Balzer: Bradford Should Be The Man ... Now

Sam Bradford (AP/Jeff Roberson)

On Wednesday in Atlanta, a vote by NFL owners made Stan (Kroenke) the man in the Rams' owner's chair. Thursday night in Foxborough, it seems apparent that Sam (Bradford) cemented his position as the man that will be under center when the Rams open the season on Sept. 12 against the Arizona Cardinals at the Edward Jones Dome.

Coach Steve Spagnuolo said Friday that quarterback A.J. Feeley is unlikely to play next Thursday against Baltimore because of the thumb injury he suffered against the Cleveland Browns and that Bradford would start.

"I know you guys keep pushing for an answer," Spagnuolo said. "But I'm just not ready to make (a decision). I would like to see Sam put back-to-back games together. We'll make a decision shortly after that game to which direction we will go."

It has to be a no-brainer now. Sure, Feeley has more experience in the offense, but it's negligible how much better a chance of winning he provides when compared to Bradford.

What's most important about Bradford is that he won't melt down when the impossible to avoid tough times come. He's a quick study, and works diligently to get better every day. Every snap he takes in regular-season games will get him that much closer to where the Rams want him to eventually be. And, he just might get there a lot sooner than anyone thought, especially if the offensive line stays healthy.

Just before training camp, Spagnuolo spoke to perhaps the most important intangible that would help decide when Bradford is ready to play.

He said, "When you see the team start to mold or rally around him, that's an indicator that he's ready to step in there."

That is happening, and even the defensive players can see it.

"He's handled things wonderfully," safety Oshiomogho Atogwe said. "He's committed, and he has a burning desire to be really great. That's what you like to see in a young guy. He has that something inside him that makes him need to learn more and know more so he can get better.

"He realizes the importance of making the offense his offense."

Asked what has surprised him about Bradford, Atogwe said, "He sees the blitz, he sees the rush and he can get the ball out quick. He's seeing things a lot quicker than you'd expect."

It's often said that it takes time for the game to slow down for a young quarterback. Thursday night that was happening. In the first two games, one played in a driving rainstorm in Cleveland, Bradford blazed through his progressions, often throwing checkdowns.

He made good decisions, but they were probably too quick. Thursday, it was different, and he felt it.

"Watching the film of the first two games, I felt like I was in the right place with the ball," he said. "(But) I never really felt like I got myself in that rhythm, I felt like I was always trying to rush through things. Tonight, before I went out there, I just took a deep breath and said, ‘Stay in rhythm, do what you do.' I knew I was capable of it and think I got some throws under my belt early and got in a rhythm and just felt good out there."

And his teammates responded. A telling comment came from Spagnuolo when he was asked if there was one particular throw that impressed him. Spagnuolo said, "There was one I remember that was not a long pass and wasn't something outside. It was zipped in between some defenders and I remember Steven Jackson was on my right at the time when he was out of the game and I asked him if he saw the same thing I did and he nodded his head. The velocity that it got there, the fact that it beat some guys that were in real close coverage, is a sign of a quarterback."

Jackson seemingly has had the feeling that Bradford would start sooner than later. When asked on Tuesday about Bradford starting against the Patriots, Jackson said, "(He) is actually going to see what the NFL is like two weeks earlier than he would September 12. It's a great test for him to see where he's at, give him some good material to study over the next two weeks."

And, perhaps the most important part of Spagnuolo's comment, was Jackson's nod. It seems clear right now that Jackson would nod if the head coach asked him if Bradford should start.

As would anyone that has watched him this summer.



Howard Balzer is the Editor/writer for GridIronGateway Magazine. For subscription information visit GridIronGateway.com (reduced online rate of $39.95) or call 888-501-5752. You can also follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/HBalzer721

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