QB Sam Bradford, Free agent
HT: 6-4, WT: 236, Born: 11-8-1987, College: Oklahoma, Drafted: Round 1, Pick 1
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Bradford was poised to build upon his solid start to 2013 prior to injury this season, but an ACL tear in the preseason ended his 2014 season before it started. The Rams depth chart is left with veteran Shaun Hill as the starter to open the season. The Rams offense went into ball-control mode when Bradford was out in 2013. Expect more of the same this season.
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2013 Game Summaries
Week 1 - With new weapons Tavon Austin and Jared Cook, this is the year Sam Bradford is supposed to make the leap into the upper echelon of NFL QBís. In week 1, he made a very good first step toward that goal. Bradford was calm, cool, didnít force things, and made big plays when he needed to. The Cardinals took away the deep part of the field, so Bradford threw a lot of short passes, and kept the ball moving in the short passing game.
Bradfordís first big play of the game came late in the first quarter, as Jared Cook streaked down the middle of the field and Bradford threw it 25 yards and delivered it right over the linebackerís head, hitting Cook in stride. Unfortunately for Bradford, the Honey Badger knocked it out of Cookís hands just as Cook was about to walk into the endzone. But it was a perfect throw by Bradford.
At the end of the half, Bradford led the Rams on a long 80 yard drive for a TD. Bradford hit four different receivers on the drive, then finished it off with a throw to Jared Cook, who streaked toward the pylon and dove in for a TD.
In the third quarter, Bradford made a big error that threatened to put the game out of reach. Backed up at his own goalline, Bradford made a playaction fake, then rolled out to the right and tried to toss it to Kendricks. Unfortunately the ball was tipped by Shaughnessy, and then intercepted right in the endzone for a very easy Pick 6.
After a subsequent 3 and out, the Cardinals immediately scored and things looked bleak. But Bradford closed the game out strong. On the last play of the 3rd quarter, Bradford faked to Richardson and then hit Jared Cook who was streaking across the middle of the field wide open. Cook made the reception and turned upfield for a very long gain. Bradford then finished the drive with three short passes to Tavon Austin, Brian Quick and Jared Cook, hitting them in space and letting them all do the work. The TD toss to Cook was off play-action, and Cook was wide open in the back of the endzone.
Bradford got one more chance with less than 2 minutes, down by 1 point. He hit Quick for a short gain, then a few plays later hit Jared Cook for another long gain. Cook across the middle was a recurring theme, and Bradford didnít hesitate to exploit this mismatch all game long. The Rams got in field goal position and Legatron nailed the game-winner and Bradford got a big victory.
The Rams played very conservatively, rarely took shots downfield, and never gave up on the running game. Despite that conservative approach, they scored 24 points, and should have had 7 more if Cook didnít fumble at the goalline. Of some concern seems to be the inability to get receivers open downfield. In the preseason game and now in game 1, big plays are all coming from Cook, and the receivers seem to be staying short. As Cook draws more attention, things should open up for the rest of the offense.
Week 2 - The day did not start off well for Bradford and the Rams. There were a number of things that put this team behind the 8-ball. First, penalties on punt and kickoff returns. On FOUR SEPARATE OCCASIONS, the Rams special teams were called with penalties. These penalties put the starting offense on the field at the 8, 11, 13 and 5 yard line. Being on the road, this gave the Falcons extra energy and life, and put Bradford and his young receivers in difficult situations.
Then Bradford was victimized with a few drops, most notably being a drop on a simple outlet pass to Daryl Richardson. Richardson allowed the ball to hit him in the chest, it bounced off him and right into the hands of Osi Umenyiora, who returned it for a touchdown, making the score 21-0. This was the turning point of the game, as Bradford was driving the Rams deep into Falcon territory.
However Bradford never seemed to lose his cool. After the interception he kept his cool and began firing downfield. First he took a shot at Tavon Austin deep, and when that fell incomplete, he then hit Chris Givens for a deep 47 yard gain down the middle fo the field. Unfortunately just as they got in the redzone, an illegal motion penalty put the Rams in a long yardage situation, and they had to settle for a field goal. In the second half, the Rams started with a three and out, and then after a nice pass to Givens for a first down on the second drive, a holding penalty put the Rams in 1st and 20, which ultimately led to another punt.
In reality, these penalties, drops and mis-communications should have buried the Rams. However, give the defense credit, they hung tough and kept the Rams in the game. Finally Bradford responded with three touchdown drives in the final 18 minutes.
