EARTH CITY, MO - JANUARY 17: St. Louis Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis and quarterback Sam Bradford look on during a press conference to introduce new head coach Jeff Fisher at the Russell Training Center on January 17, 2012 in Earth City, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Today is a big day for St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford. This is the day he finally starts learning, officially anyway, his third offensive system in three years since he was the first overall pick in 2010. Jeff Fisher and his coaching staff, except for Gregg Williams, start the offseason program today, marking their first meeting with many of the team's players.
While all the other players are obviously an important part of the team's plans, no player figures more prominently into the picture than Bradford. It was his presence in St. Louis that lured Fisher to the Rams and allowed the team to swap the second-overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft for a truckload of additional picks to shape the future of the franchise. That future will take an ugly shape if the Rams cannot get Bradford back on track.
So what can fans expect from Bradford this season? First of all, temper your expectations. Bradford is just now fully healed from the high ankle sprain he suffered last season. That injury, the result of a porous offensive line, derailed Bradford's follow up to his Rookie of the Year season. Fisher and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer will build Bradford up again slowly, using a run-heavy approach to the offense before thrusting all of the responsibility onto Bradford's shoulders.
It's the right approach, even though it's bound to be a little frustrating at times in the season ahead. The training wheels will come off gradually, as the Rams add receiving talent and rebuild the offensive line, two things that cannot be done in a single season of free agency and the draft.
With that approach in mind, I suspect it will shape the Rams' approach to the draft, at least for their offensive picks. A running back and offensive line help will be the top two priorities, over a receiver even, as those players will be most essential to the operation in 2012. That isn't to say they would not pick a receiver like Justin Blackmon with the sixth pick; it just depends on who else is available.
Keep this in mind as the draft and the offseason proceed. Taking a slow, methodical approach to building Bradford's potential may not be the easiest thing for long-suffering Rams fans, but it will ultimately pay more dividends down the road.