EARTH CITY, Mo. -- When St. Louis Rams starting quarterback Sam Bradford was lost to a season-ending knee injury in Week 7 last year, the team searched far and wide for quarterback help either to replace Bradford or provide competition at the position.
That search took them as far as exploratory phone calls to the representative of Brett Favre. Ultimately, the team settled on their best in-house option, Kellen Clemens. Clemens exceeded most expectations, though the Rams took steps to limit his risk and what they asked him to do.
When Clemens departed for San Diego in free agency, the Rams found themselves searching for a quarterback who, should Bradford suffer another injury, is capable of stepping in without them having to go on a wild goose chase.
Enter Shaun Hill.
After pursuing him for a couple of weeks and even in previous seasons, the Rams finally snatched Hill away from the Detroit Lions in the offseason. Hill has wasted no time proving why the Rams coveted him.
Starting the preseason opener in place of Bradford, Hill went 5 of 7 for 84 yards and two touchdowns for a passer rating of 151.2.
“Well, we expect him to do that; that’s what he’s done for years," coach Jeff Fisher said. "(He) has a good feel for what we’re doing and a good sense for timing and throws a nice ball, a catchable ball. Five-for-7 and good control over what we were doing. That was pretty good, pretty good first effort for him.”
It's probably safe to say that Hill has been exactly what the Rams expected in more than just the preseason opener. The team gave him a one-year, $1.75 million deal in late March with the idea that he would be exactly the type of steady hand who would give them insurance in case of another Bradford injury.
Hill's history would indicate that's a role he's more than comfortable handling. He's never been a starter over the course of a full season, but has proved capable of stepping in when called. In 34 career games, he's thrown for 6,381 yards with 41 touchdowns and 23 interceptions, completing almost 62 percent of his passes.
For a starter, those numbers don't stand out much. But in a league where qualified backups are hard to find, that production is more than welcome for a No. 2.
“Shaun was in complete control," Fisher said. "(He comes) with a bunch of great experience as a backup quarterback that can win games for you."
Hill's experience has clearly engendered plenty of confidence in the preseason as the Rams have limited his reps in practice knowing he'll be ready when the games come around.
Entering his 13th season, Hill is also well aware of the value of the preseason for a backup quarterback.
“There’s still some learning for me and some comfort in the offense that needs to come," Hill said. "But that’s what the preseason is for and I’m very glad that they still have four preseason games. I know there’s been a lot of talk about pushing them back to two, but for young guys or any new guy to the team, having four preseason games is great just to get that experience.”
If all goes as planned, the Rams won't need to call on Hill this season and Bradford will play all 16 games. The best laid plans rarely pan out, but with Hill in tow, the Rams are better prepared should disaster strike again in 2014.