A Deeper Look At Sam Bradford And The Deep Ball

Sep 9, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford (8) directs his team during the game against the Detroit Lions during the third at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-US PRESSWIRE

This morning in the Twitter-verse (is that a word?) there was some controversy about St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford and the deep pass. He can't do it, say some. Incomplete results, say others. Bradford's career so far and the deep ball have been driving fans crazy since the days of Pat Shurmur's 1-yard passing game. Let's take a deeper look (pun intended).

Let's go year-by-year and focus on the statistics, starting with 2012, using the tracking stats provided by Pro Football Focus.

2012

Passes of 10-19 yards: 5-for-5, 76 yards - Four of those passes were in the middle of the field, one outside the numbers on the right.

Passes of 20+ yards: 1-for-4, 23 yards, 1 touchdown - Obviously that was the TD pass to Brandon Gibson. That was Bradford's only throw outside the numbers on the left side of the field. He was 0-for-3 outside the numbers on the right side.

2011

Passes of 10-19 yards: 31-for-84, 37 percent, 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions - His best direction pattern was outside the numbers on the right, where he was 11-for-24 with a touchdown and no interceptions, 45 percent. He completed 42 percent in the middle, with one INT. Outside the numbers on the left was his worst spot, 5-for-25 with an INT.

Passes of 20+ yards: 16-for-41, 39 percent, 3 touchdowns, 2 interceptions - Breaking it down by area of the field and rating, he was really solid outside the numbers on the left side of the field, 11-for-21, 349 yards, 2 touchdowns and one INT for a 109.7 rating.

2010

Passes of 10-19 yards: 56-for-111, 50 percent, 935 yards, 7 touchdowns, 6 interceptions - Bradford was 16-for-28 with 3 touchdowns and 2 picks outside the numbers on the left. He was 24-for-45 in the middle. Unlike 2011 and one game in 2012, he was at his worst outside the numbers on the right, 16-for-38.

Passes of 20+ yards: 13-for-40, 33 percent, 394 yards, 3 touchdowns, 3 picks - He was at his best outside the numbers on the right side of the field, 5-for-12. He was most effective outside the numbers on the left, 5-for-16 with 175 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception.

Overall

Passes of 10-19 yards: 95-for-200, 47.5 percent

Passes of 20+ yards: 30-for-85, 35.3 percent

So what's good and what's bad on these numbers? I've got a few emails out to get a better sense of comparison on these numbers. In June of this year, PFF did a three-year study of quarterback performance on those passes of 20+ yards.

Completion percentages were scattered. No player topped 50 percent, though Drew Brees came close at 49 percent. Aaron Rodgers completed 39.5 percent of his deep passes. Eli Manning, 41.1 percent of his. When you look at the list, all of these quarterbacks have had better receiving options at their disposal than Bradford during his stint in St. Louis.

A few other observations:

  • Completion percentages should be expected to decline as you go further down the field.
  • Bradford seems to be most effective outside the numbers on the left side of the field when throwing 20 yards or more. Standing in the pocket and winding up and throwing across his body would seem to explain part of that trend.
  • Reverse that when he's throwing intermediate passes more effectively to the right side. That's less surprising considering where and how he usually rolls out on play action passes or getting chased from the pocket.
  • The middle of the field is his friend and will be considering the role played by Danny Amendola and Lance Kendricks. One thing to watch for with Brian Scottenheimer is Amendola lining up on the outside some, whereas he was almost exclusively confined to the slot before this year.
  • I don't like to make excuses, but it's hard to consider Bradford's historic rate of being sacked and pressured combined with nothing more than a collection of receivers whose ceiling is that of a No. 2 guy (the jury's still out on Brian Quick and Chris Givens, though I suspect that holds for them as well) in isolation from his overall numbers.
  • Brandon Lloyd and Bradford played together for five games last season.
  • For guy whose best receivers have been Amendola and Brandon Gibson, I can't find much fault in these numbers.
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