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Burwell: Bradford shows he's ready to go
Burwell: Bradford shows he's ready to go
BY BRYAN BURWELL Posted: Friday, August 27, 2010 12:15 am
Relevance, people. I do believe at long last we might now have relevance. It has taken awhile for anyone to believe this about the St. Louis Rams as they went on a decade-long wild slide from the NFL penthouse all the way down to its most wretched depths. Once the best team in football and without question the most exciting the Rams have spent the last five or six seasons far off the NFL grid.
But now there is tantalizing evidence, albeit a small sample size, that should give hope that those irrelevant days are numbered.
It really does look like the Rams have themselves a franchise quarterback.
In only his third NFL game and the first start of his pro career, rookie Sam Bradford has done more than enough to make us believe that he's going to be worth the money. In the demanding world of pro football, all roads to relevance begin with a franchise quarterback. And now it sure does look like the Rams have the genuine article.
I'm sure there are going to be a lot of rough days and long, uncomfortable moments for the Rams' No.1 overall draft pick as he works his way through his first year in the NFL. But over the course of training camp, he has steadily compiled a portfolio that merits recognition. And now in his first stint as a starter, what Bradford did in Thursday night's third exhibition game against the New England Patriots was more than enough to show that the kid deserves to be given a chance to open the regular season as the team's starting quarterback.
In a 36-35 victory over the New England Patriots, Bradford was outstanding, completing 15 of 22 passes for 189 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions in only one half of work. Bradford led the Rams to two touchdowns, two field goals and a 20-14 halftime lead.
Get him ready for the regular-season opener against Arizona. No need to continue with the conservative approach to his development, because Bradford keeps proving he's a quick study. Some people will say that he had to be in the lineup because the Rams were paying him so much money as the No.1 overall pick in the 2010 draft.
But this has never been about the money to me. It's only been about whether or not Bradford could prove on the field and in the classroom that the Rams could trust him running the show, that his veteran teammates believed that they had a chance to win with him under center.
You don't make football decisions (at least smart ones) based on the number of zeroes on a guy's paycheck. Bradford belongs in the starting lineup because he is ready to take on the job. All night long as he dropped back calmly in the pocket before a near-sellout crowd at Gillette Stadium, the kid looked as poised as could be. He threw it well under pressure of the pass rush. He looked like he belonged in there, never overwhelmed by whatever was thrown in his face. He rolled out and threw darts. He zipped accurate passes on three-step drops and five-step drops and seven-step drops. He zipped the ball easily out of the shotgun, in the pocket and on the run.
With veteran A.J. Feeley on the sidelines nursing a bruised elbow and banged up thumb, this was Bradford's best opportunity to show what he could do with the full first-unit offense and he didn't waste the chance. He led the Rams to two touchdown drives and two field goals and he did it looking very much like someone who was not overwhelmed by the moment.
How good did he look? How about a stunning 125.0 quarterback rating? Remember now, this was the third preseason game, which most NFL folks consider the closest thing to a regular-season dress rehearsal you can get. The only glaring mistake Bradford made during his two-quarter show came right near the end of the first half when he missed out on a sure touchdown opportunity with under 10 seconds left in the half, when he saw wide receiver Laurent Robinson wide open near the goal line and threw the ball too high, forcing Robinson to haul in the pass with his feet scrapping the wide out-of-bounds stripe in the end zone.
But other than that, this was Bradford at his best. With no all-game downpour to worry about like last week in Cleveland and with a legitimate running game behind him thanks to Steven Jackson and Kenneth Darby Bradford essentially beat Tom Brady's Pats 20-14 in the first half. On the scoreboard and the stat sheet, Bradford out-dueled Brady. He had more completions (15 to 8), more attempts (22 to 10), more yards (189 to 103) and more touchdowns (2 to 1) than Brady.
While this preseason game is no guarantee that Bradford is now ready to easily glide his way through a full 16-game regular season, it is a clear indication that he has what it takes to be a more-than-competent rookie QB in this league. It is the first indication that Steve Spagnuolo should have little reservations about getting Bradford ready for the starter's job as soon as possible.
Bradford has done what this organization has asked of him, which is earn the respect of teammates, while showing them that they can feel confident putting him out there gives them a legitimate chance to win.
Now comes the hard part. The kid is going to need a lot of help, and while the offensive line seems to have settled down and gotten rid of those glaring protection issues, Bradford still needs more skill-position weapons to work with. Jackson continues to show that he is going to be a ground-gobbling, hard-running beast in the running game, but who else will Bradford have to lean on?
Thursday night, the best offensive alternative to handing off to Jackson was getting the ball in the hands of rookie tight end/fullback Michael Hoomanawanui (4 catches, 53 yards, 2 TDs) and little wide receiver Danny Amendola (5 catches, 50 yards). But both of those receivers work the field on short, underneath routes. The glaring absence in this offense is a man who can stretch the field. And the guy who was drafted to fill that role, Donnie Avery, left the game with an apparent knee injury.
So here's where new owner Stan Kroenke's presence could be immediately felt. No longer hamstrung by any budgetary restraints, general manager Billy Devaney needs to find a way to get Bradford some real receiving weapons. If you have invested as much in Bradford as reported (guaranteed $50 million), and now it looks like he's clearly worth the investment, wouldn't it be an equally wise strategy to surround him with the tools he needs to not only survive, but thrive?
Country Roads, Take Them To St. Louis!
Re: Burwell: Bradford shows he's ready to goLA RAMMER
It's Jim not Chris
Re: Burwell: Bradford shows he's ready to go
Yes I was really impressed with him too last night as I watched the game when I reached home at 11. There was NO EXCUSE for the win; we won the game fair and square and outdueled their STARTERS and second unit players. NO EXCUSES
KEEP IT ROLLING SAMMY FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE!!!!
GO RAMS 2010
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