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A Study of Sam Bradford's Downfield Throws

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 19:  Sam Bradford #8 of the St. Louis Rams throws a pass against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on September 19, 2011 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 19: Sam Bradford #8 of the St. Louis Rams throws a pass against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on September 19, 2011 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
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The passing game has been a huge topic of discussion for the Rams for years now, for all the wrong reasons. The Rams have had one of the worst passing games in the NFL since 2007. In 2010, the St. Louis Rams selected Sam Bradford, and the passing game greatly improved. It was still only an average attack that ranked 21st in the NFL. Then 2011 happened, and the Rams were 30th in passing.

It's widely known that the Rams are going to be using the run more frequently this season. The offense will look similar to what the Jets did the first two years with Mark Sanchez. They will establish a physical ground attack, coupled with short, easy throws. Hopefully this will then open things up down the field and the play-action passing game that Brain Schottenheimer loves.

Sam Bradford was drafted 1st overall in part for his deep accuracy. He has had little chance to show it off and some question if he still has the great touch he displayed at Oklahoma University. The numbers also back this up to an extent as Sam's accuracy numbers are below average.

Recently one of our friend sites Rams On Demand made a video displaying many of Bradford's throws over 15 yards in 2011. There are 60 throws in all. I watched this many times, and I tallied the results to see what is holding the Rams downfield attack back.

Completion % 42%
Total Incomplete 35
Blame Pass Protection 5
Overthrown 12
Underthrown 5
Drops 10
Good Coverage 6
Receiver Fell Down 3

That completion percentage really isn't that bad considering what Sam had to work with. Factor in the drops, and it's actually a good number. Let's say half the drops of beautiful, right on target passes (like at 0:25, 11:20, 15:20, ) were caught. The percentage would then be 50%, which is a respectable percentage.

Dropped passes are mostly a mental issue. When a golfer hits a slice into the trees, on his next tee shot all he thinks is "Don't hit it in the freaking woods!" What happens? Slice into the woods. The same effect is easily translated to dropping passes.

Many drops were gut wrenching, drive killing, and/or momentum killing. Hell, Sam may have had 5 more TDs last season if it weren't for drops. The WRs and TEs need to raise their catch percentage, because if the Rams are to improve the offense they can't afford stupid mistakes like that.

The biggest cause of incompletions for Bradford were overthrows (11:35, 14:00, 19:40, 23:32, 24:25). For almost every QB on deep throws, this will be the case. Players are coached to favor throwing the ball too long rather than too short to avoid interceptions. Overthrows will happen with every QB, but with Sam Bradford many of his overthrows are complete misses.

Now pass protection may only be blamed for 5 of the incompletions directly, but I blame it for many more. Take another look at some of Bradford's overthrows. Go ahead do it.....I'll wait. Done it yet? Have you? HAVE YOU?!?!

Sam Bradford looks rushed to me on these throws. Being hit many times can do that to a QB. His footwork seems totally off at time, and he is not properly stepping into throws. In my eyes, he lacked confidence in his offensive line. This caused a breakdown in his fundamentals like footwork and messed with his overall timing. Bradford needs to be comfortable in the pocket, and that's why Jeff Fisher is putting so much emphasis on pass protection and running the ball in 2012.

Something that should give Rams fans hope is when Sam Bradford is given a clean pocket (1:52, 2:20, 3:40, 5:50, 6:32, 13:22, 17:02, 24:20), he can throw the ball with great accuracy. Even later in the year as "David Carr syndrome" set in, this was apparent.

Sam Bradford is at a very delicate stage of his career. His rookie year was simply phenomenal, but his second year was a complete disaster. He isn't lost yet as some may claim.

Sam can make any throw on the field, if given proper pass protection. Nevertheless, if he has to go through another season where he is constantly getting hit, he may suffer the same fate as Marc Bulger.