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 leagues regular-season finale, Seattle will try to decipher the efforts of 2010 first overall pick Sam Bradford, whos having one of the better rookie campaigns at the quarterback position that anyone can remember. Bradfords been one of the leagues more prolific passers; his 18 touchdowns is tied for fifth in the NFL, and hes broken Peyton Mannings rookie record for completions.
You dont get those numbers without starting right away and all through the season, and even on a team that finished 2009 at 1-15, you dont 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.
Hes been the same guy, Pete Carroll said of Bradford. Hes not been wavered by the challenges by the buildup, the hype, and the matchups. Hes 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 hes been able to continue to do that.
“Hes had a very, very good rookie season very few guys have ever been able to do better than this. Hes just a natural and he can get it done — hes going to be a big factor in this division for a long time. So I havent seen him change that much. Ive just seen him be more solid and just the fact that hes been consistent is really a statement because its been so hard for (some) guys. So its 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 thats Bradfords 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 Franciscos 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 its a lot of quick passes, Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said today. Number 16 (Danny Amendola), the good wide receiver, hes averaging seven yards per catch on 83 catches. So, those arent downfield routes theyre 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, thats not easy. So, hats off to him.”
Lofa Tatupu was even more succinct about the rookie. Hes a stud, you know? Hes not afraid of anything hell 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 hell still throw it in there. He’s mobile everybody doesnt think hes an athlete, but he can move. Hes not just a sitting duck back there. Im really impressed with the year hes put together. A lot of their success has come from Steven Jackson, but Bradford, hes got a lot to do with it.
Jackson, asked about his new quarterback on a Wednesday conference call, couldnt 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.
Hes going out and beating Peyton Mannings rookie record, hes 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. “Hes done a great job. Its just unbelievable how poised the kid is. Hes able to get out of some tough situations and when adversity enters the game or things were not going the way wed want them to, he does a good job of leading on the sidelines. These are all things you dont expect from a first-year guy and hes only going to get better.
The Seahawks had better hope that trend doesnt 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.