It’s time for our Annual-Pre-season state of Sam Bradford address.
Sam Bradford is an elite NFL quarterback. Sam Bradford can't stay healthy. Sam Bradford doesn't have enough help around him. Sam Bradford is overpaid. Sam Bradford's offensive line is going to get him killed. Sam Bradford is the future of the St. Louis Rams.
You might hear all of those things said about Bradford in one week.
I personally think Bradford is going to be an elite NFL QB, and I also believe the Rams will succeed with Bradford as their QB. Bradford was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2010, leading the Rams to a 7-9 record.
However, Bradford fell flat on his face in 2011. In the "what have you done for me lately" world we live in, it seems like some fans have already written Bradford off, like he is not going to truly be the QB to get the Rams over the hump.
Bradford completed 60 percent of his passes as a rookie, with a TD/INT ratio of 18-15. Unlike these other QB's, Bradford didn't have an elite receiving target to throw to. The Rams were a bad team, with three starters on the offensive line that would be replaced by the end of the following season.
Bradford's fall from grace during his sophomore year, in hindsight, was very predictable. The flaws the team had during his rookie season (the receivers, the O Line) weren't adequately addressed prior to the start of his second season, he got saddled with a new offensive coordinator that wanted him to hold the ball longer in order for passing plays to develop, and the Rams played a brutal schedule.
It's hard enough being a young QB, but my goodness, the Rams really set him up to fail in 2011.
I think the Rams will scale things back in 2012. Bradford is going to throw the ball less, and he won't be asked to hold the ball nearly as long when they do have him throw. He has better talent at wide receiver, his second year tight end should be a factor in the passing game, and the offensive line has been upgraded over the last two seasons.
Jeff Fisher has two good running backs. Steven Jackson and his rookie understudy, Isaiah Pead, will give Fisher the two back system he needs to take pressure off of Bradford. The Rams have a talented young defense. Bradford, for the first time in his Rams' career, is in a position where he can succeed. He has help around him.
The heart is there, and I for one am convinced the toughness is as well. Bradford took every offensive snap for the Rams as a rookie in 2010.
Fighting through a high-ankle sprain for five games even though the St. Louis Rams' season appeared doomed scored points with teammates. There is value in that for a quarterback.
Recovery timetables vary, so it's impossible to say for sure whether Bradford returned more quickly than another player would have under the same circumstances.
Bradford was back in the lineup 21 days after suffering the injury at Green Bay. Research conducted by ESPN’s Mike Sando last season showed three Cleveland Browns quarterbacks returning from high-ankle sprains after 28, 28 and 31 days in 2010. Two of those Cleveland quarterbacks injured their right ankles, used for planting. Bradford and Colt McCoy (28 days) injured their left ankles, which take less abuse for a right-handed quarterback.
Bradford beat reasonable expectations, at least, and those are the types of things teammates notice. He was obviously not 100 percent upon returning. The injury forced him to the sideline for four of the final five games.
Now, we'll see if Bradford has the goods. I'm guessing he'll show us all that he does.