When you are the first overall pick in the NFL draft, you expect to feel the pressure to perform well. Sam Bradford was the No. 1 overall pick for the St. Louis Rams back in 2010, and so far, he has experienced the highs and lows associated that come with being a young quarterback.
Bradford started all 16 games as a rookie and played fairly well for a first-year player. Most people "in the know" were saying Bradford was an elite QB in the making. Then came his sophomore year, where he changed offensive coordinators, had no offseason to prepare and saw the bulk of his offensive line and receiving corps go down with various injuries.
Bradford, playing behind that makeshift O-line, also missed six games due to injuries last season.
With no time to throw and nobody to throw to, Bradford saw his completion percentage fall from 60 percent to 53.5, his touchdowns fall from 18 to six, and his quarterback rating fall from 76.5 to 70.5.
So as Bradford enters his third season as the Rams' starting QB, what can we expect from him as he prepares to play for his third offensive coordinator?
If history is any indicator, expect the Rams to throw the ball a lot less. This will be a good thing for Bradford, as he won't be exposed to the kind of beating that he took last season.
During his time as the head coach of the Tennessee Titans, Jeff Fisher was a "run first" coach. His starting QB, Steve McNair, started 125 games for Fisher, and during that time McNair's average season looked something like this:
What level do you see Bradford playing at in 2012?
Compare that to Bradford, who threw the ball 590 times as a rookie and who was then on pace to throw the ball around 575 times last season before he got hurt.
For further proof that Bradford is about to be on a shorter leash, take a look at Kerry Collins' numbers during the one season that he started for Fisher in Tennessee:
Also take into consideration that Fisher brought in Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who oversaw the New York Jets' ground-and-pound offense with another young quarterback, Mark Sanchez.
Here were Sanchez's numbers in New York under Schottenheimer:
As you can see, over time, Schottenheimer did open things up for his young QB. One thing in Bradford's favor is that he is more accurate than McNair, Collins and Sanchez. So, I do expect him to throw it some, just not as much as we've seen during his first two seasons as a Ram.
That is a good thing, as Bradford was sacked on 9.2 percent of his pass attempts last season, compared to Sanchez being sacked on only 5.1 percent of his throws in 2010 and on only 6.7 percent of his throws in 2011.
If Bradford can stay clean, he is going to be a good QB.
So having said all of that, here is my prediction for Bradford this season:
With a strong running-game and an even stronger defense, I think Bradford can put up a very solid season and lead the Rams to no worse than a 9-7 record.