As Brandon noted in this morning's Random Ramsdom, football is here. The St. Louis Rams' rookie class is on the field today, putting meaningful football one day closer and putting the offseason doldrums in the past. The training camp debut of the raw players also starts the process of answering the question of whether or not the Rams can count on these players in 2012. That is hardly the only question the team has to answer between now and Sep. 9, when the regular season kicks off.
In a look at one pressing question for all 32 teams, I went with the most obvious, most important question for the Rams: whether or not Sam Bradford can finally establish himself as a franchise quarterback.
Do the Rams have their franchise quarterback in Sam Bradford or not? Bradford brought a bundle of talent to the NFL, highlighted by his guided missile accuracy. He dinked and dunked his way to a Rookie of the Year Award in 2010 before struggling to stay healthy and upright in his second year. The sooner the Rams get his career on track, the sooner the team can compete again.
We discussed Bradford a little bit last week, looking at some slightly troubling findings from Football Outsiders.
Here are a few of the things I'll be looking for from Bradford in camp and the preseason:
How well is he doing with pressure? Obviously, he won't see a ton of pressure until Week 1, and he cruised through the Rams' 4-0 preseason last year. As noted by FO in that post linked above, He was actually better under pressure last season, though hardly at an average level.
Is his pocket presence improved? Bradford struggled with this even as a rookie, and it's related to the point above. With the pocket collapsing, Bradford was sometimes tentative and unable to find open receivers. That got worse in 2011.
Is his velocity back? Not every throw Bradford made in his ROY campaign was a bullet. Last season, far too many of his throws lacked any umph, making the ball a much easier target for defenders. Clearly his injury gets some blame for that, but if his passes look more like Ryan Fitzgerald's this year, it will mean problems, especially with so many question marks at receiver.
Can he get rid of the ball quickly? Quick passes will be the key to keeping Bradford on his feet this year, especially with a so-so situation at left tackle and looming disaster at right. Much of that will have to do with his ability to re-establish himself in the pocket.
Is he anticipating the rush? Experts from Jaws to Cosell noted Bradford seeing ghosts last year, reacting to pass rushers that simply were not there. It ruined his decision making, accuracy and everything else a quarterback needs to do to be successful from snap to snap.
What else are you looking for from Bradford in camp and the preseason? How confident are you that he can rebound in 2012?