Sam Bradford had a solid rookie season, there is no questioning that. Where there will be debate, however, is whether Bradford will deliver an encore or suffer a sophomore slump.
There are several variables that will play a role in whether 2011 will be a big one for Mr. Bradford:
The addition of Josh McDaniels appears to be, on paper, just about the greatest fit the Rams could have found for Bradford.
Kyle Orton was considered a below-average quarterback before McDaniels got his hands on him. The result? Orton set career highs in almost every category and led the Broncos seventh-ranked passing attack.
McDaniels runs a spread offense that bears several similarities to the offense Bradford mastered at Oklahoma, featuring plenty of quick, effective passes and a galore of vertical attacks.
This familiarity will be critical, as Bradford will not have the burden of having to learn an entirely new offense (such as he did this season with the West Coast).
Hypothetically Speaking, Rams Receivers Could Be Solid
Now, before we really go into performance predictions, here are the grounds for which all of this speculation is based upon:
- WRs Donnie Avery and Mark Clayton will return fully recovered from knee surgery, giving the Rams two playmakers capable of stretching the field.
- The Rams draft Julio Jones/A.J. Green/Jonathan Baldwin with the 14th overall pick.
- The Rams sign either Vincent Jackson, Braylon Edwards or the lesser-known James Jones. Steven Jackson said he would do his best to attract big-name players to St. Louis—the ball is in his court.
- Danny Amendola is signed to a long-term contract.
So, hypothetically speaking, the Rams would enter the 2011 season with Julio Jones, Donnie Avery, Mark Clayton, Vincent Jackson, Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson/Danario Alexander/Mardy Gilyard as wideouts. On paper, that is solid.
Chia-Like, Bradford Will Grow
Considering that Bradford had a very depleted group of receivers to work with this season, the thought of him throwing the ball to an experienced group is pretty exciting.
With the more comfortable no-huddle offense being ran, he should also find it a lot easier to pick defenses apart. There were times this season where the Rams would move into a no-huddle offense and just about every time they did, Bradford flourished.
One place Bradford seemed to look uncomfortable last season was in the red zone. With Vincent Jackson and Julio Jones running around, he will have a much easier time finding big targets to heave the ball to. Not only that, but if the defenses begin gravitating towards the larger Jackson and Jones, the middle will definitely start opening up for Amendola.
Also, Steven Jackson is a running back you just can't ignore. If Jackson is in the backfield, opponents will be forced to play up or risk giving up big run after big run.
This offense should make a big stride in 2011 and Bradford will be the driving force. If he continues to display the same quick release and strong arm that Rams' fans fell in love with this season, he should put up a solid season.
"The World Ain't All Sunshine and Rainbows"
The struggles will come and despite the expectations, Bradford is still in his second season. He never lost his calm, but there were plenty of things that he saw last year that he had never seen before and I'll bet any amount of money that Bradford hasn't seen it all yet.
He'll be creatively blitzed. He'll see coverage schemes that he won't be familiar with. He will undoubtedly throw some interceptions that he will hate himself for. Make no mistake, Bradford is not perfect; the growing pains will continue.
That being said, the one trait that Bradford exudes more than anything is perseverance. His ability to persevere, along with his undeniable football smarts, will guide him through any struggles he experiences during his second season.
Throwing to a much improved group of receivers, Bradford can and will produce an even better season than he did in 2010. He will start out slow getting used to McDaniels' scheme, but once he hits about Week 4 or 5 and starts getting in a groove, the yards will start stacking up.
That, along with the constant threat of Steven Jackson, looks to be setting up Bradford for a big season.
Wait until they get a load of Sam.
Prediction: 3,650 yards, 25 TDs, 15 picks