St. Louis Rams Must Take the Good and the Bad with Sam Bradford

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St. Louis Rams Must Take the Good and the Bad with Sam Bradford
Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports

St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford led his team to its second victory of the season, and as usual, his performance is a topic of heated debate for St. Louis fans. 

The fourth-year passer produced admirable numbers against the Jacksonville Jaguars—he ended the game with 222 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions.

However, naysayers will be quick to point out his 55.8 percent completion rate and his 6.5 yards-per-attempt average, and those are legitimate concerns.

This is Bradford’s second season in Brian Schottenheimer's offensive system—the first time in his career he’s had the same system for two consecutive years—and his 2013 performance was supposed to put an end to the Bradford debate, but that has not been the case.

So, after 47 NFL starts, is Bradford’s production outweighing his negatives?

It’s hard to say, but here’s what we know based on the Jacksonville game…

 

The Positives

Bradford had his share of questionable plays, but he was productive against a Jacksonville team that entered the game ranked 11th in pass defense.

Jacksonville’s decent pass defense likely results from teams capitalizing on its worst-in-the-NFL run defense, but let’s not trivialize his positives from the game. This is the NFL after all, and every week is a battle.  

Bradford’s 222 passing yards is the second-highest total against Jacksonville this season—only IndianapolisAndrew Luck has produced more yards against the Jaguars this year (257).  

Bradford’s key moment of the game followed the Darian Stewart fumble recovery in the second quarter. The game was tied 10-10, the defense created a turnover and the offense needed points to take the lead.

Bradford instantly took advantage of the turnover by hitting Lance Kendricks for a 16-yard touchdown, as seen in this video:

And it’s not as though Bradford finally showed up against a substandard team and was invisible before Sunday. On the contrary, there have been moments in 2013 where he has flashed top-10 potential.

Let’s not forget Bradford’s 14-point rally in the fourth quarter against Arizona. The Rams were down by 11 points entering the final quarter, and Bradford’s stellar play put his team on top.

Then, there’s his second-half performance against Atlanta. The Rams entered halftime down 24-3, but Bradford rallied his offense to back-to-back touchdowns in the second half, making it a one-score deficit.

The Rams fell short in that game, but Bradford finished with three second-half touchdowns and 352 passing yards.

Bradford has not been an abysmal passer this season. In fact, he’s on pace for 32 touchdowns and over 4,200 yards—well beyond the expectations of fantasy owners.

He has flaws, but there are moments where he appears to have the offense on track, and he’s highly productive as a result.

Now, the bad…

 

The Downside 

Bradford produces the numbers and has the offense rolling on occasion, but there are certainly moments where he lacks a presence on the field.

In the first half against Jacksonville, Bradford had a chance to run the ball on third down and pick up the first. He appeared to have the necessary running room, but he curled up into a ball and was stopped shy of the marker, forcing a punt.

No one wants to see their quarterback injured on a run play, but the leader of the offense has to play with more grit. There’s no excuse for missing out on the first down and killing a drive in that situation.

We also saw the “phantom sack,” where Bradford was brought down by the pass rush without a defender laying a finger on him, as seen in this video:

He tripped over his own guy, and that happens, but he has to have better balance and show a stronger presence in the pocket.

There were also plays against Jacksonville where Bradford either forced a throw to a covered receiver, or was simply not on the same page with his target.

Bradford will frequently stare down his first option and go for the short gain, but the defense is all over it. This is why he’s averaging just 6.1 yards per attempt this season, and why he has earned the nickname “Captain Checkdown” among St. Louis fans.

Here are some examples:

The final three plays from the video came from the same drive, and it’s only fair to point out that Bradford ended the drive with a touchdown pass to Austin Pettis...which perfectly sums up Bradford this season—ugly, inconsistent play that somehow results in decent numbers and production.

 

Conclusion

The Rams will have a difficult decision to make this offseason, assuming Bradford continues down his current path.

Sure, he has the ability to produce numbers and potentially lead his team to a victory. But will a new quarterback provide that extra bit of X-factor that Bradford arguably lacks?

If they do decide on a new quarterback, will the new face of the franchise be sabotaged by same dropped passes and inconsistent protection?

Will the Rams be better served by using their two 2014 first-round picks on an offensive lineman or running back?

It's a tough decision, and that's why the members of the front office get paid the big bucks.

I will say this... If Bradford sticks with his current pace and finishes with over 30 touchdowns and 4,000 yards, it'll be awfully difficult to put the blame on him.

The Rams still have 11 games to figure out the answer.

 

Steven Gerwel is the longest-tenured Rams Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report and serves as the Rams game-day correspondent. You can find more of Gerwel's work by visiting his writer's profile or by following him on Twitter.

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