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Thread: Tipsheet: Bradford Starts Over With Young Talent

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    Tipsheet: Bradford Starts Over With Young Talent

    Tipsheet: Bradford starts over with young cast

    10 hours ago • BY JEFF GORDON jeffgordon@post-dispatch.com

    When quarterback Sam Bradford gets back to work in the Organized Team Activities, exactly zero established NFL playmakers will join in the fun at Rams Park.

    That is two fewer proven weapons than Bradford had at his disposal last season. The Rams are hitting the restart button on offense.

    So, no, this cannot be considered a “make-or-break” year for him.

    The upcoming season is very important for him. It could be the pivotal year in his career, defining his future in the league. This is his chance to emerge as a true leader of young men.

    After a solid rookie season, Bradford suffered through a miserable second season before bouncing back in Year 3. Basically he is back to Square One.

    He is a promising young quarterback surrounded by other promising young skill players.

    The offense could take off this year ... IF Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey pan out big, IF Jared Cook breaks out, IF Chris Givens and Lance Kendricks build on solid 2012 seasons, IF Brian Quick figures it out, IF the young trio of running backs can replace the hugely productive Steven Jackson and IF Bradford progresses.

    Expectations are high, but again, we’re talking potential. It’s not like Bradford looks around his offensive meeting room and sees Calvin Johnson, Julio Jones, Ray Rice or Vernon Davis. He doesn’t see a Jackson or a Danny Amendola, either.

    The good news: the Rams appear to be tailoring the offense to Bradford’s strengths.

    The bad news: Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer isn’t exactly Chip Kelly as a spread offense innovator. So it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.

    The big knock on Bradford is that he hasn’t lived up to his gigantic contract and the hype that comes with being the first overall pick in the NFL Draft. Odds are he will never live up to that ridiculous deal, the last of its kind for young quarterbacks.

    But that doesn’t mean the franchise should label him a bust, discard him after the season and start over with somebody’s back-up or another draft pick.

    Another knock on Bradford is that he didn’t make players around him better. This baffles Tipsheet, since some players clearly grew while working with Sam.

    Amendola arrived as an extra guy, pulled off the personnel pile to fill a roster spot. He left for a five-year, $31 million contract with the Patriots. Did playing with Bradford make him better? Of course it did.

    Brandon Gibson arrived as an extra guy, acquired from the depths of the Eagles roster. He left for a three-year, $9.78 million contract in Miami. Did playing with Bradford make him better? Of course it did.

    Kendricks made a quantum leap from his rookie season (28 catches, 352 yards, no touchdowns in 15 games) to last season (42 catches, 519 yards, four TDs in 16 games). That was the best season a Rams tight end had in, like, forever.

    What the Rams need to see from Bradford (and the rest of their still-developing skill players) is serious growth, especially in critical game scenarios. Bradford made some progress there last season, but Jeff Fisher needs whole lot more of that moving forward.

    ESPN.com’s Mike Sando had this sensible breakdown:

    Bradford is set to collect $9 million in salary this season, $8 million of which is guaranteed. His deal counts about $12.6 million against the cap. The salary jumps to $14 million in 2014, with a $17.6 million scheduled cap hit. That's the type of money top quarterbacks earn. What, then, if Bradford is not one of them? What if he's merely decent or pretty good, but not someone worth nearly $18 million a year?

    The Rams could release Bradford, but that wouldn't make much sense unless he played horrendously -- something he has never done to this point. Remember, too, that the team would need an obviously better option at the position. Good luck finding one of those.

    More likely and a lot less dramatically, the Rams could buy another year for evaluation. They are building for the long term with their own draft choices and those acquired from the Washington Redskins last offseason. The Rams already have drafted eight players in the first and second rounds under the team-friendly rookie wage scale, tied with Cincinnati and New England for most in the NFL. That figure is scheduled to grow by three in 2014. Their window is still opening. Time is on their side.


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    Re: Tipsheet: Bradford Starts Over With Young Talent

    So, no, this cannot be considered a “make-or-break” year for him.
    The big knock on Bradford is that he hasn’t lived up to his gigantic contract and the hype that comes with being the first overall pick in the NFL Draft. Odds are he will never live up to that ridiculous deal, the last of its kind for young quarterbacks.
    Those two lines are going to be quite the shock to the system for the fans who like to jump on the "Bradford = bust" button like it's the last cupcake smuggled into fat camp.
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

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    Re: Tipsheet: Bradford Starts Over With Young Talent

    Some people act as if Sam Bradford had a terrible 2012 season. He didn't. He threw for 21 TD's and nearly 3900 yards for a team with virtually nothing at the receiver position and a guy (Amendola) who couldn't stay on the field. Is improvement needed? Certainly, but no more so than at numerous other positions.

