Thomas: Scrutiny Grows For Sam Bradford
Scrutiny grows for Sam Bradford
15 hours ago • By Jim Thomas
For a Rams fan base eager to embrace a football team and a quarterback, these are frustrating days. For media observers looking for a breakout stretch or at least some consistency, these are puzzling times.
The NFL is the ultimate week-to-week business, and mirroring the team as a whole, quarterback Sam Bradford wasn’t very good last Sunday against the New York Jets.
“It was just one of those days,” Bradford said. “I think it was a combination of everything. Give them credit, they played well. They covered us at times, but then we had opportunities at times. I missed a couple throws that I think I usually make; I know for sure I would like to have those back. When you do that, it’s hard to keep yourself on the field.
“When we’ve been successful, we’ve completed passes on third down and kept ourselves on the field and kept drives alive. We just didn’t do that last week.”
Bradford seemed to hold the ball forever at times against the Jets. Maybe it was a case of disguised looks that had him unsure about what he was seeing. Or perhaps it simply was excellent man-to-man coverage that meant it took longer for receivers to work their way clear. Bradford seemed a tick late on several timing patterns and check-down tosses.
Throw in an ill-timed penalty here and there, plus the occasional breakdown in pass-blocking, and as Bradford says, it was one of those days.
“They did a good job — effective coverage — of taking away check-downs,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “He was just trying to make plays. .. There were a couple of times where probably he could’ve pulled it down and run a little bit and maybe got the first down. But he knows someone’s chasing him; he doesn’t know who.”
One pass Bradford definitely wanted back was a late throw in the flat to tight end Mike McNeill. Jets safety Eric Smith was able to jump the route for an interception.
“I have to know better than that,” Bradford said. “It’s something that you learn when you first start playing football. You can’t come across the field and throw it late to the flat, and I just tried to force it and the guy made a good play.”
The interception didn’t result in any points for the Jets, thanks to a blocked field goal by Janoris Jenkins. But Bradford, who doesn’t throw a ton of interceptions, seemed less decisive after that “pick.”
The Jets definitely won the strategic chess game, on both sides of the ball Sunday. And that’s a reflection of coaching as much as player performance. As an example of that chess game, Fisher talked about putting two backs in the backfield as blockers, anticipating pressure.
Do that, and that means you’ve got just three receivers out on routes. If three route-runners are trying to get open against five or six defenders in coverage, that can take a little more time and keep the quarterback holding the ball longer.
“It’s a defense where it’s very hard to go through normal progressions because it’s a little unorthodox,” Fisher said. “And it creates problems for quarterbacks.”
Maybe so. But it didn’t create many problems Thursday night for Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Sooner or later Rams fans want results from the team and the quarterback. Every time rookie QBs Robert Griffith III of Washington or Andrew Luck of Indianapolis has a good game, impatient Rams fans want to know: “What about Sam?” In the team sense, the same holds true every time 2011 bottom feeders such as Tampa Bay and Minnesota win another game.
Bradford isn’t one to read the headlines, scan the blogs, or listen to the sports talk shows. But he realizes there is an expectation level for him, and he has an expectation level for himself.
“I try to play at a high level each week; I just look to improve each week,” he said. “Obviously, I would like to be playing my best each week, but I think sometimes you’ve got to take a step back and look at it.
“It’s my third year, but at the same time, it’s the first year in this offense. We’re a young team, we’re a young offense. We’ve experienced some growing pains this year, but I think overall we’ve improved as the year’s gone on and that’s all you can ask for. We’re going to keep improving and keep getting better.”
Despite the clunker against the Jets, Bradford isn’t down on himself, and that doesn’t appear to be the case with his coaches or teammates.
“This isn’t just Sam, it’s across the board,” linebacker James Laurinaitis said. “If you’re a first-round pick people expect you should be automatic Pro Bowlers _ that’s the expectation level now. He came in, he played very well as a rookie. We all know his second season injuries limit what you can do. The lockout all that stuff. And then we have another offensive coordinator.”
Bradford has earned the respect of his teammates for the way he prepares and for his evolving leadership skills.
“He takes the job seriously,” defensive end Chris Long said. “He’s the last car out of here every night. It’s like clockwork. If I leave at 7 o’clock, Sam’s car is going to be here. If I leave at 8 o’clock, Sam’s car is going to be here. People respect that.”
In terms of leadership, Laurinaitis says the difference between Bradford’s rookie year and this season is night and day.
“I’m talking about Sam getting everybody together before a game,” Laurinaitis said. “He’s a guy that he doesn’t have to say a whole lot. But when he speaks, people listen. It’s not like a rah-rah thing every week.
“But you’ll notice at a halftime, he’ll get guys going; ‘Hey let’s go. We can get these guys. We can put points up.’ He’s starting to do a little more of that. But he knows the times to do it. He’s continuing to grow. Third year, it’s a big year for a quarterback. And I think Sam’s made tremendous progress just how he’s done as a leader and as a football player.”
The challenge gets no easier this weekend in Arizona. Even though they’ve lost six in a row, the Cardinals are the NFL’s ninth-ranked defense and had six takeaways last week against Atlanta. It marks the sixth top 10 defense Bradford and the Rams have faced this season. In comparison, Luck and the Colts have faced one.
“I know, in Sam’s mind, the main thing is wins,” offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. “We all want to win. We want to get to win No. 4. I thought San Francisco was one of his best games. I’m not going to say his best game, but I thought he played really, really well against a great defense.”
Then came the Jets _ and that consistency thing.
“There’s certainly a lot of room for him to grow,” Schottenheimer said. “I think he’s got a much greater feel for the offense now. But I think the arrow’s pointing up. Give him a little bit more time in his progression as a young quarterback, and I think that he’ll be a top-flight player.”
Re: Thomas: Scrutiny Grows For Sam Bradford
Yeah, Schottenheimer, maybe you need more time too.
When the run's working, keep running the damn ball and keep the weezing defense off the field.