One debate we're going to be hearing a lot more of as the 2010 NFL season gets closer is whether or not the St. Louis Rams should start Sam Bradford right out of the gate in week 1. That's a distinct possibility, but precedent says it's more likely that A.J. Feeley will be under center for the Rams when the season starts.
One Oklahoma sports pundit came out and made the case for week 1 start recently, saying:
So play him. It’s not like the Rams are going anywhere in 2010. That sounds like a reason to be patient, but instead, it’s a reason to give Bradford the playing time that will come in handy if and when the Rams get competitive.
All arguments aside, the Rams have to take several factors into consideration when they decide to throw Bradford to the wolves, be it week 1 or week 12. Let's take a look:
- Protection - One thing that will be a big factor is the status of the offensive line. The Rams have a solid young core of players for their front five, but there are some notable changes this year with Jason Smith moving to the left side, Rodger Saffold (or Phil Trautwein) on the right side and a to-be-determined starter at RG. Waiting for that unit to be running perfectly may not be necessary, but they have to be gelling well enough to offer a reasonable amount of protection. Besides the front five, Pat Shurmur's other guys need to be well versed in the blocking schemes, guys like the tight ends, running backs, etc.
- Steven Jackson's health - A star running back like Jackson is a rookie QB's best friend. The team expects Jackson to be fine for the season, but you just can't take it for granted. If the Rams don't have Jackson, the burden falls entirely on the QB to make the offense work. Contrary to the article linked above, the Rams do have a good running game, with a health SJ39.
- Are the receivers ready? - The team expects their young receivers to take a big leap forward this season. However, without a number one guy, the group is being looked to as a complementary group. If one of the role players isn't ready or gets injured, it could mean something less than a complete passing game.
- Bradford himself - I'm fairly confident in Bradford's health, so I'll take that concern off the list. Of course, his health will be at a risk if the parts above aren't working as planned, regardless of his current status. This is more about Bradford's grasp on the game, the speed, the routes, reading defenses, etc. Remember last year when the coaching staff kept telling the press and fans that Null wasn't ready? They were right. They were forced to use Null and the results were rough. Of course, some of the blame for that goes to the injuries around him, but it was also pretty apparent that Null wasn't ready. Bradford comes from a D-I program and is much closer as a prospect; however, he still has to show that he has masted the learning curve.
Have no doubt, I think Bradford will be leading the huddle before the end of the season. Plenty of things have to be in place before that happens. It's unlikely those things will be a go by week 1.