Bradford strives for consistency
BY BILL COATS • Posted: Thursday, August 26, 2010 10:00 am

Statistically, there is no question who the better Rams quarterback has been in the first two preseason games. It's veteran A.J. Feeley in a landslide.

Feeley has completed 66.7 percent of his passes, has thrown for a touchdown, and has a gaudy passer rating of 107.6. Rookie Sam Bradford has connected on just 44.4 percent of his passes, has yet to throw for a TD, and has a woeful passer rating of 51.6.

But Feeley is out with thumb and elbow injuries suffered Saturday in a 19-17 win at Cleveland. So Bradford will make his first start tonight, when the Rams visit the New England Patriots, looking to establish some consistency in his performance.

Bradford hasn't started a game since Oct. 17, when he suffered a shoulder injury in Oklahoma's 16-13 loss to Texas. Surgery repaired the damage, and Bradford did enough after he recovered to persuade the Rams to take him with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.

Now, Bradford indicated, it's time to start proving that he was worth the investment — which includes a six-year, $78 million contract.

"I want to come out and have a strong showing," Bradford said. "I want to show the guys on this team that I can play. I want to learn as much as possible. ... But most of all, I really want to come out and help this offense win a football game."

Granted, it's only a preseason game, one that Bradford vowed to approach "like any other game." Still, he couldn't conceal his enthusiasm over his starting role.

"I'm real excited," Bradford said. "It's been a long time since I started a football game."

Starting one in the NFL — preseason or not — "is something that every kid dreams about. I was no different," Bradford said. "It's a tremendous honor, and I'm extremely excited for this opportunity."

Bradford will get some time with Steven Jackson in the backfield. The two have yet to team up in a game, and, as was proved vs. the Browns, the Rams' offense perks up when Jackson is on the field.

The Rams marched 65 yards for a touchdown on the opening series Saturday, Jackson grinding out 20 yards on four carries. With Jackson on the sideline, the Rams mustered just four field goals the rest of the way.

"That's going to be exciting," Bradford said. "He's a big part of this offense, and to be out there with him, it's going to be a lot of fun."

Another burst from the blocks is high on coach Steve Spagnuolo's wish list for Bradford. "Start out fast, start out strong, move the team just like A.J. did last week in the first series. That'd be nice," Spagnuolo said.

The third preseason game often is regarded as the most important. It's normally the contest when the starters see their most extended action; they typically play very little, if at all, in the fourth and final preseason game.

So this is Bradford's best chance to make a firm statement that he should be the No. 1 quarterback when the Rams host Arizona on Sept. 12 in the regular-season opener.

Spagnuolo said his first-teamers would play "hopefully through the first half. And then we'll see where we're at and how many number of plays we have at that point and then decide whether we come out in the third quarter."

Preseason game No. 3 "is a dress rehearsal for the real thing," Jackson said. "It allows for us to kind of get in the flow of the game, get the tempo. Your playbook opens up a little more than it has the first two games."

Bradford said he's far better prepared for tonight's assignment than he would've been at the start of the preseason schedule.

"I feel like every day when I leave the practice field I know something I didn't know going into the practice. I think that's a good thing," he said. "And I think if I continue to do that and continue to make the progress like I have been, I'm going to be in a good position."

Good enough to wrest the job away from Feeley? That won't be decided for a while longer, Spagnuolo indicated.

"Every time they go out there, they're being evaluated," he said. "We've always said we're going to play the guy who we think gives us the best chance to win. We'll see at the end of it. We've got this game and one more, against Baltimore" next Thursday at the Edward Jones Dome.