Rams need Bradford, offensive line to step up in 2012 - KMOV.com

Rams need Bradford, offensive line to step up in 2012

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By Brendan Marks By Brendan Marks

ST. LOUIS (FootballStL) -- If there is one Rams player who is expected to bounce back from a dismal 2011 season it would be quarterback Sam Bradford.

Bradford, who was plagued by injuries, started only ten games for the two-win Rams last season.  The 2010 No. 1 overall pick saw sharp decreases in his completion percentage, touchdowns and passing yards from his rookie season in which he started every game.

The University of Oklahoma product completed just 53.5 percent of his passes last season compared to the 60 percent he completed in 2010 which may have come as a result of his receivers not able to get open and his offensive line failing to protect him.

Despite playing in six fewer games last season, Bradford was sacked 36 times which is two more than he had in his rookie season.  That, alone, is a solid reason to become trigger-happy to the point that just getting rid of the ball seems better than trying to make a play.  It is something that Marc Bulger can attest to.

A quick look at Bulger’s stats shows that early in his ten year career, only eight seasons of which he actually played, he threw for a high percentage and as the years added on, so did the sacks, and so did the interceptions and incompletions.  Only once in his career did Bulger start every game in a season.  That isn’t surprising considering he was sacked 254 times in his career.  Below are the number of times Bulger was sacked compared to completion percentage and interceptions beginning in 2004:

2004 (14 games):    41 sacks/66.2 comp. %/14 INT?
2005 (8 games):      26/66.9/9?
2006 (16 games):    49/62.9/8?
2007 (12 games):    37/58.5/15?
2008 (15 games):    38/57.0/13?
2009 (9 games):      14/56.7/6

Clearly 2006 marked a career year for Bulger, but as the number of sacks in his career piled on him the lower the completion percentage went.  It is hard to argue that it was age that failed him in the final years of his career.  He was only 30 years old in 2007.  That isn’t old for a quarterback.

Bulger was often booed and I never understood why.  He was not a bad quarterback until his offensive line kept letting him get pummeled.  There was a reason he only played in one full season and that was because of the injuries he sustained from the endless hits.  It is the same reason fans should worry about Bradford and his psyche.

If an organization is going to invest a lot of money and use their number one pick on a quarterback then you will assume the team will do everything to protect that player and for the first two years the Rams have let Bradford get hit and hit again.

Which is why it might be a great thing that there is new leadership at the top.  Jeff Fisher and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer are now in charge of protecting the Rams’ greatest investment.  It will be their job to keep him on his feet this season more than ever because already through 26 games as a pro he has been sacked 70 times. 

Looking at the number of times he has been sacked (not counting the times he has been hit) it is reasonable to think that he could become more trigger-happy to get rid of the ball.  No one should blame him.

And the Rams need Bradford to stay healthy for the fact that the backup quarterback is Austin Davis, a 23-year-old rookie out of Southern Mississippi.

It is a warning that Rams fans already know but needs to be written: things could get really ugly, really fast.

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