There are really two reasons why Bradford and the offense responded. First, field position. In the three touchdown drives, they were past the 20 on all three occasions. Not being buried in the shadow of their own end-zone helped. Also, the Falcons stopped blitzing and decided to play conservatively. No doubt Falcon fans hated this strategy as Bradford ate them up in the short passing game. Time after time Schottenheimer sent 2 receivers deep and Bradford hit the underneath route with precise passes. All three tdís were on short passes in which Bradford hit the open man and made the correct read. There are some definite positives for Bradford that can be gleaned from this game. First, the receiving corps and Sam got into a really nice rhythm towards the end of the game. Second, the re-emergence of Chris Givens and the heavy usage of Tavon Austin should give defenses even more to worry about in future weeks.
The negatives are the drops and the penalties. Even the INT was a result of a dropped pass, and his receivers have got to do a better job of catching the easy passes. Richardson, Pettis and Austin all had big drops that set the team back.
Overall Sam played very well and was impressive in his response to the huge early deficit. In the end though, the 21-0 hole was too great to climb out of, and despite Bradfordís passing display, couldnít complete the comeback.
Week 3 - Before this game, it had been awhile since Bradford had been sacked. Without Saffold, his Right tackle, Bradford was absolutely annihilated on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys, ending that streak almost immediately. The amazing thing about the defensive pressure is that it was all done with the front four. Six sacks were registered and the Cowboys didnít even have to blitz to get them. When you can do that, you make life impossible for a QB, as there are 7 guys out there defending and you have nowhere to go with the ball.
From the very beginning Bradford was hit, and the hits kept on coming the entire game. Not only was he hit, but he had at least four to six dropped passes from his receivers in his attempt at a comeback, ala week 2. But the comeback never got off the ground due to pressure and a horrible game from his receiving corps.
Bradford only had one TD drive on the day, but even that drive was just painful to watch. He just couldnít get on the same page as his receivers, and when he finally connected on a short 2-yard strike to Austin Pettis, it was too little, too late.
Bradford threw for 240 yards, but the vast majority of those yards came in the second half when the Cowboys were playing prevent defense and giving up the short yardage to the receivers.
Bradford canít take a lot of blame here though, as the sacks and dropped passes werenít his fault. In the second half, when Bradford had time to throw, he continued to put the ball right where it needed to go. He also is dealing with a team that canít get anything done on the ground.
The problem, however, is that this offense as a whole is out of sync. Short slant passes and dump-offs to Tavon Austin are not going to get it done. Bradford needs to work on his timing with his receivers and with Jared Cook. His Oline needs to do a better job of protecting him. Also, his receivers need to start catching the ball and running proper routes. Maybe Bernie Kosar was right about the receivers for St. LouisÖ
Week 4 - Mike Mayock had an astute observation on this Rams offense. His observation was that it seemed as if this Rams offense was always in the redzone, no matter where they are on the field. The short routes, the short slant passes, the running game that can't do anything, it's getting to be a broken record. This vanilla offense has been completely destroyed two weeks in a row by Dallas and San Fran. Now some of this is Bradfordís fault, and some of it isnít.
First of all, lets make just a few excuses for Bradford. First, in the two games that his RT Saffold has missed, he has been hurried and pressured and put in very uncomfortable situations. Second, his offensive play-callers appear to have absolutely no clue how to design an NFL offense. This will be touched on as we look at each player. Finally, there is no running game at all. Without a doubt this is the worst running game in the NFL, and when the game is close, in true Fisher-style, they love to run up the middle on first down.
Now the bad news. Bradford played horrendously. He started off the game decent. He hit Givens on a slant, then made a nice 3rd down throw to Austin Pettis. But instead of building on this, the OC immediately called two runs up the middle to Richardson, which netted 3 yards and put Bradford in 3rd and long. On the second drive, pressure caused Bradford to throw the ball too far and miss a wide-open Austin Pettis on 3rd and 2. At the beginning of the second quarter, Bradford led a drive that started with a strike to Givens 20 yards downfield from deep in his own territory. But then he threw a ball to Cook towards the sideline and hit Whitner right in his hands. The fact that Whitner dropped it and it landed in Cookís hands was irrelevant, as it was another terrible pass from Bradford.
After that the Niners turned up the heat and Bradford fell apart. He threw an INT on the sidelines, that admittedly Quick made a poor play on, he was sacked towards the end of the game and fumbled the ball away, and the pressure caused him to go on a long streak of ineptitude. Bradford looked like a zombie and the crowd was incessantly booing him.
