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Projecting Forwards

We are now a quarter of the way though the regular season. After four games the Rams are 2-2. Whilst there is plenty of reason to be pleased with our record, like the fact we are actually winning games this year, there are also reasons to lament that we are not at least 3-1. By no means are Rams fans under the impression we have suddenly turned the corner and on the cusp of a deep playoff run. We do however recognise the improvement in the on-field play that has started to generate results.

Sam Bradford has been the catalyst for the transformation. He makes rookie mistakes, but at the same time he commands the offense with the poise of the veteran. If we multiple his stats through the first 4 games to project his output for the season we certainly see numbers that both show his talent and rookie failings.

Comp Att Yds TD Int
Sam Bradford 368 632 3776 24 24

If Bradford can reach in excess of 3,700 yards that would surpass Matt Ryan’s rookie season (3440). 24 TDs would be an average Eli Manning season. The 24 INTs though would surpass even Sanchez and Stafford’s numbers as rookies, although Stafford only through his in 10 games (at that rate he projects to 32 INTs over 16 games).

Personally, I think that Bradford is capable of putting up numbers comparable to Ryan’s yardage and Manning’s TDs as a rookie. Shurmur is showing confidence in him to run the offense, audible out of running plays when the slot is not respected, so it won’t be long until he gets his first 300 yard game (something Sanchez is yet to achieve). The main issue is can he bring his interception numbers down. I am struggling to see why he cannot do this as he gets more accustomed to NFL decision-making. We’ve seen a few occasions where Bradford has forced a throw which I don’t think he’d attempt in the latter half of the season.

The other revelation for the Rams has been the dynamic, yet dependable play of Mark Clayton. Acquired from the Ravens in the wake of Avery’s injury and Houshmanzadeh’s trade, he has been a go-to-guy in clutch situations. The one anomaly about his season to date is that his ‘weakest’ performance so far was his two-catch game against the Raiders. Those two catches though are Clayton’s only TDs on the year. Looking at his stats projected over the season he’ll be heading for a career year in all categories.

Rec Yds Avg TD
Mark Clayton 88 1200 13.6 8

His previous career year stats all came in 2006/7 in his second season in the league for Baltimore. He made highest 67 catches for 939 yards and 5 TDs, all numbers that he is projected to exceed in 2010. Even allowing for better defensive scheming against him (a 10% drop-off in production) he is still on course to have his best season to date.

Clayton should not be overly affected by the role a healthy (or unhealthy) Steven Jackson plays in the offense either. Clayton is more of a deep threat and Danny Amendola acts as the short route guy who takes checkdowns and dump-offs. You could even argue that S-Jax at full power will need 8 in the box, leaving Clayton is more exploitable coverage, but we’ll have to wait and see as the season progresses.

Looking forward then, expect ‘Rookie of the Year’ numbers from Bradford. The last two QBs to win it were Ryan in 2008 (3440/16/11) and Roethlisberger in 2004 (2621/17/11). If he can keep his interception numbers down to the mid-teens and lead the Rams to 7+ wins, he has a shot. Clayton will be an important part of this projected success too. He will be looked upon to be a #1 receiver and post the associated production…

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