As shown last year, the Rams still have a chance without #8 under center (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
Despite his numbers throughout the first five weeks of the 2013 season, Sam Bradford wasn’t having the best season. The team was 1-3 with him starting under center and 2-0 the next two weeks, thanks to special teams and the defense taking advantage of a weak Jacksonville offense.
Bradford was completing around 60 percent of his passes and the only quarterback to throw fewer interceptions than Bradford was Peyton Manning. But those were bloated numbers that came during the last quarter or few minutes of the game. Since being drafted by St. Louis in 2010, the verdict is still out on Bradford, which is a pretty generous ruling.
The team’s goals however, are not dependent upon Bradford’s health and success. As shown last year, the Rams still have a chance without #8 under center.
Sam Bradford: The former Heisman Trophy winner will be heading into his fifth year with a freshly repaired ACL, which he tore in a Week Six matchup at Carolina. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer will no doubt take the comeback slow, relying more on the ground attack and trick plays via Tavon Austin.
Once Bradford becomes more comfortable with his new teammates in real game situations, expect him to throw the ball. Schottenheimer and head coach Jeff Fisher will want to utilize their weapons way more than they did last year. This means Kenny Britt, Brian Quick, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey (after he returns from his PED suspension) will be seeing a lot of action, as well as the usual suspects, i.e., Chris Givens, Lance Kendricks and Jared Cook.
Bradford’s strength is his short game, which is what he heavily relies on. His comfort zone is anywhere within 20 yards of the line of scrimmage, which leads us to examine Bradford’s weaknesses…
Bradford cannot throw the deep ball accurately. There was a time where he and Givens made quite a few deep plays in 2012, but every year before and since that season, Bradford has been pedestrian at best. Bradford has the arm and he has precision, but confidence in his deep throws is what he lacks.
Shaun Hill: Shaun Hill is a 12-year veteran who was brought in as a safety net incase Bradford’s knee or performance doesn’t do well. He may not light the world on fire like Josh McCown did for the Chicago Bears last season, but he can get the job done.
Hill does all of his work in the pocket and like Bradford, throws primarily within the 20-yard box. But he is a great upgrade from Kellen Clemens. I am not taking anything away from Clemens. What he did for the Rams when they needed him was great and he helped fire this team up when everyone thought the season was over. But he wasn’t a great passer and couldn’t complete any more than 50 percent of his throws.
Another similarity Hill and Bradford share is their deep ball is not good. But that shouldn’t be an issue of concern if because the last time a back-up came into the game, Schottenheimer basically called every running play in the book.
Garrett Gilbert: Going into the draft, many thought the Rams would pull the trigger and get a promising quarterback in the draft, just in case Bradford’s year turned out to be all-for-not.
For those unfamiliar with Texas Longhorn football, Gilbert was supposed to be the guy to replace Colt McCoy once he left for not-so-greener pastures. But after a disappointing three years, Gilbert transferred headed to Southern Methodist. His first year there yielded pedestrian results: 53 percent completion, 15 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.
The following year, Gilbert showed a much better performance: 66 percent completion, 21 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Coupled with a strong Pro Day, Gilbert seemed to look like he was ready to transition into the big leagues.
He has great size (6’4”, 221 pounds) and has great accuracy in the short game, a style he ran with at SMU. But he struggles with the deep ball and his low release point makes it easy for balls to be swatted down or intercepted. Gilbert will make the roster but he’ll need to fine tune his skills greatly before he can move up the depth chart.