Things to watch when Vikings play Eagles
PHILADELPHIA -- Sam Bradford is thinking more about reconnecting with old friends than sticking it to the team that traded him eight days before the season opener.
The former Eagles quarterback returns to Philadelphia for the first time since his abrupt departure when he leads the unbeaten Minnesota Vikings to Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday.
"I really developed some close bonds with those guys," Bradford said. "When you spend so much time with the guys in the building and you put the time in to build those relationships on and off the field and then it just comes to an end without really having a chance to say goodbye or to go out on the field one last time to play with those guys, I think there's always a little part of you that you're a little down about that."
Bradford has thrived in Minnesota (5-0) after taking a crash course in yet another new offense -- he's playing for his sixth offensive coordinator in seven seasons. Bradford leads the NFL with a 70.4 percent completion rate, ranks second with a 109.8 passer rating, and has taken 249 snaps without a turnover.
But he still has found time to keep a close eye on the Eagles and the guy who replaced him, rookie No. 2 overall pick Carson Wentz.
"I enjoy watching them play and I enjoy watching them have success," Bradford said. "I've tried to watch as much as possible. From what Carson has done, it's been awesome to see him play the way he has, and it really doesn't surprise me."
Wentz started fast but the Eagles (3-2) have lost two in a row -- both on the road -- following an early bye. Though he has exceeded expectations so far, Wentz has also shown his inexperience.
Here's some things to watch for when the Eagles host the Vikings:
Bradford knows the Eagles' playbook inside and out, but the defense knows his strengths and weaknesses well after facing him in practice for 1 years. So who has the advantage?
"We'll see Sunday," Eagles CB Malcolm Jenkins said. "He obviously knows a lot about us. We know a lot about him. It'll be fun to get to play against him."
The Eagles have committed 27 penalties in the past two games and have 37 in the past three. DT Fletcher Cox has a pair of personal fouls that prolonged drives which ended in touchdowns instead of field-goal attempts.
"We have to be more disciplined," linebacker Nigel Bradham said. "It seemed like every time we were in third down and about to get out, we hurt ourselves by getting penalties."
BIG V RETURNS
Rookie RT Halapoulivaati Vaitai will make his second start filling in for the suspended Lane Johnson. Vaitai had an awful debut against the Redskins, allowing two sacks and several pressures that disrupted the offense's rhythm. But coach Doug Pederson is sticking with the fifth-round pick instead of moving other guys around on the line.
The Vikings added badly needed depth for their offensive line during the bye week by signing veteran Jake Long, the first overall pick in the 2008 draft. Both starting tackles, Matt Kalil and Andre Smith, are on injured reserve. Long's career has been derailed by ACL tears in his right knee in both the 2013 and 2014 seasons. For now, T.J. Clemmings remains at left tackle and Jeremiah Sirles is the right tackle. Center Joe Berger is the only one of the five starters in the same place as last season, with the Vikings seeking to establish some stability with a group that has fared relatively well considering the circumstances but had plenty of struggles, primarily with run blocking.
"Everyone prepares like they're going to be a starter, and I think that's shown since guys have gotten thrown in there," Sirles said, adding: "Not exactly what you'd put together in May, but everyone's here working, just trying to get better."
Vikings middle linebacker Eric Kendricks, whose six pass breakups are the most of any non-cornerback in the NFL, will compete against his older brother's team for the first team as a pro. Mychal Kendricks is an outside linebacker for the Eagles. Both of them were second-round draft picks, Eric out of UCLA in 2015 and Mychal from Cal in 2012.
But don't expect a barrage of trash-talking from the soft-spoken brothers.
"We talked a little bit on the off day, not really about football," Eric Kendricks said, adding: "I'm watching the offense, man. He's not on offense."