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St. Louis Rams: Watching Both Foles and Bradford...

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Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

I bet some of you think this is an article ripping on Sam Bradford? Maybe you believe this will be some kind of "new bandwagon" fan of Nick Foles? In both cases, you'd be wrong. In truth, what I'm about to write has more with what I think are great changes for both the St. Louis Rams and Philadelphia Eagles.

Um... OK, I can't resist mentioning my being lambasted by a Eagles site for my thoughts on Nick Foles August 30th.

Nick Foles isn't the Nick Foles who ever took the field in Philadelphia; not in his rookie year, or in 2014. He's better. Yes, I said BETTER! There's something happening with Foles, and I think it has to do with the leadership light blinking to life in his soul. This guy is tougher than I ever thought, and the type of quarterback his teammates can believe in. I'm not bashing Sam Bradford here. I was - and still am - a fan of the lanky, injury scared former Oklahoma/St. Louis fan favorite. But while Bradford's arm may be stronger than Foles, I don't think he ever had what anyone would call amazing leadership qualities with his teammates. They all liked him, and what's not to like, right? Foles is a different cat altogether. Soft spoken when he arrived, he now has a tenor to his voice I love hearing.

"Foles throws passes with more faith; to receivers he believes in. In a way, the Rams receiver corp and Foles are a perfect fit. They both haven't garnered much respect in the media, and are in the enviable position of benefiting from a lack of expectations. Every Rams receiver has the base talent to be in the NFL, but they've never been in a position to shine. Bradford relied on pin-point, "you-better-be-there", passes. Small catch windows in tight coverage were the norm. If a pass was completed, everyone hailed Bradford's accuracy. But life isn't accurate at all, and relying on it is a fools errand at best. Foles reads coverage, then throws to an option filled zone for his receivers. His passes have just enough arc on them to help receiver gain the position they need. Bradford throws a flatter ball, and will flourish in Philly - sans injury - due to a system which depends on a ball be in an EXACT place in each of his reads and check-down options..."

The site excoriated me for being laughably idiotic as I tried to sort out what I'd been thinking when it came to Sam Bradford and Nick Foles. ( I'm pretty sure Brandon Bate ghost wrote the piece I'm talking about?) But in point of fact, I believe I was onto something then, and now. Foles is a better quarterback now. In his third year as a starting NFL quarterback, he's blossoming into something special in St. Louis. Sam Bradford had a tough time in the first half of the Eagles/Giants game, but in the second half he looked like the quarterback who won the Heisman Trophy while at Oklahoma University.

So, to the blogger who's "I before E, except after C" challenged, and who is no doubt waiting for his first big check to roll in now that he's discovered a way "to make $6,500 a week in his spare time using his computer at home..." (re: Basement of his Mom's house), let me just say: You're An Idiot! I can say this, simply because I'm an Editor here, and I have full faith in TSTers to hide me if he comes lurking in the comment threads wanting to beat me up...

Now where was I? Oh, the whole Bradford/Foles thing...

In the Seattle game, the pass Foles threw to Stedman Bailey - over and between two All-Pro defensive backs - says it all. It was a pass Sam Bradford could never have thrown too. In fact, this type of pass - to me - marks a dividing line of sorts for every quarterback. Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Peyton Manning can make this kind of throw. NO! I'm not comparing Foles to this list of future Hall of Famers. It's about the ability to "see" multiple intersection points. One "A to B" point is the two dimensional intersection line from the quarterback's eye to where he sees a receiver will be. The other, is a more vertical line, or "up and over" arc some quarterbacks see, and can hit...

When I think of uber-strong armed quarterbacks, I think of Brett Farve or John Elway. Neither of these two all-time great quarterback excelled at hit receivers along the vertical line. They used arm strength to sizzle laser beam passes between defenders. Sam Bradford has the arm to throw to a mark, but - and this is just my opinion - lacks the additional skill set of 'touch", which Nick Foles appears to possess. What's more, the ball Foles throws is easier to catch. Take off velocity, and receivers have an easier time holding onto the ball. One remarkable note Jeff Fisher mentioned in a press conference earlier this week, is that the Rams receivers had "No drops" against Seattle. Now flip the old memory switch on, and think about the last few years as a Rams fan as we watched pass after pass being dropped...

Each of these quarterbacks have their strengths and weaknesses. I've come to think drafting a quarterback is more difficult than I'd ever imagined. There's a viable argument to be made for analyzing who on a roster a quarterback will be throwing to before selecting him? If you're looking at a Farve-Elway-Bradford bazooka-arm, you may have to completely overall a wide receiver corp to accommodate him. A quarterback like Nick Foles - and Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, et al... - allows for a broader talent base receiver corp. While every receiver in the NFL should - ideally - be able to catch anything thrown his way, in reality it isn't always the case. At the very least, it could extend a receiver's learning curve as he enters the NFL? Marcus Mariota is going to be special because he brings with him the Rodger-esk ability to throw any pass. Looking at his receiver corp, no one jumps off the page at you. Yet, this middling group had a stellar day against Tampa Bay. (Yes, it was a weak defense, but I hold catching passes in the NFL is never an easy thing to do)

If there's an intellectual separation between Foles and Bradford, it's how they read their route trees. Foles doesn't do something that haunts Bradford: staring down receivers. Great defensive backs read quarterbacks' eyes. Bradford telegraphs who he wants to throw to seconds before he let's the ball fly. Foles shifts his eyes constantly around the field, then selects and fires the ball. Safeties track quarterbacks; especially where they're looking. Arm strength is the only thing Bradford has to combat his stare down foible. He basically challenges defenders to get to the point he's throwing to before the ball gets there. The problem is, he's forced his receivers into a race for a point in space with a defender; who knows all he has to do is nudge the guy he's covering off the line to the point of convergence...

Both Foles and Bradford fit the offenses they're currently steering. Philadelphia's Chip Kelly has an offense tailor-made for a guy with Bradford's skill set. Foles has found a home with the Rams, and the receivers he's throwing to will suddenly become relevant like never before, simply because their size and speed will allow them to create broad problems for opposing defenses. Defenders will have to account for the "vertical line", and not simply wall off the "A to B" line.

I wish nothing but the best to Sam Bradford going forward. That said, I think the Rams hit big this past off season when they made the bold leap in the trade for Nick Foles. Only time will tell though, right?