Breaking Down Areas Where Sam Bradford's Game Absolutely Must Evolve
Sam Bradford's game is strong. He throws a beautiful, accurate deep ball and he makes sensible decisions—perhaps too sensible, but we'll come back to that later.
If any individual aspect of his game has underwhelmed, it must surely be the accuracy of his intermediate passes. Ironically, this was considered one of the strongest aspects of his game when he came out of college in 2010.
In fairness, a quarterback's accuracy will suffer when he is surrounded by the kind of ineptitude that plagues Sam Bradford.
The Rams' offensive line has been in a perpetual state of flux. Nine different players have started, including three left tackles, three left guards and two centers. An offensive line plays well as a unit only after they play together long enough or consistently enough to learn each others' tendencies and habits.
All things considered, the Rams' offensive linemen are doing a commendable job; they just can't keep any one grouping healthy for long enough to develop the kind of cohesion that would be necessary to allow Bradford to flourish behind them.
Still, the offensive line might not be as significant of a hindrance if Bradford had some playmakers to throw to. The Rams' leaders in receiving yards—Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson—rank 50th and 56th in the NFL, respectively.
Amendola is very good at what he does, I'm not denying that. But he's a slot receiver. A slot receiver is not supposed to lead your team in receiving yards; It's not the nature of the position.
The guys out wide are supposed to rack up the big yardage totals. Sadly, the Rams don't have anyone out there who has proven to be capable of stepping up on a consistent basis.
Chris Givens has been a bright spot with his current streak of five consecutive games with a catch of 50 yards or more, but in none of those games has he caught more than three passes or gained more than 85 yards. He has shown flashes, but he hasn't performed consistently throughout an entire game.
A young quarterback cannot develop without pass protection and receivers that can run routes effectively and catch the ball when it is thrown their way. The fact that this is Sam Bradford's reality makes it difficult and altogether unfair to judge his individual performance at this point in the season.
With that in mind, I'll now attempt to do just that.
If the season ended today, Sam Bradford's numbers for passer rating (82.4), yards per attempt (7.2) and completion percentage (61.4) would all be career highs. Overall, he appears to be evolving on his own just fine despite the shortcomings of the rest of the offense.
Where criticism is warranted is in Bradford's inability to finish drives and get touchdowns instead of field goals. He has thrown eight touchdowns this year, ranking him 25th in the league behind guys like Blaine Gabbert, Mark Sanchez and Brandon Weeden (all with nine).
As a consequence, Greg Zuerlein, the Rams' kicker, is tied for fourth in the league with 20 field-goal attempts.
That is not good enough to win many games in the NFL.
I get it. With that receiving corps, I'd be reluctant to trust them to make a play on the ball in traffic or even to be where they are supposed to be when the ball is in the air.
Apparently, Sam Bradford feels the same way, considering he only has seven interceptions on the year, ranking him 17th in the league.
And therein lies the problem.
With the receivers he has, Sam Bradford should have a lot more interceptions. The fact that he doesn't means that he's not taking many chances.
I understand that ball control is hugely important. However, the only way Bradford gets more touchdowns is if he takes more chances. At this point, I think it's worth a shot.
You've seen what the conservative approach gets you—three wins in eight games.
Now try firing it through some tight windows. What have you got to lose? The Rams are not going to be in the playoffs in 2012.
Worst case scenario: Bradford throws a bunch of picks and the Rams drop a few games, but the receivers get invaluable experience in how to create openings in tight spaces.
Best case scenario: The receivers get that same experience, while the Rams score more points and end the season with a record better than 6-10.
If Sam Bradford and the Rams' offense continue to play the same way, the results will be the same as they have been. But, if they take more chances, the results will undoubtedly be different. Whether those changes are good or bad, they will all have gained vitally important experience for the future.
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