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Thread: Bradford has pieces in place to break out

  1. #1
    MauiRam's Avatar
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    Bradford has pieces in place to break out

    It's a key crossroads season for Rams QB Bradford

    Bernie Miklasz

    The other night, in a conversation with a friend, the topic turned to Rams quarterback Sam Bradford.

    What kind of season will he have? Is he ready to make a leap to elite status among NFL quarterbacks?

    Here’s what I truly believe: watch out.

    In his first three NFL seasons Bradford was bloodied and bruised but he still is standing, and in 2013 he’ll be in a fair fight for the first time in his NFL career.

    The hard knocks of the NFL couldn’t kill Bradford. He took a merciless beating after joining the worst NFL franchise as the NFL’s No. 1 draft pick in 2010. But it didn’t wreck his body or drain his morale.

    From 2010 through 2012, Bradford was sacked 105 times, or more than all but four NFL quarterbacks.

    According to Pro Football Focus, no NFL quarterback absorbed more hits while delivering a throw than Bradford over the past three seasons, and only a few teams dropped more passes than the Rams.

    Bradford has started 42 games for the Rams, and over that relatively brief time he’s played for two owners, two head coaches, two general managers and three offensive coordinators.

    He’s thrown to 11 different starters at wide receiver, and seven starters at tight end. His pass protection suffered during a turnstile count that put six different starters at offensive tackle, six starters at guard and four at center.

    Bradford is 15-26-1 as a starter. Somehow, that record was all Bradford’s fault — well, at least to his most impatient critics.

    Bradford spent most of the past three seasons operating under the worst possible circumstances for an NFL quarterback. If you drew up a plot to ruin a career, this would have been it.

    Bradford took all of the punches, took the unfair criticism, took the misdirected blame. He survived all of it. And now he’s working in a stable program led by Jeff Fisher, a terrific head coach.

    In my view the blows made Bradford stronger. You never know what people are made of unless they’re confronted by adversity. And Bradford was steam-rolled by it.

    But as he prepares to enter his fourth season, things are changing for Bradford.

    The NFL couldn’t break Bradford, and now he’s poised for a breakout year.

    And now — finally — help is on the way.

    Last year the Rams drafted two gifted wide receivers, Brian Quick and Chris Givens. This year they drafted two more playmakers, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.

    The Rams signed Jake Long, a four-time Pro Bowl left offensive tackle. They signed tight end Jared Cook, an all-terrain vehicle capable of muscling defenders inside or running deep.

    The Rams have two other promising young targets in third-year tight end Lance Kendricks and third-year slot receiver Austin Pettis. They began making plays in 2012, combining for nine touchdown catches

    Sure, this fun bunch is inexperienced. At age 26, Cook will be the oldest wide receiver, running back or tight end on the likely regular-season roster.

    And so what?

    After what Bradford has been through, he’s thrilled to be surrounded by enhanced talent —even if none of the skill-position players have started more than 24 NFL games.

    “I’ve been waiting for this, just wanting to see this offense succeed and maybe do some things we haven’t been able to in the past,” Bradford told USA Today last month.

    In terms of knowledge, Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer described Bradford as being “a thousand years” ahead of where he was a year ago in his first season of working with Schottenheimer.

    The buildup puts more pressure on Bradford to emerge as more of a difference maker, and winner, in 2013.

    Bradford made significant strides last year, a reality that escaped the notice of too many short-attention spans.

    Bradford was one of the league’s best red-zone quarterbacks over the final eight games, throwing for nine touchdowns and one interception for a passer rating of 101.8.

    Bradford’s QBR rating — the advanced ESPN model for assessing quarterback play —jumped 10 points over final eight games.

    Bradford ranked 10th among starting quarterbacks in fourth-quarter passer rating, leading the Rams to four fourth-quarter comebacks and three game-winning drives. Only two NFL quarterbacks had more fourth-quarter comebacks, and only five had more game-winning drives.

    According to Pro Football Focus, Bradford was among the most accurate passers on deep balls in 2012, and he graded well for his accuracy when under pass-rush pressure.

    Bradford improved when his pass protection firmed up —hardly a coincidence in a team sport.

