In Malcolm Jenkins’ locker stall at the NovaCare Complex rests a tall stack of neatly layered single-subject spiral notebooks.
One is designated for this week’s opponent: Sam Bradford.
“I keep a book on everybody I played with, everybody I played against,” Jenkins said. “Those notes are already taken.”
Jenkins has notebooks for individual quarterbacks and offensive coordinators. Most are in his locker at the team facility and he has even more at home.
It’s likely that the Bradford book is pretty full. Jenkins and Bradford were teammates during the 2015 season with the Eagles and then spent the entire offseason leading up to 2016 as teammates until Bradford was traded to the Vikings a week before the opener.
Bradford knows the Eagles. And the Eagles know Bradford.
Who has the advantage in a situation like this?
“I think we’ll see that on Sunday,” Jenkins said. “It’s weird. A few weeks back, Sam was getting ready to be our starting quarterback and now we’re getting ready to play him. He obviously knows a lot about us. We know a lot about him. It’ll be fun to get to play against him.”
There are two sides to the familiarity Bradford has with the Eagles. First, he knows the Eagles’ offensive playbook inside and out.
While head coach Doug Pederson said he won’t really change his offensive approach this week against Minnesota just because Bradford is there, the head coach did admit he will tweak a few things. And Carson Wentz on Wednesday admitted the offense has changed some verbiage and cadences, but downplayed its importance.
“At the end of the day in the NFL, there’s no real secrets with offense,” Wentz said. “It’s just about play-calling and it’s just about executing. I don’t think we’ll get too caught up in that.”
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said the importance of Bradford’s insight to the Eagles’ offense is “overrated” but still said the Vikings have asked him questions this week.
The problem is, the Eagles' offense is much different now than it was when Bradford was traded a week before the season began.
“I think we’ve changed so much,” backup quarterback Chase Daniel said. “We’ve grown as an offense. It was so vanilla in the spring. And we actually have game-plan specific plays and formations. We’re doing way more. We’d do that if Sam was here. That’s just the normal progression of the offense.
“Where he can probably get us is maybe cadence. Cadence maybe, but to be honest, I’ve talked to him, he’s been so involved and heavily studying their playbook, I don’t think he’s … Maybe if it was the first two weeks of the season.”
Then, Bradford knows the Eagles’ defense.
Daniel said he thinks Bradford’s familiarity with the Eagles’ defensive personnel probably gives him more of an advantage than the defense. According to Daniel, Bradford doesn’t really have any “major tendencies” as a quarterback on which defenses can capitalize.
Pederson, though, thinks the defense’s knowledge of Bradford can help the unit this weekend at the Linc. Judging by the notebooks in Jenkins’ locker, the safety agrees.
“I think they know the type of athlete that Sam is [and] the type of quarterback that he is,” Pederson said. “And it's hard to get to a guy like Sam – as I mentioned – because he gets the ball out of his hands so fast. And he utilizes the quick game and it's tough to defend sometimes from a pass-rush standpoint.
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“We've got to do the best we can to – our pass rush has got to show up this week, obviously. And we’ve got to match the intensity on their side of the ball. With any game in the National Football League, if you can disrupt timing from a quarterback, I think it's an advantage.”
The Eagles didn’t get a single sack against Washington last week and Bradford has been sacked just eight times in four games this season.
“We kind of know how he moves in the pocket so we just have to make sure that we get there because Sam is playing great football right now,” defensive end Brandon Graham said. “He's rallied around a great team and they look at him as their leader on the offensive side of the ball and we just have to get there this week. No excuses this week.”