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Bernie: Bradford's Numbers Send Mixed Messages
Bernie: Bradford's numbers send mixed message
1 hour ago ē BY BERNIE MIKLASZ, Post-Dispatch Sports Columnist
The Rams, 3-5 at the halfway point, have improved under new coach Jeff Fisher. The positive buzz of their 3-2 start was reduced by three consecutive losses, but thereís still a lot to like. The attitude is better. The confidence is better. The team is better. Except for Sundayís 45-7 smackdown by New England, the Rams have been highly competitive.
For the Rams, 2012 represents a new beginning. And theyíll be judged by how they do with Fisher as their leader. Heís made the Rams younger, fresher, edgier and more energetic.
Itís a start, but the Rams still have a long way to go.
And no player is more important than quarterback Sam Bradford.
The Rams made him the first overall pick in the 2010 draft. Bradfordís talent and potential for greatness were a lure for Fisher in his decision to accept the Ramsí offer.
The Rams then reaffirmed his faith in Bradford by trading the No. 2 overall selection in this yearís draft to Washington, which coveted quarterback Robert Griffin III. Fisher and GM Les Snead werenít tempted to go for Griffin. Instead, they went all-in with Bradford.
Now in his third NFL season, Bradford is making progress, and heís gotten his career back on track after a potentially ruinous 2011.
Fisher came to St. Louis with a long list of objectives, and Bradfordís development is crucial to the Ramsí future. If Bradford fails, itís a huge setback to the Fisher program. If Bradford ascends to an elite level, the Rams are likely to follow his trajectory and find success.
Through the first eight games, Bradford is posting the best numbers of his career in passer rating (82.4), yards per passing attempt (7.2), completion percentage (61.4) and percentage of passes that go for touchdowns (3.2.)
Compared to the leagueís finest quarterbacks, Bradfordís portfolio is modest. He ranks in the middle of the pack, or in the lower half, in the key statistical categories. But no one of sound mind expected Bradford to be on par with guys like Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Matt Ryan, etc.
Bradford is hardly operating from a position of strength. The talent around him is limited. The offensive line, ripped by injuries, isnít capable of providing tight protection. Rookie Chris Givens has emerged as a deep threat, but heís inconsistent. Bradfordís supporting cast is still being assembled, and he should have more talent around him in 2013, and in subsequent seasons.
The conditions are far from ideal, but Bradford has managed to sharpen his game, and thatís encouraging.
According to data kept by Pro Football Focus, Bradford has been under pass-rush pressure on 35.2 percent of his dropbacks. Thatís slightly higher than the pressure rate on Bradford in 2011 and 2010. Combining sacks, hits and hurries, Bradford has been pressured 86 times overall this season. Only four NFL quarterbacks have felt more heat.
Bradford also lost his best and most reliable receiver, Danny Amendola, to injury. Amendola missed the last three games with a dislocated clavicle but is expected to return when the Rams resume play at San Francisco on Nov. 11.
Donít underestimate Amendolaís value. When healthy Amendola is one of the leagueís best slot receivers, and he makes a difference. Since Bradfordís arrival in 2010, the Rams are 10-12 when Amendola plays and 2-16 when he doesnít.
When Bradford has targeted Amendola, heís completed 72.5 percent of his passes and has an outstanding passer rating of 95.8. When Bradford has targeted any other receiver since entering the NFL, heís completed 56 percent and has a passer rating of 72.8.
Itís unreasonable to expect a young quarterback to thrive without his most dependable target in the slot, a true No. 1 receiver outside, or sturdy pass protection.
With all of that working against him, Bradford has adapted well to his first season in the Brian Schottenheimer offense and should benefit from additional familiarity.
Bradford has advanced, even as he goes to work at a football construction site that has many moving parts.
Two things jump out at me:
ē According to the Pro Football Focus formula, Bradford ranks sixth among NFL quarterbacks this season in accuracy on passing attempts of 20 yards or longer.
ē Bradford has been at his best late in close games. Bradford ranks sixth in the NFL with a 114.2 passer rating when the Rams are leading by seven points or fewer or trailing by seven points or fewer. For context, consider this: Aaron Rodgers is fifth in this category, one spot above Bradford, with a passer rating of 117.3.
One troubling negative jumps out: Bradford isnít a finisher. And the top quarterbacks find ways to close out drives. The Rams are struggling to score touchdowns, ranking 30th in the NFL with only 11 TDs from scrimmage.
Bradford canít do it by himself. There are a lot of reasons for the teamís futility in the red zone.
Part of this is coaching. Schottenheimer has done a good job overall, but we donít see much creativity near the goal line.
Part of the futility can be attributed to a shortage of playmakers. Except for Amendola, the Ramsí receivers arenít effective at getting open in tight spaces. The tight ends havenít developed into close-range weapons.
The coaches have inexplicably neglected to cultivate rookie wideout Brian Quick, the 33rd overall draft pick, who has the size and athletic ability to be a red-zone force.
The Rams are terrible at running the football in the red zone. They have only two rushing TDs in eight games, tied for the fewest in the league, and thatís ridiculous.
Part of this is on Bradford, too.
Bradford has good passing numbers when the Rams have the ball between their own 20-yard line and the opponentís 40-yard line. But his passer rating drops to an abysmal 67.9 between the opponentís 39-yard line and 20-yard line. Itís even worse inside the red zone: 13 completions in 30 attempts (43.3 percent) and a passer rating of 62.5. That ranks 30th among NFL quarterbacks.
Again, this isnít all on Bradfordís shoulders, but the quarterback has to find a way to make plays. The best QBs manage to rise above difficult circumstances to get their team into the end zone, and Bradford isnít there yet.
Thatís my wish for the second half of the season. Bradford must provide more impact. He must be more assertive. He needs to become a finisher, a closer. He must become the kind of quarterback who can make a difference.
Re: Bernie: Bradford's Numbers Send Mixed Messages
The effect of talent around you as a QB and the impact on ones performance. You don't have to look any further then one of the QB's playing tonight. That QB is Philip Rivers. He was on the verge of becoming elite, he has put up big time numbers over the last five years. Now he's struggling. They are ranked 25th in offense. He is in his seventh year as a starter so he has put the time in and has all the skill sets one could ask for. What has changed the cast around him.
Banged Up Offensive Line
Rivers’ supporting cast the play makers are gone, LT, Darren Sproles and Vincent Jackson to name a few.
Back to Sam, how can we hope for him to become a closer or a finisher, when a QB like Rivers can't finish without a solid supporting cast supporting him.
Bernie instead of wishing for Bradford to become super human just wish for some talent to come our way next year.
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