Scouting the Rams: St. Louis is keeping QB Bradford upright
By Rick Gosselin / Columnist
The St. Louis Rams believed they found a franchise quarterback in Sam Bradford with the first overall pick of the 2010 NFL draft.
For Bradford to achieve his potential, the Rams knew they had to start protecting him. They have ó and a formidable wall will face the Cowboys when the Rams come to town Sunday.
Bradford is the NFLís only starting quarterback who has not been sacked this season. Thatís 93 pass attempts with no tackles. He can thank the investment the Rams have made in his blocking front.
Jake Long starts at left tackle and Chris Williams at left guard. Long was the first overall pick and Williams 14th overall in the 2008 draft. Rodger Saffold starts at right tackle. He was the 33rd overall pick of the 2010 draft.
Scott Wells starts at center. He also started there for the Packers in their Super Bowl victory after the 2010 season. Harvey Dahl starts at right guard. He also started there in 2010 for the 13-3 Falcons.
Wells, Dahl, Long and Williams all arrived in free agency. Long commanded a $34 million contract and Wells a $24 million deal. Dahl arrived in 2011, Wells and Williams in 2012 and Long in 2013. If Saffold canít go against the Cowboys because of a knee injury, he will be replaced by a former third-round draft pick Joe Barksdale.
Long was the key addition ó and the Rams had to put up $16 million in guaranteed money to get him. Long becomes Bradfordís personal protector at left tackle. He was brought in to help reduce Bradfordís sack numbers from the mid-30s to the mid-20s. He was brought in to block Pro Bowl pass rushers Aldon Smith, Robert Mathis, Julius Peppers and DeMarcus Ware on the 2013 schedule.
The Cowboys have seven sacks through two games, seventh best in the NFL. Ware has two of the sacks and both came last week, one against a rookie right tackle (Eric Fisher) and the other against a veteran left tackle (Branden Albert).
This will be a battle of heavyweights. Long started 61 consecutive games to begin his career and went to four consecutive Pro Bowls before injuries to his back and biceps ended both streaks last December.
If Bradford has time to throw, the underdog Rams have a chance against the Cowboys. St. Louis ranks 10th in the NFL in offense and fourth in passing. Starting wide receivers Tavon Austin and Austin Pettis have three TD catches between them and tight end Jared Cook has two more.