Perhaps the biggest concern with the St. Louis Rams coming into the 2012 season is the concept of keeping quarterback Sam Bradford comfortable in the pocket. Last year Bradford battled injuries and tons of pressure through a very sub-par sophomore campaign. This season the new coaching staff has vowed to change all of that for the third-year signal caller and get him more relaxed in the pocket.
That all begins with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer who has placed a real emphasis on Bradford getting rid of the ball quicker. Shorter drops and quicker timing with pass patterns will mean less time that the Rams still suspect offensive line has to protect the man under center.
According the Bradford himself: “That’s a lot of what I’ve talked about with Schotty so far. Two days ago in camp, I thought I had a really good practice. I’m not sure the ball hit the ground once. And we got in the film room, and he was all over me about getting the ball out of my hands even quicker, to eliminate hits. He’s made it a big point. It’s part of my job to help the protection and get the ball out of my hands and make sure that, even if it’s not a sack, I’m eliminating the unnecessary hits.”
All of the punishment that Bradford is forced to absorb takes its toll during the course of a full season. Some have suggested that the former number one overall pick is gun-shy and somewhat skittish in the pocket after the beating he took in 2011, but Schottenheimer disagrees saying: “I don’t worry about Sam getting hit. He’s tough. That’s the one thing that shows up; I mean, he stands in there and he’s taken some punishment. It’s our job to keep him from getting hit like that. And I’d be saying that to you if I was talking about Mark Sanchez, Drew Brees, or any of the other guys I’ve coached. You don’t want to get those guys hit, because when they do get hit, unfortunately, human nature, it makes you… not afraid, or scared, but you’re aware of it.”
The Rams are clearly aware of their offensive line issues and just what that may mean for how Bradford must be handled in 2012. Stressing the importance of getting rid of the football quickly is half of the battle and at least the club is on the right path to keeping Bradford healthy this year. He will have a real breakout season if that philosophy works and the Rams continue to grow together as the youngest team in the league.
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