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Tuesday, December 6, 2011
A few thoughts on the Rams' Sam Bradford

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Sam Bradford's first season with the St. Louis Rams made him the NFL's offensive rookie of the year.

This seemed entirely appropriate after Bradford passed for 3,512 yards, second only to Peyton Manning among rookies in NFL history.

The Rams went from 1-15 in 2009 without Bradford to 7-9 in his first season. That improvement also validated Bradford as a worthy choice for top offensive rookie.

Bradford's second season has been a disaster, by all accounts. His team ranks last in points per game. Bradford has taken far more sacks per pass play. The Rams are 2-10. An ankle injury has sidelined Bradford for three games.

As the chart shows, however, Bradford's raw production hasn't plummeted as much as we might think. His average for yards per game is nearly identical. His interception percentage has dropped. His NFL passer rating is similar.

Sacks are up significantly. Touchdowns are down. Bradford's Total QBR has fallen from 41.0 to 29.5 on a 100-point scale with 50 representing average. His third-down passer rating has remained flat. His production in the red zone has dropped significantly.

What to make of the similarities and differences from last season?

Bradford outperformed expectations for a rookie, but he wasn't carrying the team. His supporting cast has dragged him down this season. He hasn't lifted it up as much as anticipated. Learning a new offensive system would have been easier if Bradford had more playing experience, and if the lockout hadn't shortened preparation time.

The Rams' defense has struggled as well. There have been more injuries of significance on both sides of the ball.

Bradford's play has fallen off. At the very least, he hasn't progressed. But it's not like he was a Pro Bowl quarterback last season. He was very good -- for a rookie. Expectations grew faster than Bradford could keep up under the circumstances.

Chart note: Sack percentages were flipped accidentally. The higher rate, 9.1 percent, is now in the 2011 column.