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Thread: Will Sam Bradford Become Elite in 2013?

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    Will Sam Bradford Become Elite in 2013?

    By Shane Gray

    In St. Louis, there are a few things that people check off their calendars daily to ensure that the earth is still spinning and things are relatively normal: we open the shades to see if the sun again arose across the horizon, we glance to ensure that the Gateway Arch is shining beautifully from above and we look online to see if a certain Rams quarterback is still dominating the most hotly contested debates in fan forums everywhere. If so, it’s time to start another day.

    Yes, if one thing is a given regarding the St. Louis Rams and the team’s corresponding message boards, it is this: analysis of the play and future projection of the 2010 NFL Draft’s No. 1 pick — former Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford — will be intense, cause division, occur constantly and seemingly never end.

    In 2010, Bradford performed well enough to earn NFL Rookie of the Year honors despite playing with mostly marginal talent. His top receiver was undrafted wideout Danny Amendola. His leading tight end was another undrafted player, Daniel Fells. His blindside protector was an unproven rookie, Rodger Saffold, and his backup running backs were no-names Kenneth Darby and Keith Toston.

    In 2011, Sam struggled with an ongoing ankle issue following an abbreviated offseason that included the implementation of a second offense in as many years.

    In addition, his security blanket and top target — the aforementioned Amendola — spent virtually the entire season on injured reserve. A multitude of other offensive cogs missing extensive time, including the above mentioned Saffold, starting right tackle Jason Smith, explosive receiver Danario Alexander, productive rookie wideout Greg Salas, backup running backs “Cadillac” Williams and Jerious Norwood and part-time starting tight end Michael Hoomanawanui.

    In 2012, No. 8 upped his completion percentage by a full six points, posted his career best touchdown percentage and dramatically bettered his touchdown to interception ratio. Bradford also improved in a plethora of additional statistical criteria including passing under pressure, on deep throws and in fourth quarter action.

    In fact, the Rams signal caller led four fourth quarter comebacks, tying for second in the league. To put that into perspective, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has never bettered that number and Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has yet to construct more than two such comebacks in a campaign.

    Perhaps most importantly, Bradford improved in vital areas that I had previously been most critical and concerned about regarding his long-term potential — progressions and pocket awareness.

    In both 2010 and 2011, Bradford too often locked onto receivers instead of efficiently progressing through his reads. Additionally, No. 8 often struggled in regard to pocket awareness, sometimes seeming to lack the feel that many upper-echelon QBs show in sensing pressure and shifting in the pocket or running to evade pressure at just the right moment.

    While Bradford has progressed substantially in those regards, there is still room for improvement in both areas and in other elements of his game. For example, he has yet to post a 60 percent completion percentage season. Doing so would seem to be a realistic threshold to cross in 2013.

    Some still have questions about Bradford and his ability to not just improve as his talent level increases, but to seemingly raise the play of those around him. For example, some wonder why the likes of Donnie Avery, Laurent Robinson and Danario Alexander posted their most productive campaigns after leaving the Gateway City.

    Some cite the offensive line as a problem area, but should pass protection still be considered a significant issue? When one considers that — per Football Outsiders — Paul Boudreau’s unit ranked a solid 13 of 32 in sacks allowed and did not give up a sack in either of the season’s final two games, one would have to wonder if that line of argument still holds water.

    With all that said, could a theoretic “Mount Rushmore” of next season’s most productive NFL quarterbacks look like this: Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and … Sam Bradford?

    If this is to occur, a few things would need to happen:

    -First and foremost, finally keeping Bradford in the same system for a second consecutive campaign is paramount. That simply must occur, regardless of whether Brian Schottenheimer departs.

    -Bradford must continue to improve in regard to completion percentage, red zone efficiency, progressing through reads and pocket awareness.

    -St. Louis must retain top target Amendola while hoping that Chris Givens continues to grow and 2012 second round selection Brian Quick is quick to produce this fall.

    -Further fortification at receiver via the 2013 NFL Draft and/or free agency would be needed. For instance, adding a proven No. 1 wideout — a la Green Bay’s Greg Jennings or Kansas City’s Dwayne Bowe — would provide a luxury for Bradford that he has yet to be afforded.

    -Further enhancements along the offensive line, particularly at right tackle and perhaps at left guard, would make an improving unit even better and aid the passing game, too.

