I have read a lot (on TST and other websites) that this is a make or break year for QB Sam Bradford. I completely disagree with this premise, but also believe this is the year Bradford silences the critics and justifies his lofty number one draft status.
First, we all know the facts since our Rams
made Bradford the number one pick in the 2010 NFL Draft (if not, continue reading). First, we are on our 2nd General Manger; Billy Devaney and Les Snead. It is also our 2nd Head Coach; Steve Spagnuolo and Jeff Fisher. Bradford has had 3 Offensive Coordinators in 3 seasons; Pat Shumur, Josh McDaniels and Brian Schottenheimer. Lastly, Bradford has had 3 Quarterbacks coaches; Dick Curl, Josh McDaniels (playing double duty and, as a result, stretched thin), and Frank Cignetti, Jr. Additionally, Bradford, and every player in the NFL, was without OTA's and Minicamps during the 2011 season due to the lockout.
However, 2013 is a different story. This is the first year in Bradford's career in which he will have the same Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach in consecutive seasons.
Also, the 2012 draft saw the Rams invest in more offensive players than any other group (5 offensive players, 4 defensive players and 1 special teams player). 3 of those 5 players showed enough in training camp to warrant early playing time. Isaiah Pead
and Brian Quick
didn't live up to 2nd draft picks in year one. Had it not been for the week 1 injury of Rok Watkins, my guess is 3 would have started close to 30 games combined. Chris Givens was our leading receiver, while Daryl Richardson
showed flashes of a Colston-style steal. One of the most overused phrases in the NFL is that players make their biggest jump between year 1 and year 2, and Jeff Fisher is at the forefront. But this doesn't mean it isn't true. I expect great things from that trio (and Pead and Quick as well) this season, as well as our entire 2012 draft class.
This year, 4 of the 7 draft picks were from the offensive side of the ball. Tavon Austin
instantly projects as a weapon (if used properly), while Stedman Bailey
, Barrett Jones
and Zac Stacy
all look like they could challenge the incumbent players for game time every Sunday come game day.
Let us not forget the offensive players signed in free agency the last two seasons. Scott Wells
(when healthy), solidifies the center position on the offensive line, while also teaching Barrett Jones the intricacies of the center position. The Jake Long signing solidifies both RT and LT (again, if healthy). And Jared Cook has all the skills necessary to be a top-flight Tight End in St. Louis.
So with all of those additions, and regular progression of veteran players, I imagine Bradford will have the type of year that will make most fans satisfied with his development and end the unsubstantiated calls for his release. And here's why. First, Bradford absolutely hates to lose. During his rookie season, there were many stories about his obsession about ping pong and his reaction to losing. If you remember, he purchased a ping pong table before any other piece of furniture. I have never had any question about that desire. Also, in both seasons in which Bradford has started 16 games, he posted a 14-31-1 (a .462 win percentage) record. In the one year Bradford was here but injured, our record is 2-14 (a .125 winning percentage). Because of that, I know Bradford spends enough time in the film room perfecting his craft and improving on his performance. Second, his consistency in the same coaching staff means that he can help coach up new players during practice. As evidenced in many articles, he was quoted stating that he is coaching up his receiver corps and helping them perfect their routes in the playbook and helping timing. Third, with so many more pass-catching options, and less attention paid to the Running Back position (since no one is proven to be the "bell cow" at the position), Bradford will have some pass-catchers open nearly every play, and will be able to find them with the solidified Offensive Line. And lastly, the defense will be in the top 10 this year, resulting in less time on the field, more punt returns for Tavon, and fresher legs collectively.
All of these will have a direct impact on the offense, and result in less double teams for both Brian Quick and Chris Givens, which will help them develop into a big play Wide Receiver. Also, Tavon Austin will take 8 defenders out of the box. Lastly, Cook, Austin, Bailey, Givens and Quick will be able to get distance between defensive players every play, and the extra time will be able to solidify Bradford as a franchise Quarterback.
Feedback always appreciated.