In 2010, rookie Sam Bradford threw 590 passes. That's a lot.
That season, the Rams offense ranked 21st in passing and 25th in rushing. The offense was bashed for being too conservative by a lot of fans, including me, but it did keep Bradford relatively clean.
He was only sacked 34 times that season, and he played all 16 games.
In 2011, Bradford was on pace to throw about 575-580 passes, which is also a lot. However, anybody who watched the Rams play last year knows that Bradford was being asked to throw a totally different type of pass.
The new offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels, brought in an offense that was very complicated, and with the lockout, no time to prepare, several new, young, inexperienced players...
It was just a mess.
Bradford was basically being asked to hold the ball a lot longer, as the receivers had deeper routes to run, routes that took longer to develop. This requires (a) the O Line to pass-protect longer and (b) the receiver to actually get open.
When receivers didn't get open, and Bradford was left holding the ball, he got beaten to a pulp. While Bradford was sacked 34 times in 2010 (5.4 percent sack rate), playing in all 16 games, he was sacked 36 times (9.2 percent sack rate) in 2011, playing in only 10 games.
To be fair, some of the blame has to fall on Bradford. As the pounding started to take its toll, Bradford was holding the ball too long, and he began to appear indecisive.
Of course, if I was standing back there getting the hell beaten out of me, I'd probably hold the ball too long, too.
Bradford still doesn't have an elite wide receiver to throw to. He doesn't have a proven tight end. Hopefully, this year, Steve Smith proves he has something left in the tank, Danny Amendola returns to his 2010 form and second-year tight end Lance Kendricks plays up to his talent level.
The person who could help all of those guys the most is Bradford. The great QBs in the NFL make their receivers better.
As Bradford enters his third season, it's time for him to be the player the Rams drafted him to be. He needs help. He needs protection. He needs guys to catch the ball.
Most of all, he needs to step up—because Bradford will have the biggest impact on the Rams' season if he does.