    If the above occurs, Bradford can become elite because the qualities and intangibles necessary to do so — including arm strength and leadership — are there. However, the above list is lengthy so there are certainly no guarantees this occurs.

    In the end, whether Bradford becomes truly elite next season may be somewhat of a moot point in regard to the team’s overall outlook. Afterall, the Rams defense ascended from 26th to 14th in the league in 2012 and possesses a legit shot at becoming a top 10 unit as Michael Brockers, Janoris Jenkins and Robert Quinn ascend and reinforcements arrive by way of the draft and/or free agency at outside linebacker and safety.

    More than likely, the Rams will not need Bradford to produce at an All-Pro level or for his offense to become Patriot-esque. No, he and his unit will simply need to improve at a rate commensurate to that which we witnessed last fall, when the O upped its’ output from 12.1 to 18.7 points per game (25th in the NFL). If St. Louis can secure just a five point leap in per game points, they would vault into the league’s top half of offenses (based on 2012 numbers).

    If Bradford and the offense can indeed make reasonable improvements once again, Jeff Fisher’s promising St. Louis defense should be more than good enough to assist the O in earning a playoff berth for the first time since 2004.

    Multiple teams have made the playoffs and won Super Bowls without elite QBs, such as the Baltimore Ravens and Trent Dilfer. Bradford can indeed be great, but the long-term prospects at defense coupled with a promising young kicker and punter in place suggests him becoming elite may not be necessary for this team to become a contending playoff squad over the coming campaigns.

    This year, Baltimore’s Joe Flacco is a game away from reaching the Super Bowl. Some may disagree, but most that I talk to do not include him in the mix of elite QB’s, nor do I. Nonetheless, his team is one game away from the biggest stage of all, led by an aging but still stout defense and a strong running game.

    What about last season and the San Francisco *****? Would anyone consider Alex Smith elite? Obviously not, yet a great defensive and strong running game allowed a solid Smith to help lead the ***** to a 13-3 record and the NFC Championship Game.

    There is still an avenue to becoming a top-tier NFL team in this offensive era without an elite QB. The question is, will the Rams become an elite squad with an elite Sam Bradford, or will they have to attempt to get there the hard way, without a true franchise quarterback leading the way?

    Shane Gray was a credentialed St. Louis Rams media member in 2012 and has been one of the nation’s most widely read Rams columnists over the past two seasons. You are encouraged to follow him on twitter at ShaneGmoSTLRams.


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    Re: Will Sam Bradford Become Elite in 2013?

    Honestly i dont need him to be Elite because if you ask me Elite is top 5 and its pretty crowded up there right now.I dont think he can get into that category with this cast of WR or o line even after the draft and FA.I just dont see the weapons taking that big a jump up personally.With that said i believe he can win just as many games as the elite QB teams but minus the crazy stats which is fine by me.I believe in Bradford as the present and future
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    Re: Will Sam Bradford Become Elite in 2013?

    I said it in another post, and I'll say it again: I think this year is the year that Sam Bradford takes the leap into stardom. He might not be top-5, but with an improved OL and better WR talent (hopefully built through the draft or FA) I can definitely see him being top-10. If the planets align like I think they will this year, I can see Sam becoming somewhat of an Aaron Rodger's-type QB. They both have quick releases, are pretty athletic/mobile, and throw a good deep ball. Also, one advantage Sam has is that he has a better offensive line and running game. Now, if we can only sign Greg Jennings to complete the process lol.

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    Re: Will Sam Bradford Become Elite in 2013?

    Right now, Bradford has shown me that he can play well enough to the point that he won't make costly turnovers on a weekly basis. Elite QBs are those who can elevate the entire offense's gameplay, which Bradford hasn't shown (at least yet).With his upside, if he can refine the mental aspect of the game, then he'll be on talks with Manning, Brady, Brees, and Rodgers. Since Bradford's a 3rd year QB, those expectations would be ridiculous, even Brady looked like a game manager in his early days and Brees had some pretty bad numbers his first few years. He's progressing just fine (just a few steps away from a peak Eli Manning-type QB)

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    Re: Will Sam Bradford Become Elite in 2013?