    This is not a make or break year, though I understand the sentiment of fans who look for Bradford to become an elite guy. The Rams are firmly committed to Bradford moving forward, as they should be and aren't looking for any potential successor. In that sense, it is not a "make or break" year. That said, I think fans are looking for him to take that next step into the upper echelon of QBs. For that to happen, the guys we've drafted- Givens, Quick, Austin, Bailey, etc. must be productive. They must prove to be worthy of where they were selected.

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    Re: Tipsheet: Bradford Starts Over With Young Talent

    Sam Bradford will ultimately be judged (right or wrong) to how the Rams do. Period. QB's get too much credit and too much criticism in the NFL.

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    Re: Tipsheet: Bradford Starts Over With Young Talent

    Amendola arrived as an extra guy, pulled off the personnel pile to fill a roster spot. He left for a five-year, $31 million contract with the Patriots. Did playing with Bradford make him better? Of course it did.

    Brandon Gibson arrived as an extra guy, acquired from the depths of the Eagles roster. He left for a three-year, $9.78 million contract in Miami. Did playing with Bradford make him better? Of course it did.
    There goes that knock on Sammy, I have heard that one too often over the years.

    I'm looking forward to the O line protecting Sam like he has never been protected before and the receivers getting separation and making plays that results in scores.

    I think Sam will do what he has already been doing but the results will be so much better as a result of the guys around him.

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    Re: Tipsheet: Bradford Starts Over With Young Talent

    Allow Bradford to Make His Mark Now
    By Randy Karraker

    It’s the time of year when people like to rank the NFL’s quarterbacks. CBSSports.com did a ranking, Football Outsiders had one recently and, of course, ESPN.com and the Mother Ship have theirs on the way. I’m not at all dismayed or bothered by the lower-teens ranking of the Rams’ Sam Bradford, because his numbers don’t reflect elite status yet.

    Yes, his statistics over three years scream mediocre. What dismays me, however, is the number of St. Louisans who ostensibly should be the people that see Bradford the most, who insist that he’s a lower-tier player that has no chance to get better. Last season, he was the 18th-rated passer in the NFL. The wide receivers he was throwing to were rookie Chris Givens, Brandon Gibson, Steve Smith, Austin Pettis and, for about half the season, Danny Amendola.

    The Rams’ starting offensive line on opening day in Detroit was, left to right, Rodger Saffold, Rokevious Watkins, Scott Wells, Harvey Dahl and Barry Richardson. That group was together for less than a half. In Week 2, the Rams had taken Quinn Ojinnaka off the scrap heap to play left guard in place of Watkins, and Robert Turner started for Wells at center. Then Safford got hurt, and in game three the Rams started their third line combination in three games. Watkins was out for the year, but the Rams finally got Saffold and Wells back on the field together for Week 12 against Arizona, and went 4-2 from there.

    As every serious football fan knows, offensive success starts on the offensive line and ends in the hands of receivers. Unfortunately for the Rams and Bradford, the Rams didn’t get much started in the first half of last season. In the first 10 games, they averaged 17 points a game. In the last six, they averaged 21 per game. In the first 10 games, he was sacked an average of 2.5 times a game. In the last six, it was 1.5.

    Not only are those numbers part of a bigger picture, but so are the receivers who emerged during the season. Givens didn’t play early and got better as the season went along. Tight end Lance Kendricks got better, and Pettis made 16 of his 30 catches and had his three best games among his last five.

    So, to summarize, Bradford was throwing to a young, emerging receiving corps and was working behind a tattered offensive line. Once the line got together and developed some chemistry, it protected the quarterback better. The receivers matured, and the quarterback’s numbers improved. He averaged 224 yards in the first 10 games, 243 in the last six. He averaged 1.2 touchdowns in the first 10, 1.5 in the last six. And Bradford doesn’t lose games, throwing just 13 interceptions.

    When the chips were down, Bradford came through. Four of the Rams’ seven wins were comebacks led by Bradford, as was their tie in San Francisco.

    Yet we still get texts like this one: “Ok if Bradford has an average year, do the rams look at a QB high in the draft next year?” Should that be the goal? After spending three years providing Bradford a revolving door at offensive coordinator and quarterback coach, and finally adding some players around him, do you want to start over?

    Here’s another one: “If Bradford keeps taking baby steps, we’ll have an Alex Smith situation in STL. Time to win or #HitTheBricks.” Certainly the Rams want to win, but to suggest they should replace him if he has another year like last year’s Super Bowl champion quarterback is a bit drastic (Bradford and Joe Flacco of Baltimore had virtually identical passing seasons). The potential free agents after next season are Jay Cutler, Rex Grossman, Chad Henne, Shaun Hill, Josh and Luke McCown, Seneca Wallace and Charlie Whitehurst. Do you see an upgrade over Bradford there? Do you want Mark Sanchez? He might be available. Perhaps there will be talented rookies, but let’s not get too sold on the idea of drafting another Russell Wilson. The Rams will not have a top-two pick in the draft, so getting an Andrew Luck or RGIII is not probable.

