BY Doug Farrar 04:30PM 12/29/2010

Bradford could be the best of the new breed

In a wave of great young quarterback talent, Sam Bradford may turn out to be the best of a very impressive bunch.

Sam Bradford helped beat the Seahawks in October despite several defensive hits and pressures (Rod Mar/Seattle Seahawks)

The last three years has seen a run of rare NFL quarterback talent, and few teams understand that better these days than the Seattle Seahawks. Two weeks ago, their defense was pulled apart by third-year quarterback Matt Ryan. Last Sunday, second-year quarterback Josh Freeman tied a Tampa Bay Buccaneers franchise record with five touchdown passes.

And this Sunday, in the league’s regular-season finale, Seattle will try to decipher the efforts of 2010 first overall pick Sam Bradford, who’s having one of the better rookie campaigns at the quarterback position that anyone can remember. Bradford’s been one of the league’s more prolific passers; his 18 touchdowns is tied for fifth in the NFL, and he’s broken Peyton Manning’s rookie record for completions.

You don’t get those numbers without starting right away and all through the season, and even on a team that finished 2009 at 1-15, you don’t stay in that position without a fairly remarkable level of consistency. To a man, when Seahawks players and coaches were asked about Bradford on Wednesday, it was the play-after-play measurable that stood out above all.

“He’s been the same guy,” Pete Carroll said of Bradford. “He’s not been wavered by the challenges – by the buildup, the hype, and the matchups. He’s really handled it beautifully and not very many guys can do this. So they set him up as the starter early on, and when they did, he responded right then. (He) showed a high end of his ability and he’s been able to continue to do that.

“He’s had a very, very good rookie season – very few guys have ever been able to do better than this. He’s just a natural and he can get it done — he’s going to be a big factor in this division for a long time. So I haven’t seen him change that much. I’ve just seen him be more solid and just the fact that he’s been consistent is really a statement because it’s been so hard for (some) guys. So it’s very admirable.”

Perhaps most impressive when discussing that consistency is how Bradford rolls through games. In his first 10 passes of every contest, Bradford has a quarterback rating of 84.9. On passes 11-20, a rating of 84.4. On passes 21-30, a rating of 84.6.

He does have problems on fourth down (two of his interceptions have come in just eight fourth-down attempts) and on first-and-10 situations (zero touchdowns, six interceptions), but given his fifteen-game tenure in the NFL, the overall numbers are fairly amazing.

One number that holds the key to St. Louis’ offense this year, however, is 6.1 – that’s Bradford’s yards per attempt total, the second-lowest among all qualifying quarterbacks this season. And with several receivers injured through the season, most notably deep threat Michael Clayton, Bradford did have a recent three-game slump in which he threw no touchdowns and five picks in weeks 13 through 15.

But before anyone could assume that Bradford had hit the dreaded Rookie Wall, he came back against San Francisco’s defense in the game that got Mike Singletary fired and looked much more like the player he was before — the player who took several Seahawks hits and still came out on the right side of a 20-3 win in early October.

“I think they really guide their offense to him – it’s a lot of quick passes,” Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said today. “Number 16 (Danny Amendola), the good wide receiver, he’s averaging seven yards per catch on 83 catches. So, those aren’t downfield routes – they’re quick-hitting routes. And for a young quarterback, it gives them a chance to be successful. He has that chemistry (despite all the injuries), and to keep that going, that’s not easy. So, hats off to him.”

Lofa Tatupu was even more succinct about the rookie. “He’s a stud, you know? He’s not afraid of anything – he’ll stand in there with the ball and get hit. If he gets knocked around – we got some good licks on his (last time) – he gets back up and he’ll still throw it in there. He’s mobile – everybody doesn’t think he’s an athlete, but he can move. He’s not just a sitting duck back there. I’m really impressed with the year he’s put together. A lot of their success has come from Steven Jackson, but Bradford, he’s got a lot to do with it.”

Jackson, asked about his new quarterback on a Wednesday conference call, couldn’t have agreed more. Jackson has been the best player on three straight terrible Rams teams that dropped from three wins, to two, to one. Being able to share the load is a blessing for the veteran.

“He’s going out and beating Peyton Manning’s rookie record, he’s come in with the pressure of being a Heisman Trophy winner and turning the team around and going from 1-15 to possibly fighting for the NFC West (title),” Jackson said. “He’s done a great job. It’s just unbelievable how poised the kid is. He’s able to get out of some tough situations and when adversity enters the game or things were not going the way we’d want them to, he does a good job of leading on the sidelines. These are all things you don’t expect from a first-year guy and he’s only going to get better.”

The Seahawks had better hope that trend doesn’t start this Sunday, but as it stands now – and after losing the battle to two consecutive young signal-callers with few answers on the other side as a result – the rookie may be sitting in the proverbial catbird seat.


  • Lucky Infidel

    That is what Husky fans do not understand. I remember seeing Bradford at Husky stadium several years ago. The guy was a machine. I never had seen anything like it in person. And people think that Locker is even remotely in the same class? Please. Don’t screw up Seahawks. Do not draft Locker except as possibly a VERY long-term project.

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