Thursday, September 16, 2010
Rams' Bradford, Clayton connect instantly
By Mike Sando
ST. LOUIS -- The best pure throw Sam Bradford made Sunday wasn't even completed. It was a dart on third-and-13 that would have resulted in a long gain, possibly even a 50-yard touchdown, had it been caught.
"That was, to me, one of the best throws I've ever had from a timing standpoint," receiver Mark Clayton said from the St. Louis Rams' locker room Tuesday.
Mark Clayton caught 10 passes for 119 yards in his regular-season debut with the Rams.
Clayton caught 10 passes from Bradford during the Rams' 17-13 defeat to Arizona in Week 1. He dropped this one, but pointed to the throw as evidence of what Bradford offers the Rams' offense.
"That one was an amazing throw," Clayton said. "As soon as I turned, ball. That is how you want it. What it does it gives the receiver time to catch and run. I just left the ball and kept running. We can't have that."
That drop notwithstanding, the Rams' move to acquire Clayton following Donnie Avery's season-ending injury is looking like the team's best decision since drafting Bradford first overall in April. Clayton's yearly total for receptions have fallen each season since peaking at 67 in 2006. He caught only 34 passes last season. Baltimore added NFC West castoffs Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, making Clayton expendable. Clayton appears on his way to setting a career single-season high for receptions in a system that might suit him better.
The offense St. Louis runs has traditionally emphasized timing and precision, with plenty of shorter passes. The system Clayton left behind in Baltimore has its roots in Don Coryell's offense featuring more downfield throws.
Bradford completed 10 of 16 passes intended for Clayton, including a 39-yarder on second down and a 33-yarder on first down. There were also six completions of 5 or 6 yards. Bradford's accuracy, which could be tested against Oakland Raiders corner Nnamdi Asomugha in Week 2, was apparent throughout.
"There were short-yardage situations where he was able to find little holes and be very precise and squeeze balls in," Clayton said. "He's special, he is. As long as offensively we protect him and then on the outside make plays for him, we're going to be really good."
Bradford's best decision Sunday? It might have come on a scoring pass to Laurent Robinson on fourth-and-goal from the 1. Bradford rolled right by design and threw to Robinson, his third option, while running away from defenders.
"The placement of the ball for Laurent, that's special," Clayton said. "It's so tight down there with everybody flying around, he is on the move. [Robinson] was not a primary. For him to go 'oh, oh, oh' [in going through his progression], that is impressive."