Sam Bradford will take center stage in the success or failure of the St. Louis Rams in 2012.
You should too.
Jeff Fisher's new regime then backed Bradford despite holding every opportunity to bail. With Bradford coming off an injury-plagued sophomore slump and a much hyped Robert Griffin III coming in at No. 2, dumping the swooning Sooner would have been easy and justifiable.
Instead, the Rams turned their back on the rookie and backed Bradford. Then they did everything they could this offseason to put him in a position to succeed.
Bradford doesn't need a breakout season. He already had that while winning the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year award in 2010. He just needs to bounce back from his breakdown season in 2011.
Here are six ways the Rams have made sure that will happen in 2012.
Free agent signee Scott Wells will anchor Sam Bradford's protection and shoulder some of his responsibility.
Besides anchoring Bradford's protection on the offensive line, he will also call it. Calling protections at the line of scrimmage was one of many new responsibilities placed on Bradford last year. Aaron Rodgers benefited from Wells' veteran presence and Bradford will too.
If Rodger Saffold and the Rams offensive line stay healthy and improve their play, Sam Bradford will be jumping for joy too.
Last year's injuries created a revolving door on the Rams offensive line. As new players shuffled in and out, so did opposing defenses.
Better health on the offensive line in 2012 will help the starters work more effectively as a single unit in their protection of Bradford. So will new Rams offensive line coach Paul Boudreau.
Formerly with the Falcons, Boudreau coached guards in Atlanta to help out towards the tackles when they went uncovered. Pro Bowl center Scott Wells can hold his own in the middle. His presence allows Boudreau to employ the same system in St. Louis.
Ram guard Harvey Dahl served as the team's best blocker during his first season in St. Louis. He also succeeded under Boudreau in Atlanta and will be even better for the Rams now that he is back with his former coach.
Better protection means better health for Bradford. It also means more time to throw. This all adds up to more opportunity for success, a luxury St. Louis' signal-caller did not receive in 2011.
Isaiah Pead brings his fresh legs to St. Louis. Sam Bradford is a fan.
Sam Bradford will benefit greatly from Jeff Fisher's tradition of strong ground games.
Second-round draft pick Isaiah Pead will help keep Jackon fresh while standing in as a reliable backup if circumstances force him into more work.
Opposing defenses now need to account for more than one Ram running back. Bradford certainly won't mind. More emphasis on the ground game will keep the pressure on those opposing defenses and off St. Louis' quarterback.
Brian Quick makes Sam Bradford even more dangerous.
St. Louis finally upgraded Sam Bradford's targets.
Second round draft pick Brian Quick comes to camp as a true No. 1 wideout.
The Appalachian State product is bigger and more athletic than Justin Blackmon. He has the tools to be the best wide receiver in his draft class. Transitioning from a small FCS school to the NFL will be tough, but any receiver like Blackmon coming from a spread offense faces the same challenge.
Draft pick Chris Givens brings speed that will open up the inside for Amendola. Bradford already likes what he sees.
"Extremely fast," Bradford said of Givens, according to ESPN's Mike Sando. "He's a guy that defenses are going to have to be extremely aware of. If they fall asleep on him for a half second at all, he’s going to be by them. That's nice to have, just that added speed."
And don't forget about Danario Alexander, who is already making noise this offseason. If he can stay healthy—a major issue for him in the past—he too offers over-the-top speed that can stretch the field and must be accounted for by defenses. Like Givens, his skill set perfectly complements Quick.
If Alexander or Givens lines up opposite of Quick, defenses will face the tough task of covering a deadly combination of speed and athleticism.
Bradford's accuracy is also deadly. He now has enough weapons to go for the kill.
Sam Bradford will finally receive personal instruction from a quarterbacks coach.
Josh McDaniels performed those duties as a side job when he was offensive coordinator. Now Frank Cignetti can give Bradford his full attention.
"I've said all along, I think Cig's great, especially for the fundamentals of playing the position," Bradford said according to Ryan Van Bibber of the Turf Show Times. "Every day he comes to me with an emphasis of the day, whether it's pass game-footwork, run game-footwork, play action fakes, boots, off the run game. And just to have someone who's constantly reminding to do the little things is very helpful as a quarterback."
A little extra coaching will go a long way for Bradford in 2012.
The situation around Sam Bradford has changed, but his elite talent is still the same.
Jeff Fisher, Scott Wells, Isaiah Pead, Brain Quick and Frank Cignetti all add up to one happy Sam Bradford.
The pieces are in place to maximize Bradford's talent.
Bradford quickly flashed his NFL potential as a rookie. He did that on a much less talented team under an inexperienced head coach.
You can call last season a sophomore slump, but really it wasn't much of a season at all. Like most of his team, Bradford was plagued by injuries. He was never healthy enough to find that same rhythm from his rookie year.
Being thrust into a completely new system with no offseason didn't help either.
The great disparity between each of Bradford's first two season's indicates that one was an aberration. Considering the circumstances in 2011, we can expect him to play more like his 2010 self.
Bradford brings elite accuracy and decision making. His arm strength is not elite, but it is good enough to succeed at the NFL level. These are the most important elements for an NFL quarterback. Bradford is not lacking in any of them.
Now that the Rams completely improved Bradford's situation and he has a full offseason to work in it, the third-year quarterback will finally play up to his potential as a former No. 1 draft pick.