You roll your eyes, but you know it's true. With each year the St. Louis Rams add a wide receiver (WR) to their roster, there's at least a part of every fan wondering if this will be enough; can these players make the difference for the former #1 overall draft choice in 2010. You know I'm right, so take off your boxing gloves. This isn't a "bash Sam" article. It's a "how about now?" article.
Below are the wide receivers Bradford will/could have this season to throw to, and I've left off tight ends Lance Kendricks and Jared Cook for a reason. You know as well as I do, any quarterback not named Tom Brady doesn't rack up as many yards with his tight ends as he does wide receivers. Plus, it made it easier on me, which is a good thing - for me. I didn't list some of these WR's Pro accomplishments either, limiting it to their college production. Yes, you say, " The NFL is different..." But let's assume for a moment all these accomplished college players arrived at the same time. Based on the stats of everyone but Raymond Radway, this would be an incredible group. Remember now, these are college career TOTALS.
|Austin Pettis, BSU||229||2,838||39|
|Brian Quick, Ap. St.||202||3,418||31|
|Chris Givens, WFU||163||2,473||21|
|Tavon Austin, WVU||288||3,413||29|
|Stedman Bailey, WVU||201||3,218||41|
|Raymond Radway, ACU||43||634||7|
I bring this up to ask, more than inform. Like most fans of Sam Bradford, I've been longing for the rocket-armed Oklahoma standout to have the offensive weapons needed to excel in the NFL. Gone are his training wheels - Danny Amendola - and other wide receivers like Brandon Gibson, Laurent Robinson and Brandon Lloyd have been shipped off. So is this the WR group who will lead Sam Bradford to the promised land?
It's a more involved question than just the people who catch passes. There are players who have to block, and others who have to run the ball too. Then there are the guys who design plays, and plan how to match up with an opposing team's defense. Brian Schottenheimer - the Rams' second year offensive coordinator - has had a year to learn what Sam Bradford can, and can't, do. Head coach Jeff Fisher has brought in a bevy of new linemen, and line coach Paul Boudreau has worked miracles thus far. The Jake Long acquisition should give some peace of mind to Sam's left, and Rodger "I'm over my tizzy" Saffold will be a stout presence to his right. All-Pro center Scott Wells will try to stay healthy, and right guard Harvey Dahl - my favorite Rams lineman - will continue his nasty, punch-'em-in-the-mouth ways. The recent draft choice of Alabama - all everything - Barrett Jones could be the left guard fix fans have hoped for too. It's not a bad line if you stand back a ways and look at the group as a whole.
OK, here's where I mention the Rams' tight ends, because they may very well hold the key to the 2013 season. Jared Cook and Lance Kendricks are both solid players, with individualized skill sets. Kendricks has been used as a blocking tight end for the most part, and I really don't see this role changing in 2013. Until Jeff Fisher knows his running back corp can pass block, Kendricks is going to be a glorified third tackle on the field. He'll catch a few passes, but in the NFC West pass blocking can save a quarterback from being constantly slammed into the turf. (See: Kevin Kolb, 2012)
Jared Cook is the wild card at tight end/wide receiver. Imagine if you will, all these tiny, quick-as-a-flash wide receivers buzzing around. The opposing team's safety moves up to press the coverage, and in comes Jared Cook to the pattern. While the safety is looking down, Cook will steal the football crown. Oh my, American Pie!
All this is keyed to Sam Bradford. While Jeff Fisher and Co. sort out all the details, Bradford is "The Guy". He's the one who can stand stunned in the pocket when he see his line actually blocking, or throw a pass... Now Sam, I know it will be a great Twitter moment, but throw the ball... He'll be tracking some extremely quick wide receivers this year. Amendola was the only hyper-caffeinated receiver he had last year. This season, he'll have Austin and Stedman, with Givens only a blurry half step behind them. They'll be flying around, waving their tiny hands at Sam to throw them the ball. He'll have to set his internal clock forward a click or two too. It's going to be like having three "Road Runners", all zooming around the field at once. If he waits too long and hears a "mee-meep", it'll be too late.
The St. Louis Rams have long been held as the "Wile E. Coyote" of the NFL. It's time for a little Road Runner in the Rams. These speedy-fast receivers bring a new weapon to Sam Bradford. He has an offensive line now, and two stellar tight ends. The running back question will get sorted out in training camp. The tools seem to be there, so what should we reasonably expect from Sam Bradford in 2013?