    Another text to The Fast Lane: “I am a Bradford fan but if the rams don’t finish the year with a winning percentage we might be seeing Aaron Murray in a Rams jersey next year.” So, you’re going to judge a quarterback solely on the team’s winning percentage? If the Panthers have a second straight losing season, should they replace Cam Newton? If Pittsburgh doesn’t have a winning season for a second year in a row, should it cut Ben Roethlisberger? What if the defense doesn’t live up to the hype? What about injuries? I just can’t fathom my team acting in such an outrageous, egregious, preposterous manner.

    I understand that the haters are a vocal minority. But as a longtime observer, I believe they need to be careful what they wish for. The alternative might not be that attractive.

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    Re: Tipsheet: Bradford Starts Over With Young Talent

    Quote Originally Posted by Rambos View Post
    There goes that knock on Sammy, I have heard that one too often over the years.
    Knock? It sounded like a compliment to me. What you quoted pretty much said that both Amendola and Gibson were made better as a result of playing with Bradford.

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    Re: Tipsheet: Bradford Starts Over With Young Talent

    Quote Originally Posted by r8rh8rmike View Post
    Knock? It sounded like a compliment to me. What you quoted pretty much said that both Amendola and Gibson were made better as a result of playing with Bradford.
    Kind of meant that for the fans that have said Sam never made anyone better.

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    Re: Tipsheet: Bradford Starts Over With Young Talent

    Quote Originally Posted by Rambos View Post
    Kind of meant that for the fans that have said Sam never made anyone better.
    Okay, I'll disregard it then.

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    Re: Tipsheet: Bradford Starts Over With Young Talent

    Quote Originally Posted by r8rh8rmike View Post
    Amendola arrived as an extra guy, pulled off the personnel pile to fill a roster spot. He left for a five-year, $31 million contract with the Patriots. Did playing with Bradford make him better? Of course it did.

    Brandon Gibson arrived as an extra guy, acquired from the depths of the Eagles roster. He left for a three-year, $9.78 million contract in Miami. Did playing with Bradford make him better? Of course it did.
    The logic in this quote is really flawed. Did playing with Bradford make them better? Of course the author don't know anything about this. It's not like Amendola stops running insane routes, or playing with heart, just because the QB has a different name. Sure they got better over the years, but that is what you expect at the WR position from their rookie year to their 4th. And it surely has at least as much to do with good coaching, and that they were given a chance on a bad Rams team, compared to a loaded Philly WR corps.

    The only way to really see if the authors statement is hold some water, is if the two of them degress on their new teams. Especially Gibson, as he steps into a more similar situation on the Dolphins roster.

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    Re: Tipsheet: Bradford Starts Over With Young Talent

    I think the talk about a QB making the players around him better is a tough one that I'd rather not get involved in. It's a generally predictable discussion where those who like Sam praise him for making some players better while downplaying the ones he didn't, whereas those not sold on Sam criticize him for not making some players around him better while downplaying the ones he did. Ho hum.

    I'd rather assume each individual player holds the majority share of responsibility when it comes to their own progression, and leave it at that. To me, Danny Amendola is a good slot receiver because he has the skills necessary to play efficiently at that position, not because Sam Bradford made him into that type of weapon. And to me, Mike Sims-Walker was a free agent turd here not because Sam failed to make him better but because he's simply not a very good player. The players around you can effect your overall efficiency, but for the most part, I think the individual player determines his own path.

    Anyways, I don't think this is a "make or break" year for Sam, because that implies that the Rams need to move on if he doesn't blossom in 2013, and I don't think that's the case. However, I do believe that this appears to be the first year in his career where the previously accurate complaints of Sam not having enough weapons or not having good enough protection will have to be put into our back pockets. I don't like using the word "excuses" because it has a connotation that implies they aren't real or accurate. Sam's lack of weapons and protection issues have been very real the past two years.

    But with the signing of Jake Long, the shift of Saffold to right tackle, the expected growth of Quick and Givens, and the additions of Cook, Austin, and Bailey, I don't think we as fans can look at this team and bemoan a lack of blockers or offensive weapons. Whether they work out remains to be seen, but the Rams have gone out of their way to improve the protection and improve the weapons around Sam. Those were the two big areas that fans felt needed to be improved before Sam could reach his potential. So in that regard, this is a big year for Sam. He now has those resources, so the expectation is that he does very well with those hurdles removed.

    If he does, then he'll help prove himself to be the quarterback many believed he could be. If he doesn't, then 2014 may indeed become the "make or break" year.
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