He got a lucky TD right towards the end of the game when Kaepernick lost a fumble deep in his own territory. Any unlucky owners who started Bradford at least got something out of it, but it was too little, too late for the Rams.
Bottom line is that the entire team is in a mess. Jeff Fisher and Schottenheimer were given more tools to work with, getting Jared Cook and Tavon Austin to add to the rookies that were drafted last year. Bradford is unable to create a spark, the coordinators are calling terrible plays, the Oline canít block and the running backs canít run the ball. Bradford canít take all the blame, but at some point the fingers have to point at him too.
Week 5 - If anyone was ever in need of a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, it was Sam Bradford. After a miserable performance a week ago against the 49ers, Bradford had a do-or-die game against the Jags. The game was important for the Rams and for Bradford, because if the offense couldnít get it done against Jacksonville, what hope would they have? Bradford played efficiently, spreading the ball around, hitting open receivers and getting decent protection. Tavon Austin had 2 drops that stopped drives, and Bradford had problems hooking up with Chris Givens on deep passes. Bradfordís best pass was a 31 yd strike in the 4th quarter over the head of the CB and into the hands of Austin Pettis for a TD. But he also had a missed opportunity to Chris Givens, as Givens broke deep and Bradford underthrew the ball, resulting in an incompletion. Despite the 3 tdís and the solid numbers, the offense still seems out of whack, and so the good numbers most likely are a consequence of a very bad opponent. The Jaguars were actually able to get pressure on Bradford a few times, which isnít saying much about the Rams line. Without Roger Saffold, this line has been dreadful. But it was the Jags, and the line held up for most of the day, giving Bradford time to work the short passing game and put some points on the board. In the end, not much can be taken from this game. The offense and play-calling looked exactly the same, but the holes and the defenders were just far worse. If the Rams figure out how to score 30 on a good defense, then there will be reason for optimism.
Week 6 - What a difference a week makes. Somehow, Sam Bradford entered this game as the leagueís number 7 QB. Houston was an opponent that didnít seem to play to Bradfordís strengths. But the coaching staff fed the ball to Zac Stacy, and Bradford did most of his damage on play-action. Bradford threw for 3 tdís. The first TD was a play-action pass to the backup TE Harkey in the first quarter. In the second quarter, Bradford ran another play-action play on the goalline, and Kendricks bounced off a block, snuck out to the left side, and Bradford nailed him for another very easy TD. Then in the 3rd quarter, Bradford again threw a TD, hitting Brian Quick on a quick slant pass for his third TD. After that pass, which came with 7:46 to go in the third quarter, Bradford never threw another pass, due to a special teams TD and a defensive TD. The blowout and short field position led to a meager amount of yards on the day for Bradford, but he played efficient and played great on the goalline. Bradford only threw 16 passes, and although some of that was a result of being ahead by a large margin, you have to think that this is the type of run/pass ratio that Jeff Fisher wants going forward. With a real running game, Bradford looks much more comfortable. Bradford was rarely touched by Houston, and when he was rushed, he was able to get the ball out just in time. The protection was a big improvement for St. Louis, and really helped Bradford get into a rhythm. He did a great job of spreading the ball around as well, hitting 9 different receivers. Of some concern is the fact that the Rams still couldnít make anything happen downfield, which has been a problem all year. But the running game did allow Bradford to take a few shots on play-action, and hopefully heíll be able to connect on some of those throws in future weeks.
Week 7 - An intense game with tempers flaring, ejections and multitudes of penalties turned into disaster when Bradford tore his ACL with about 5 minutes to go in the game, This obviously ends his season and puts any chances the Rams had of competing for a playoff spot in serious jeopardy. Prior to the injury, Bradford was done in with dropped passes, and most notably penalties. Penalties destroyed two drives, a dropped pass destroyed a third, and a dropped touchdown ended another.
The loss of Bradford puts a giant question mark on any offensive player in this system. However, I would anticipate a few players possibly benefitting from the injury. Bradford had a tendency to spread the ball around very well. It will be interesting to see if Kellen Clemens will do the same, or if he will lock onto a player or two.
The loss of Bradford comes at a bad time for him. He seemed to make some improvements this year, but the offense still couldnít really get over the hump. The optimism of a week ago is now gone, and whether the Rams continue to commit to Bradford long-term, with so many young QBís coming up in the draft, is a major mystery.