If you are a St. Louis Rams fan, you have come to learn one thing this season: never ever bet on a Rams game.
You never know what to expect from this team on defense or at the quarterback position. Sure, Kellen Clemens is playing the best football of his career, but he is just as inconsistent as the rest of the team. He has recorded a passer rating as high as 140.6 and as low as 36.8 this year. In a young team that has experienced extreme highs and lows, their veteran backup is producing the same results as his young teammates.
You can blame some of his poor games on receivers dropping passes and not finding the open areas against zone defenses. Clemens has been remarkably efficient at times, such as his most recent performance against the New Orleans Saints where he went 14-of-20 on pass attempts for two touchdowns.
Then again, that was the first time this season that he eclipsed the 60 percent completion mark. In his seven games started, he has never surpassed 250 yards and only passed 200 yards in a game three times.
He is successful when he is a complementary component of the offense to Zac Stacy‘s ground-and-pound ways. Stacy was tearing the Saints’ defense to pieces on his way to a 106-yard first half when Clemens completed his two touchdown passes.
In games when the run game has stalled, Clemens loses all efficiency and becomes a hazard to the offense. When Stacy couldn’t get it going against a top-10 defense in the Arizona Cardinals, Clemens threw two picks, was sacked four times and fumbled once. One of his sacks ended in a safety that buried the Rams even deeper.
What I am noticing is that when Clemens feels pressured to step up his game, he tries to do too much. As a career backup, he has to play within his abilities. His athletic ability has been surprising to some as he moves around the pocket extremely well compared to Sam Bradford. Then again, his desire to keep plays alive have led to his six fumbles.
There is still a lot that Bradford can learn from watching Clemens’ tape this season. Clemens outperforms Bradford when it comes to sensing pressure and challenging defenses downfield. He has hit offensive weapons downfield many times this year, which is something that Bradford seemed too scared to even attempt in most games.
Clemens has outperformed expectations and is close to leading the Rams to a .500 record, which is surprising to most considering the roller coaster performances by the team. Still, Clemens needs Stacy or Benny Cunningham to dominate games way too much to be moderately effective.
From a numbers perspective, when St. Louis rushes for over 130 yards, Clemens’ pass rating has been 37, 84, 140, 86 and 144. In those games, St. Louis is 3-2 while in games where they have failed to reach 130 rushing yards, Clemens’ passer rating has been 67 and 48 and the team is 0-2. When they need him to carry the offense, he simply can’t do it.
Take a look at Bradford’s passer rating through the seven games he played: 100, 88, 80, 59, 105, 135, and 93. His lowest game was against the San Francisco 49ers when they decimated the entire Rams team. If you want to compare the ratings and try to skew them in any way, you have to look at the fact that the Rams only broke 100 rushing yards one time while Bradford was running the offense.
He was forced to carry the load for a team that had no other option at the time because Stacy was underutilized and unused until the offense was already lost in a pass-heavy attack.
It wasn’t until after Bradford’s injury that Stacy was turned loose and the game was no longer at the fate of the QB on an every-drive basis. So while some may boast about how Clemens is a veteran leader, the reality is that Bradford put up bigger, more efficient numbers without the help of a run game. This offense has yet to hit its stride and once no. 8 can step onto the field again, this team can finally take another huge step forward.
He has a lot to improve upon, but Bradford is the better passer of the two QBs. Whether you want to believe it or not, St. Louis would be in better shape if Bradford was under center.