    I don't think he will, but then again, I don't think he has to. What I want to see from Sam is continued improvement in his performance as a passer. Flawed as it may be, I think the best overall indicator of that is QB rating. Sam grew in passer efficiency from his rookie year to 2012, and I think a realistic goal would be for him to continue to improve his rating and shoot for finishing in the Top 10-15 of the league in this mark. This year, that would have put him on par with the likes of Tony Romo, Philip Rivers, Joe Flacco, Andy Dalton, and Eli Manning, which I think is doable.
    NJ Ramsfan1 likes this.

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    Re: Will Sam Bradford Become Elite in 2013?

    Threads like this are so weird? "Will Sam Bradford Become Elite?" How the hell do I know ?

    Anyways, if he doesn't, a lot of people will be calling for his head.


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    Re: Will Sam Bradford Become Elite in 2013?

    Depends on who you ask. The exact same season would look Elite to some and not to others.

    Do the Rams find a way to win games? That's the ONLY question I care about.
    "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: Will Sam Bradford Become Elite in 2013?

    I want Sam to make the players around him better. Does he have to be "ELITE" for that to happen?

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    Re: Will Sam Bradford Become Elite in 2013?

    Bradford put up good enough numbers to be in the playoffs this year.

    Bradford

    Yards 3,702 TD 21 INT 13 RAT 82.6

    Joe Flacco

    Yards 3,817 TD 22 INT 10 RAT 87.7

    The numbers are very close. One guy did not make the playoffs the other did and is one game away from the SB.

    Sam did played well enough this year and I thought that for awhile. Our RBs had 4 TDs IMO that is why we did not make the playoffs this year.

    If next year Sam's play is just a little better and the running game can become average in scoring say 15 TDs we should be a playoff team. I think it's more likely that we improve by 10 rushing TDs then Sam adding 10 TDs to his numbers.


    I think most of us can see the offensive line taking a big jump in talent if the FO wants to go that route but the receiver core not so easy to see it. A top FA receiver not likely to happen. The rookie class does not have an obvious elite day one impact receiver, not saying there is not one to be had just hard to see it. Hard to measure just how much improvement Quick and Givens will make this off season.

    As far as Sam's improvement, Fisher did something in the last game that gives me hope. He let Sam go with more hurry up which is one of the things Sam's has done well. I did not think Fisher had it in him to speed up the game.

    Fisher's comments for what they want Sam to do next year. Give him more control of the offense, go hurry up more, let Sam put us in positions to be successful at the line of scrimmage. That's what I will be looking for from Sam next year. I hope to see him taking steps to become like Manning, get to line of scrimmage early in the clock and get us in the right play to be successful.
    Last edited by Rambos; -01-18-2013 at 12:42 PM.

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    Re: Will Sam Bradford Become Elite in 2013?

    I do not envision Bradford being talked about in the same category as Rodgers, Brady, Manning or Brees next year- i.e. elite status. But as Nick mentioned earlier, he does not have to be great, just a guy who plays solid football and continues to get better. I think Joe Flacco is an excellent comparison; a guy who was maligned (and sometimes still is) earlier in his career but who has gotten markedly better the past few seasons. He's also played very good football in his last couple of playoff appearances.

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    Re: Will Sam Bradford Become Elite in 2013?

    To be considered elite you need elite stats. Bradford wont get elite stats without a considerable upgrade to his WR core.

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    Re: Will Sam Bradford Become Elite in 2013?

    I just want to win. I don't care if he crams the ball up his backside and farts it downfield as long as we come away with more Ws.

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    Re: Will Sam Bradford Become Elite in 2013?

    Quote Originally Posted by DE_Ramfan View Post
    I just want to win. I don't care if he crams the ball up his backside and farts it downfield as long as we come away with more Ws.
    That brings a whole new meaning to the term "spread offense."

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    Re: Will Sam Bradford Become Elite in 2013?

    Quote Originally Posted by DE_Ramfan View Post
    I just want to win. I don't care if he crams the ball up his backside and farts it downfield as long as we come away with more Ws.
    Best post of 2013 so far

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    Will Sam Bradford Become Elite in 2013?

    The one reason Sam needs to be elite, is his elite pay check, regardless how he ended up with the money, he is earning elite money. I know we can't change that, but if your using a large portion of your cap on somebody, we need them to earn it. If he doesn't, he won't be a ram in 3 years time because I can't see him taking a pay drop. Hell yeah I want him to succeed totally. Ok we don't need an elite QB, but at the moment, we are paying for one.
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