ARLINGTON, Texas — Anyone who put credence in a short-lived rumor that the Rams might consider trading Sam Bradford and use the No. 2 pick to select Robert Griffin III wasn't paying attention last January when Jeff Fisher took the St. Louis job.
Sam Bradford is the primary reason Fisher viewed the Rams as a better opportunity than the Miami Dolphins. Miami offered more money. The Dolphins are closer to battling for a playoff berth.
But the Rams had Bradford, the former Oklahoma star who Fisher labels a “franchise” quarterback that can help the Rams become a perennial playoff contender.
It won't happen overnight. The Rams have lost more games (65) the past five years than any team in NFL history.
St. Louis was 2-14 last season. The roster is full of holes. But the Rams have Bradford, who endorses Fisher, the NFL's third-winningest active coach.
“My excitement level with coach Fisher is through the roof,” Bradford said. “I had the opportunity to meet with Coach before we hired him. As soon as I got done with that meeting, I knew coach Fisher was the guy I wanted to take over our organization.”
Wide receiver Danny Amendola, the former Texas Tech star who missed almost all of last season with a knee injury, made a similar comment about Bradford being the face of the franchise.
“You could tell the minute he walked in he was a guy we could depend on that would be one of our leaders,” Amendola said. “To be such a good leader this early in his career is really great for our team. He's only going to get better. He's going to be a great one.”
To be a great one, the Rams eventually need to surround Bradford with more talent and provide better protection.
After being named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and setting the league rookie completion record, the Putnam City North product was banged up last season. He played in only 10 games after suffering a high ankle sprain midway through the season.
Bradford's left ankle continued to be a hot topic until he stressed recently it's a nonissue, noting he hasn't missed a single snap in training camp. His focus is digesting a new West Coast offense.
“We've had an entire offseason to try and get my hands around it,” Bradford said. “I think I've made a lot of strides. I'm just trying to become a better quarterback in all aspects, things like pocket presence, trusting my (offensive) line and delivering the ball down the field.”
Changing offenses (again)
Brian Schottenheimer is Bradford's third offensive coordinator in three years. The quarterback has learned a new offense every season.
“Obviously it's not ideal,” Bradford said. “It was great when I was at OU because the system stayed the same since from when I was a redshirt freshman until I left. That allowed me to learn the finer points of our system.
“When you have to switch every year, it's really hard to get to know some of those finer details. But I really like what we're doing. I'm excited that we brought in coach Schottenheimer. ... I'm excited for the season. I think it's going to be a good year for the Rams.”
One plus is Fisher places a premium on protecting his quarterbacks. That's good news for Bradford, who has been sacked 70 times and knocked down 151 times. Pro Football Focus reported that Bradford has been under pressure in 34 percent of his career passing attempts, an extremely high rate.
Another plus is only two NFL teams had more rushing attempts than the Titans during Fisher's 16 seasons in Tennessee. The Rams will lean on veteran Steven Jackson, a Pro Bowl quality back.
Another change is Fisher hired Frank Cignetti as quarterbacks coach. Last season, Rams offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels pulled double duty.
Cignetti, who made a name for himself as Fresno State's offensive coordinator, is good friends with Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy. Cignetti has NFL experience with the Chiefs, Saints and 49ers.
Having a full-time quarterbacks coach is an extra set of eyes to break down film and monitor basics like footwork.
“At the beginning of the season, you're conscious of those,” Bradford said. “But as the season goes along, sometimes you forget about the small things and just concentrate on the big picture.”
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