Sam Bradford is what Rams thought he was

Upon first look it may seem that the St. Louis Rams are playing it very cautiously on offense with rookie quarterback Sam Bradford. But a look at the numbers show they are simply playing to Bradford’s strengths and not necessarily trying to protect their young quarterback.

Bradford has thrown the ball 15 or more yards downfield on only 13 percent of his pass attempts this year, the smallest percentage of any quarterback who has at least 100 pass attempts this season. It’s also the smallest percentage among rookie quarterbacks in their first seven starts since 2008.

Rookie QBs Since 2008
Throws of at least 15 yards downfield, 1st 7 Career Starts

Seeing such a small percentage of his throws go over 15 yards might be surprising or seem reserved given his video-game like college numbers, but over his last two seasons at Oklahoma, only 14 percent of his pass attempts were 15 or more yards downfield. Bradford instead prefers to throw short and let his receivers get to work.

In his last two years with the Sooners, his receivers picked up 55 percent of his total passing yards after they made the catch, nearly identical to his NFL percentage of 54.

Bradford already has 59 completions where his receiver has gained at least five yards after the catch, sixth most in the NFL, and 26 completions where his receivers got at least 10, which is fifth in the league.

Sam Bradford

BradfordHis skill at identifying receivers who have the opportunity to gain yards after the catch becomes apparent in third down situations. He has a league-leading 17 third-down conversions when throwing short of the first down marker, four more than every other quarterback in the NFC West combined and more than any of the aforementioned rookie quarterbacks had in their entire rookie seasons. His 41 percent third-down conversion rate is also well above the league average of 24 percent this year.

All of this suggests that the Rams aren’t necessarily playing it safe with Bradford, but rather asking him to do what he is already comfortable doing.