If not for the insights of backup quarterbacks Austin Davis and Kellen Clemens, rookie St. Louis Rams wide receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey might be preparing to put on different uniforms next season.
Sam Bradford isn’t the only QB that’s important.
He is the starter, though, and a franchise cornerstone as the only player at the position on whom the Rams spent a draft pick—which happened to be No. 1 overall in 2010.
Do No. 1 picks ever really have a position of obscurity from which to break out? They tend to be household names to begin with.
But Bradford hasn’t had a single offensive coordinator for two straight seasons since his sophomore and junior years at Oklahoma. He threw just 69 passes as a junior before injuring his shoulder and losing the rest of his season.
Despite the revolving door at OC for St. Louis and his nagging ankle injury in 2011, the soon-to-be fourth-year pro has shown improvement over his NFL career. His average number of yards per passing attempt has climbed from 5.95 as a rookie to 6.06 as a sophomore and 6.72 as a third-year vet.
He threw a career-high 3,702 yards and 21 touchdowns, along with a career-low 1.19 turnovers per game in 2012.
Those numbers came at the helm of an offense which has long been inundated with personnel problems at every position except running back. Now that the NFL’s active career rushing leader has gone on to greener turf, Bradford is getting a supporting cast unlike one he’s ever had before.
St. Louis has undeniably upgraded his receiving corps and offensive line in a single offseason in an effort to allow Bradford to prove that he was the correct pick at No. 1 in the 2010 NFL draft rather than a rag doll in the pocket.
He’ll be gunning for his first 4,000-yard season in 2013.
Should one of them have to step in under center, Davis is likely to be the guy. The 23-year-old former undrafted rookie shattered collegiate records at Southern Mississippi once set by Brett Favre. However, his NFL achievements are limited to the preseason: 22-of-34 passing (64.7 percent completions) for 220 yards and an interception in four appearances.
Clemens also has Favre ties, having backed Favre up in 2008 with the New York Jets. The 29-year-old former second-round pick has more NFL game experience under his belt, but he hasn’t been productive enough to warrant consideration as a franchise passer.
His current touchdown-to-interception ratio stands at a meager 7-to-13. He threw for 546 yards in three starts for the Rams in 2011, registering two TDs and a pick.
Clemens’ career numbers with St. Louis include 49-of-94 completed passes for 585 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in five appearances (three starts).
He has the benefit of familiarity with OC Brian Schottenheimer, though—a luxury that Bradford will finally be afforded for the first time in his professional career.
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