A new, but familiar name was on the St. Louis Rams injury report Friday. Quarterback Sam Bradford showed up on the list with a knee injury. He was a full participant at practice, but Kellen Clemens did take some snaps with the first team. Bradford's appearance on the injury report does raise the question of just how much abuse the third-year quarterback can take.
Bradford has been sacked 15 times this season, putting him on pace for 48 through 16 games. The Rams allowed 55 sacks last season. Bradford took 36 of those before injuries put him on the shelf. In addition to his 15 sacks, which is the third-most in the NFL, he has been hit 14 times and hurried another 38.
But there is some good news, signs of hope. Week 3 against the Bears was especially brutal. Bradford was sacked six times in that game. In the two games since then, against tough Arizona and Seattle defenses, the quarterback has only been sacked three times, just once last Thursday.
"I think so, absolutely," offensive coordinator Brian Schotteheimer said when asked if he felt like the offensive line was getting better. "Playing together helps. We were kind of band-aided up there for a while, but they're getting a feel for one another and I think that's important.
"It doesn't get any easier every week in this league. You're playing against dominant defensive players, a lot of them along the defensive line. But, we've played two very physical opponents in Arizona and Seattle and we've done well. We've held up against those great groups."
Reinforcements are close at hand. Left tackle Rodger Saffold could be back in the fold as soon as Week 7 against the Packers. Center Scott Wells should be eligible to return as soon as Week 8, the London game, and definitely after the team's Week 9 bye.
Steven Jackson thinks that the offensive line could be very good when the healthy starters return to action.
"It could be a very good one," Jackson said. "I think they have one of the best coaches in the business. We have to continue to let those guys heal up that are banged up and the guys that are playing now, make sure they continue to work at the same level and continue to build that trust with one another."
There is no doubt that offensive line coach Paul Boudeau is working miracles. Wayne Hunter looked finished when the Jets shipped him over for Jason Smith. In his last two starts, Hunter has allowed three hurries and one hit in his last two games, according to Pro Football Focus. Barry Richardson has allowed four hurries, one hit and one sack in those same two games. Both of those players were regarded as two of the worst tackles in the NFL last season.
Just how much longer can it continue?