<
>

Can surprise QB stars of Week 1 keep it going? Expectations for Sam Bradford, Alex Smith, more

The 2017 NFL season is off and running, and with the opening week came several eye-opening performances by quarterbacks. Here's a closer look at those signal-callers and whether NFL Nation reporters think they can sustain their Week 1 play throughout the season:

Sam Bradford, Minnesota Vikings

Bradford strung together explosive scoring drives of 74 yards and 95 yards against the New Orleans Saints that both took 1:40 or less to execute. Coach Mike Zimmer wouldn’t go as far to say Bradford’s play against the Saints was his best, but Zimmer pointed out how the offensive line, running game and receivers allowed Bradford to be successful. The question: Are the Vikings for real, or is the Saints' defense that bad?

It’s too early to crown this new-look offense. Can Bradford keep this going? Yes, at least for a short period. He began last season 4-0 with a 109.7 rating and 7.9 yards per attempt. But his yards per attempt sank to 6.9 over the last nine games despite an NFL-record 71.6 completion percentage.

So much of Minnesota’s success is going to depend on its revamped offensive line keeping Bradford clean and giving him time to execute throws. -- Courtney Cronin

Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs

It’s unlikely that Smith, at 33, has suddenly become a new and improved player. He is who he is, making games such as the one he had against New England unlikely to happen again anytime soon. Said Smith about his performance: “... You play long enough and you realize how [quickly] things can change. One week everybody’s raving about you, and how quickly it can flip if you drink the Kool-Aid. I think you need to be careful with that a little bit.”

Indeed, Smith threw for 363 yards and two touchdowns in the opener last season, but the Chiefs didn’t score a TD the next week. The circumstances in New England -- the Chiefs trailed for most of the game -- demanded the Chiefs throw a lot, but they won’t always be in that situation.

On the other hand, the addition of rookie running back Kareem Hunt might have transformed the Kansas City offense. It’s possible Smith can break his single-season bests for yardage (3,502) and touchdowns (23). -- Adam Teicher

Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams

Goff benefited from an early lead and was matched up against Indianapolis’ subpar defense without top cornerback Vontae Davis. But Goff also is running a far more innovative scheme, is playing behind an offensive line that significantly improved on the left side and is throwing to a better, deeper group of receivers (Sammy Watkins, Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods), all of which will only aid the proverbial Year 2 leap.

As long as he continues to make sound decisions, trusts his teammates and distributes the football, Goff should have a much better year than his rookie season, when he completed only 54.6 percent of his passes with a 22.2 QBR.

“I think that’s something I’ve learned in the NFL -- you don’t need to do everything yourself,” Goff said after the Rams’ 46-9 win. “Those guys get paid, too, and there’s a reason those guys are on your team, and there’s a reason that they are who they are and are drafted and all that.” -- Alden Gonzalez

Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles

Wentz’s ability to escape and create -- shown off during a nine-second scramble drill to set up a 58-yard touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor on the Eagles’ opening drive against the Washington Redskins -- had some of his teammates comparing his improvisation skills to Michael Vick.

That might be a stretch, but there’s no doubt that extending plays is a strength of Wentz, and he now has playmakers who can capitalize by shaking loose downfield.

This form of offense is a bit of a high-wire act that opens the quarterback up to extra punishment -- Wentz absorbed nine hits against the Redskins -- but he should continue to impress so long as he stays healthy. -- Tim McManus