Sam I Am: Bradford's Time To Shine
By Matthew Moreno
It’s do-or-die time for Sam Bradford.
The 25-year-old quarterback received a record rookie contract, but the money has yet to transfer into wins. The reason Bradford's mediocrity has flown under the radar is because the lack of talent around him (and he doesn’t play in New York). He’s been able to lean on an elite running back in Steven Jackson since arriving in St. Louis, but Jackson has moved on.
Now, the spotlight is shining brighter and the weight on Bradford’s back is heavier this season.
Sure, Bradford hasn’t had much of an offensive line to work with so he’s been attempting most his throws from his back. Yes, Bradford had Danny Amendola to throw to, but the injury-prone receiver had a tough time staying on the field. And of course, the Rams draft classes never helped Bradford a whole lot. But, a lot has changed.
Jeff Fisher and the new regime made it clear this offseason that they will be expecting more out of the offense. The addition of Jake Long was huge. This year’s offensive line could be one of their best in years. Long, protecting Bradford’s blindside, will join Rodger Saffold and Scott Wells on the line. The unit is rounded out by a good depth of guards, including Harvey Dahl, Rokevious Watkins, Shelley Smith and Chris Williams. Maybe 400-pounder Terrell Brown can contribute, too.
While the Rams addressed the offensive line via free agency, they made sure to snag playmakers in the draft. The Rams missed out on A.J. Green and Justin Blackmon in previous years. This year, the Rams were proactive to make sure it wouldn’t happen again. They bumped up to the eighth-overall pick and selected Tavon Austin out of West Virginia — arguably the draft’s best playmaker. The 5-8 Austin shot up draft boards with a strong NFL Combine, including the second-best 40-yard dash and 20-yard-shuttle times with 4.34 seconds and 4.01 seconds, respectively. While Austin was a great player at West Virginia, Stedman Bailey was actually the team’s most reliable and consistent receiver. The Rams took note and drafted Bailey in the third round. He could be a sleeper in the draft and can contribute nicely alongside Austin.
Bradford will need to trust a lot of young receivers. Chris Givens had a great year and is making a case to be the top outside threat. He's the deep-field target the team has been missing since Tory Holt’s departure. Brian Quick is still a big question mark and spent much of last year developing, but he has the size, hands and ability to make an impact on the outside. The addition of tight end Jared Cook doesn’t hurt either.
Instead of an offense anchored by the oft-injured Amendola, the Rams finally have some talent. The team felt good enough about Bradford’s abilities two years ago to pass on Robert Griffin III. The Rams didn’t draft a backup quarterback, nor did they bring in someone to truly compete with Bradford.
It is Bradford’s team and it is a brand new team, with brand new (and better) talent. If Bradford once again fails to lead his team to a winning season, he could be old news.