.

"I just see improvement from Sam on a weekly basis that gets you excited about him. I thought he threw the ball extremely well (Sunday). We could have helped him a little bit better - I thought we had too many drops that would have extended a lot of things for us . . . I think Sam has improved in all aspects."

Developing Storylines

* That 15-yard Darren Sproles run on the Eagles' first series, that set up Sproles' touchdown? Birds' longest run of the day. Overall, 34 carries for 116 yards, 3.4 average.

* Speaking of things that didn't happen again after the first series, that was when Fletcher Cox sacked Tyrod Taylor, the only sack the Eagles managed.

* Bills players talked about Jason Kelce moving the ball as a reason for their four neutral-zone infractions. Must have been very subtle - rewatching the game and slowing it down, I couldn't see any ball movement.

* Dear Solomon Wilcots: Bryan Braman's name is not "Barman." Also, that "accumulative effect" you kept referencing is "cumulative effect."

* Buffalo was salty about getting flagged 15 times, but the scoring drive that tied the game at 20 benefited from a roughing penalty on Riley Cooper, hitting returner Marcus Thigpen out of bounds. Should have been offsetting penalties - Nick O'Leary blatantly trucked the Eagles' Trey Burton from behind, sending Burton flying, at the Buffalo 32.

* Quintessential Josh Huff play at the end of the third quarter - fights through tackler for extra yardage on the Buffalo sideline, then inexplicably bloops ball up in the air, seemingly without his arm being hit. Very lucky for the Eagles Huff's left foot was out of bounds before he fumbled.

* Sam Bradford needs to replicate his poise in the face of the Bills' frequent blitzes; as Chip Kelly noted Monday, the Cardinals blitz more than anyone.

* Has anybody checked the Linc turf to see if there's an outline of LeSean McCoy, like at a crime scene, from Fletcher Cox's burial of Shady for a 10-yard fourth-quarter loss?

* Chip Kelly said playing Dennis Kelly at left tackle when Jason Peters had to miss four plays, instead of putting Kelly on the right and Lane Johnson on the left, as the Eagles had done previously, was mainly due to Kelly having practiced at left tackle last week. Johnson said that's the new plan when Peters is out, because it's less disruptive.

* Kelly said that wasn't a pick or even a rub, when Josh Huff got run over by Corey Graham, helping free Zach Ertz for a 41-yard gain. Kelly said Huff was just running a slant, and was the first read, before he got blasted.

Who Knew?

That Ed Reynolds could play? Fifth-round picks who sit for the better part of two seasons on the practice squad, available to be claimed by anyone at any time, generally don't ever amount to much. Reynolds, son of former Patriots and Giants linebacker Ed Reynolds, got 79 snaps at New England, where his father played most of his career - but Ed Sr., at home in North Carolina, couldn't find a broadcast of the game. His son said dad, still in N.C. Sunday, made sure he found the Eagles-Bills broadcast, saw young Ed seal the win with his first interception. Dad was trying to call as his son spoke with reporters afterward.

Obscure Stat

The Eagles have won eight of their last nine against the AFC, three of four this year. But they have only NFC teams left to play. They are 3-6 against their own conference this season.

On Twitter: @LesBowen