Once the St. Louis Rams lost their starting quarterback in Sam Bradford, it seemed like many fans were ready to wrap up the season. Surprisingly, Kellen Clemens has been exactly what the Rams needed to fix the offense.
I am not saying that he has carried the team to victory or that he would still be starting if Bradford were to come back healthy tomorrow. There is too much money invested into Bradford for the team to give up on him. It’s a simple observation that right after St. Louis stopped believing they had a legitimate starting quarterback that could air it out, they completely changed the offense from pass-heavy to the ground-and-pound we are seeing now.
Bradford had attempted 262 passes though seven games, while Clemens has thrown 108 times in five games. Using what little math skills I have, Clemens should be around 158 passes attempted through seven games. That, and the fact that the Zac Stacy/Benny Cunningham combo is getting around 30 carries per game, is a sign that the scheme has obviously flipped.
The forced change to Clemens, coupled with the emergence of Stacy as a feature back, has helped the Rams find their offensive identity.
While Clemens is only completing 52 percent of his pass attempts, he has completed passes further downfield, something that rarely happened when Bradford was running things. Clemens is mobile and making throws from all sorts of angles while evading defenders. It may not look pretty, but his 81-yard touchdown to Tavon Austin a few weeks ago was the product of him buying time and throwing from an awkward position, letting Austin produce yards after the catch. He isn’t the statue in the pocket that Bradford seemed to be.
Is Clemens going to light up the stat sheet at any point? No, he probably isn’t, but he has thrown a touchdown in three straight games. More importantly, he hasn’t thrown an interception in those three games. The turnover bug that had a grasp on him throughout his career seems to have been cured. Jared Cook had his first 50-plus yard game since Week 1 against the Chicago Bears, giving the offense a spark on his four catches for 80 yards and the lone touchdown reception. Austin’s two catches went for 39 yards with a long of 32.
Scrambling around to buy time for his receivers isn’t the only thing that Clemens is doing which Bradford wasn’t. Clemens shows no fear when it comes to throwing the ball deep. That fearlessness is something that Bradford needs to learn if he wants to be truly successful. Stretching the field with deep passes prevents defenses from jamming the box with eight defenders without being fearful of getting the top blown off by the Rams’ weapons.
Clemens ended the game against the Bears going 10-of-22 on pass attempts for 167 yards and a touchdown. He isn’t the most efficient passer in the league, but he completes enough passes to keep the offense moving. His 45.5 percent completion on Sunday is nothing to get excited about. At the end of the game, he took care of the ball and threw a touchdown without turning the ball over against a defense that specializes in forcing turnovers.