August 07, 2010 10:56 PM
By RON CLEMENTS
The Telegraph

ST. CHARLES, Mo. - Sam Bradford started strong and left on a high note.

After going 4-for-4 for 66 yards to lead a touchdown drive on his first series, Bradford's last pass during Saturday night's Rams scrimmage at Lindenwood University was a 53-yard connection with Danny Amendola.

"It felt great," said Bradford, who the Rams made the No. 1 overall pick in April's draft. "This was a blast. It's the first time I've got to do this in a long time. It was really fun, that's for sure."

After winning the Heisman Trophy in 2008, Bradford missed most of his final season as Oklahoma with a shoulder injury. Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said Bradford's command of the huddle was remarkable.

"He's got a strong voice, which I know sounds like a little thing, but out there in the midst of all this he's got control," Spagnuolo said. "He was zipping the ball around pretty good. He was hitting second receivers. There were one or two in there that I thought he might not have gotten away, which I don't know were whistled as sacks. That's something he'll have to learn."

Bradford had over 20 reps while all the other quarterbacks received 15 or less. Spagnuolo said that was by design and some rollout plays were called specifically for Bradford because it's something he did well at Oklahoma.

"He's very good moving around in the pocket," Spagnuolo said. "He's very accurate."

A.J. Feeley started the first series and also went 4-for-4 to lead a 60-yard scoring drive, which ended in a 30-yard touchdown strike with Amendola. Steven Jackson did not participate in the scrimmage for precautionary reasons as the Rams tread lightly with his surgically repaired back.

The scrimmage was pass-heavy, but Spagnuolo said it had nothing to do with the injuries to the tailbacks and that offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur just "called it how he saw it."

Also not dressed for the scrimmage were wide receiver Brandon Gibson, cornerbacks Marquis Johnson, Ron Bartell and Bradley Fletcher, defensive ends C.J. Ah You and James Hall, guard Jacob Bell and rookie running back Keith Toston. Running back Kenneth Darby hurt his hamstring and rookie receiver Mardy Gilyard "took a whack" on his right forearm.

He entered the scrimmage nursing a tender right wrist and his lower arm was iced following the scrimmage. Gilyard and Amendola split time receiving punts.The offense seemed to outperform the defense, but three corners and a pair of defensive ends not playing may have contributed.

There were very few blitzes as Spagnuolo and defensive coordinator Ken Flajole kept the schemes fairly simple.

"We were hurting at corner," Spagnuolo said. "The thing with the young defensive guys, it's all about becoming consistent. The volume is a little heavy with the defense right now. Once that smoothes out, it will eliminate those mistakes."

Spagnuolo liked his team's physicality, but a lot of "little things" bothered him. The Rams were called for four false starts, had a few drops - a pair by tight end Daniel Fells, who also fumbled.

"I'd like to see the offense finish some of those goal line plays and get into the end zone," the second-year coach said. "You're never happy as a head coach when you drop balls or turn it over, and never really happy at all when you have those illegal formation penalties. Those frustrate me the most. We've got to clean that up."

Spagnuolo did say Feeley looked "crisp" and also said backups Keith Null and Thaddeus Lewis performed well. Null's first pass of the night was a 60-yard bomb to undrafted rookie Brandon McRae. The 6-foot-4 McRae got behind Kevin Dockery, who had picked off Null twice during Friday's practice.

"Keith just threw a wonderful ball," McRae said. "All I had to do was get my hands up and catch it. It was nothing spectacular, but it felt real good."

But the night was about Bradford, who finished 8-for-10 for 96 yards and a score during live drills. His two incompletions were drops. He capped his night in front of about 8,000 fans with the perfect 53-yard pass to Amendola during the two-minute drill. Bradford said his best throw of the night was a back-shoulder throw to Keenan Burton for a 22-yard gain to the 11 on the first series. One play later, Bradford found Burton in the right corner of the end zone.

"This definitely gave as a little bit of preparation for next week," Bradford said. "I'm sure those four preseason games will get us ready for the regular season."