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What to watch for in Sam Bradford's 2014 preseason debut

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This weekend, the St. Louis Rams will have their starting quarterback on the field for the first time since October 2013. Here's what to keep an eye on Bradford preps for a big year.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday's preseason game against the Green Bay Packers marks the time quarterback Sam Bradford has seen any action since tearing his ACL in a Week 7 game against the Carolina Panthers last season. Needless to say, he's looking forward to getting back into action.

"It's been a long time since I've been out there for real and I can't wait to get back out there," Bradford said after practice on Tuesday. "Going through OTAs and going through training camp, I mean, that's great and all but we're here to play the game. So to get out there on Saturday and take live snaps I think I'm really looking forward to it. Hopefully the guys are looking forward to having me back out there too."

Here are Bradford's career preseason stats.

Cmp/Att Yards Cmp% Yds/Att TD INT SACKS
2013 22/36 368 61.10% 10.1 2 0 2
2012 30/51 398 58.80% 7.8 5 0 2
2011 31/54 411 57.40% 7.6 5 2 3
2010 33/55 338 60.00% 6.1 3 0 5

Now there's only so much you can read into a player's preseason performance. Unless they just completely wet the bed, the numbers they put up come from vanilla schemes against vanilla defenses. Interestingly enough, his preseason numbers aren't all that different from his regular season numbers: similar completion rates and minimal turnovers.

The biggest difference is in the yards per attempt. He's averaged 6.0 Y/A through his 49 regular season career games, with a career high of 6.7 Y/A in 2012. You'll notice the 10.1 Y/A number from last year's exhibition games, when the Rams were trying to install Brian Schottenheimer's version of a spread offense ... you know, the one that had to be scraped after a few weeks.

But preseason games aren't really about numbers -- remember how good Brandon Weeden looked in the preseason last year? -- it's about getting something close to real game experience.

"You can simulate live periods in practice and you can try to make things as realistic as possible but I don't think you can ever truly simulate game speed," Bradford said. "I think the preseason games are still a touch slower than what they are in the regular season but they are still amped up from practice ... as many reps as we can get during game speed type atmosphere, I think it really helps us."

Here's what I'll be watching for from Bradford on Saturday:

  • The knee -- It hasn't been a problem or even slowed him down at all in practice. Now we get to see him in a game (kind of). Will it change how he throws? Does it look like it's affecting how he plays?
  • Mechanics -- Bradford's mechanics were all over the place last season. Particularly noticeable was a tendency to short-arm his throws that led to a whopping 10 tipped balls in just seven games. Trouble with mechanics led to inconsistencies in placing the ball, an overlooked part of the receivers' dropsies struggles last year. (For more on his mechanics troubles, check out this piece from Mike Tanier in April).
  • Recognition and timing -- Finding a check down has never been a problem. Anticipating and seeing routes down the field has been.
  • Accuracy -- For a quarterback that throws 58 percent of his passes within five yards of the line of scrimmage (the NFL average is 49 percent), he should have a higher completion rate than 60.7 percent (the NFL average is 61.2 percent). His passes were often off target, which has a lot to do with the timing and mechanics already mentioned here. Still, watch for balls to be delivered where receivers can catch them, consistently.