Third down and three months til the opener

When St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford was good on third down last season, he was really, really good.

Take a Week 10 game at San Francisco, for instance. Bradford completed 8 of 12 passes for 102 yards on third down, helping the Rams force a tie against the heavily favored 49ers.

Earlier in the season, Bradford completed all nine third-down pass attempts for 92 yards and a touchdown during a 31-28 victory over the Washington Redskins.

2012 Total QBR by Down: Sam Bradford

Conversely, when Bradford was bad on third down last season, well, sometimes it got ugly. Such as the time he completed 5 of 15 passes for 61 yards and a pick on third down during a 27-13 home defeat to the New York Jets. Or the time he took four sacks and passed for only 23 yards on 10 third-down drop-backs at Chicago.

Injuries and other factors beyond Bradford came into play for better and worse, of course. There was more bad than good overall on third down, one reason Bradford finished the season with a 22.2 Total QBR score on third down, 30th out of 36 qualifying players. He ranked 14th with a 63.8 QBR score on first, second and fourth downs.

Third down is always an area of emphasis. The Rams are entering their second season in coordinator Brian Schottenheimer's offense, allowing Bradford to focus more on situational football than basics such as learning formations.

"We went back and looked at some of the areas we need to be better at and we need to be better on third down, we need to be better in the money zone (red zone)," Bradford said. "So, starting Day 1, we were able to start working on those areas and I think that’s been one of the biggest differences, just the speed that we’re able to get to different situations."

There's new personnel everywhere, however, and the offense is new to quite a few potentially key contributors, including Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, Jared Cook, Jake Long, Zac Stacy and others.

I'll be heading to the Rams' organized team activities next week for a closer look. In the meantime, I've put together a chart showing 2012 third-down stats for current NFC West starting quarterbacks.

2012 QB Stats for NFC West Starters: Third Down