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The Bradford Watch

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Skies of fire.  Raining brimstone.  Flying pigs.  Hell freezing over.

In past years all of these would be about as likely to happen as the Rams pulling off a win at home.  Yet yesterday the Edward Jones Dome came alive for the first Rams home victory since 2008.  The defense and offense both made big plays and performed at a level the likes of which we hadn't seen since the days of an American-owned Anheuser-Busch.  We should temper our hopes: we are probably not winning this Super Bowl (although who knows about next season!).  Yet even though the injuries keep piling up, optimism should flow freely; the Rams have a bright future ahead of them.

Speaking of that bright future, much of it is hinged upon the development and performance of our rookie quarterback.  Until this week, Bradford was the only starting rookie quarterback in the league, even though at times he hasn't looked like your typical rookie passer.  He is now joined in the starting ranks by Jimmy Clausen, who had a rough start to his NFL career this past week.

Heading into Week 4, our Samchise QB looks to be kicking it up a notch, even in the face of heavy pressure.  Once again ignoring all the banter about statistics not reflecting the nature of the game or the performance of the player, let's look at Bradford's statistics through his first three games:

Week 1 : 30/55, 253 yards, 1TD, 3INT, 53.1 passer rating, 2 sacks

Week 2: 14/25, 167 yards, 2TD, 1INT, 86.6 passer rating, 3 sacks

Week 3: 23/37, 235 yards, 1TD, 1INT, 78.1 passer rating, 1 sack

Extrapolating his current statistical output out to a full season, Bradford theoretically would finish the season with 3,493 yards, 21TD, 27INT, a 72.6 passer rating, and a total of 32 sacks.

Now let's put this in context and establish what it really means in comparison to his current and recent competition:

  1. The sack totals places him in a tie for the 9th most sacked QB this season.  
  2. Bradford is currently 17th in the league in passing yards.  
  3. While he is currently tied for 11th in TD passes, Bradford is tied for the 3rd most INTs in the league right now with 5 interceptions.  Yet two relatively heralded quarterbacks still have thrown more picks than him: Brett Favre (6) and Eli Manning (6).
  4. While ranked 23rd in passer rating, here is nonetheless a list of the quarterbacks Bradford is currently ahead of in the rankings: Brett Favre, Joe Flacco, Alex Smith, Trent EdwardsJason Campbell, Jimmy Clausen, Derek Anderson, David Garrard, Shaun Hill, Matt Moore.

Yet it is rather unfair to compare a rookie Sam Bradford, with a void of talent surrounding him (except for Steven Jackson) on offense, to quarterbacks such like Tom Brady, throwing balls to a talented pass-catching corp including Randy Moss and Wes Welker.  Instead let's compare him to heralded quarterbacks snatched up by the worst team in the league relative to their competition: other quarterbacks drafted #1 overall.

After projecting his current production to a full season, among the 19 quarterbacks drafted #1 overall in the past 40 years Bradford would be:

  1. The 5th most sacked quarterback.
  2. The 3rd highest QB rating, behind only Jeff George and Tim Couch.
  3. Behind only one other quarterback in INTs: Peyton Manning.
  4. Behind only one other quarterback in TD passes: Peyton Manning.
I think this week's performance is more or less what we can expect from Bradford here on out, perhaps with a few more sacks and attempts.  If Steven Jackson is out for an extended amount of time, that could prove troublesome for Bradford's stat line, but  King Sam looked great this week, even under constant pressure and with defenders in his face.  The biggest thing he has to learn is how to get rid of the ball rather than take a sack, as he has taken the sack twice in his past two games when he should have thrown the ball away.  I can tell he is concerned about a lack of room behind him (due to a defender coming from behind him after a rollout) to pull his arm back and get a solid pass off.  He just needs to learn how to make a short-armed pass past the line of scrimmage while under pressure.

My prediction that the volume of passing opportunities Bradford received in Week 1 was an outlier within the 2010 season is proving to be true, although I'm surprised he threw as much as he did this week when we were leading, even with Jackson out midway through the game.

And now I end with my discaimer:

The cause of Bradford's statistical output may have nothing to do with his abilities and may more appropriately be attributed to line play, receiver talent (or lack thereof), game planning, adjustments to the running game, etc.  Furthermore, this small sample of play is not a good basis for judging Bradford's development.  What I mean by that is: it really means nothing at this point in the season...although we're getting there.  Nonetheless, some food for thought.