    In the first eight games last season, Bradford endured the fifth-highest sack rate among NFL quarterbacks and had eight touchdowns and seven interceptions.

    In the last eight games, Bradford benefited from the fifth-lowest sack rate and responded with 13 touchdowns and six interceptions. The Rams went 4-2 down the stretch, with Bradford commanding the offense to a pair of game-winning drives.

    Bradford passed for more touchdowns than Detroit’s Matthew Stafford — and Stafford has the game’s best receiving weapon in Calvin Johnson.

    Bradford passed for one fewer touchdown than Baltimore’s Joe Flacco, who ultimately led the Ravens to the Super Bowl title.

    One national pundit recently compared Bradford’s 2012 regular-season stats to Flacco’s and was astounded to discover there wasn’t much difference.

    Well, except for this: Flacco played for a much better team.

    The old perceptions remain, however.

    As retired NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb said last week on the NFL Network: “It’s time for you to flourish, before you get put in that Mark Sanchez category. Sam Bradford, it’s time for you to step up.”

    Those of us who study NFL history have seen this career arc before. Many heralded quarterback prospects needed time to reach their potential.

    Here are the names of 11 Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterbacks: Jim Kelly, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Namath, Troy Aikman, Warren Moon, Bob Griese, Frank Tarkenton, Dan Fouts, Steve Young, Sonny Jurgensen and Bart Starr.

    In their first three NFL seasons, they combined to win 116 of 336 games.

    That’s a winning percentage of 34.5.

    Bradford’s winning percentage in his first three seasons: 35.7.

    Phil Simms, Jim Plunkett, Doug Williams, and Drew Brees aren’t Hall of Famers, but they won Super Bowls. Here are their records in the first three seasons as NFL starters: Simms 14-20, Plunkett 14-28, Williams 19-22, and Brees 10-17.

    Granted, for every Troy Aikman and Phil Simms there are a dozen David Carrs.

    As Bradford enters 2013 he’s standing at an intersection. One road leads toward Aikman, and the other takes him down the path where careers have crashed.

    Bradford already is headed in the right direction; it’s just that people haven’t noticed. But they will in 2013.


  2. #2
    r8rh8rmike's Avatar
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    Re: Bradford has pieces in place to break out

    As Bradford enters 2013 he’s standing at an intersection
    Actually, he's not. Standing that is. He's been doing loads of extra work with his new receivers, and just finished his Oklahoma workouts, where if I'm not mistaken, all his skilled position players took part. He's chosen to put in as much time and effort as possible to making himself, and those around him ready to roll in September, as opposed to posing naked for ESPN, running around with a Dolphins hat on, and fighting with fans.

    Just sayin'.
    thoey, MauiRam, macrammer and 1 others like this.

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    RAMarkable is offline Registered User
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    Re: Bradford has pieces in place to break out

    Quote Originally Posted by r8rh8rmike View Post
    Actually, he's not. Standing that is. He's been doing loads of extra work with his new receivers, and just finished his Oklahoma workouts, where if I'm not mistaken, all his skilled position players took part. He's chosen to put in as much time and effort as possible to making himself, and those around him ready to roll in September, as opposed to posing naked for ESPN, running around with a Dolphins hat on, and fighting with fans.

    Just sayin'.
    Ahhh...Sarcasm!! It makes the blood floweth just a bit quicker!!

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    r8rh8rmike's Avatar
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    Re: Bradford has pieces in place to break out

    Quote Originally Posted by RAMarkable View Post
    Ahhh...Sarcasm!! It makes the blood floweth just a bit quicker!!
    Oh. I forgot bicep kissing.

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    RealRam's Avatar
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    Re: Bradford has pieces in place to break out

    Now, BM is not going to jinx Bradford ... or is he?

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    Azul e Oro is offline Registered User
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    Re: Bradford has pieces in place to break out

    Bernie has a friend ?!

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    Re: Bradford has pieces in place to break out

    Quote Originally Posted by Azul e Oro View Post
    Bernie has a friend ?!
    His mother.

  8. #8
    Azul e Oro is offline Registered User
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    Re: Bradford has pieces in place to break out

    Quote Originally Posted by RockinRam View Post
    His mother.
    But she might be jivin', too.

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