ROTB: So...this Sam Bradford guy. Do fans know who he is yet? Is he an okay starter? Is he a franchise guy? What are expectations for the rich former number one overall pick?
TST: Well...I don't think we do. There's been too much turmoil for him in his first three years to get a great sense of what he can be at this level. Two head coaches in Jeff Fisher and Steve Spagnuolo. Three offensive coordinators (and three very different systems) in Brian Schottenheimer, Josh McDaniels and Pat Shurmur. Three QB coaches in Frank Cignetti, Dick Curl and...QB Coach Nobody in year two. In those three years, his lean-on WR was Danny Amendola who, over that time span, missed 20 games. Daniel Fells was his top TE in 2010. The next year, he was gone. That 2011 season, a year in which Sam missed six games due to injuries largely suffered because of really poor line play (which I haven't even mentioned, but it's been a hurdle he's dealt with as well though it was improved in 2012), his top target was Brandon Lloyd. The next year he was gone. Last year, his top two were Amendola and Brandon Gibson. They're both gone. His fallback throughout his career has been RB Steven Jackson. He's gone.
So chemistry hasn't been something Bradford has been afforded throughout his career so far. He's made a point of mentioning that this offseason, though in, as always with Sam, a professional, not whiny manner. The expectations are high. There's more talent around him now than at any point in his career as the Rams have drafted WR Tavon Austin and brought LT Jake Long and TE Jared Cook in through free agency. I don't know that the fans expect him to be a top 6 guy this year, but I do think we want affirmation that a #1 overall pick who is being paid as handsomely as he is made sense. I'm optimistic we'll get it.
ROTB: How likely do you think the Rams will regret signing Jake Long? He has been n decline (although that is perhaps debatable) and has been an injury concern.
TST: It really comes down to the injury. The Dolphins said as much. The Rams did. Jake's acknowledged it too. By public account, he seems to be 100%. Then again, what would you expect him to say? "I don't think I'll ever heal up, and I'm just gonna show up on Sundays and collect my check because I really don't care and this team's stupid and the fans are stupid and I hope we go 0-16 this year and forfeit our draft picks for being just completely forgettable." Not so much. Between these two first questions, the Rams' offense is littered with question marks that we just can't answer at this point. I also think, favorably for you guys, it may take a couple of weeks for this offense to gel. Obviously Jake's going to have to be on top of his game; otherwise, I expect the Rams might be all too willing to dip into the tackle prospect waters next April with one of their two first round picks.
ROTB: With Steven Jackson gone, will the game plan still be lots of running the ball?
TST: I'm not so sure. Bear in mind, Bradford passed the ball 551 times to 365 rushes from Steven Jackson, Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead combined. With Jackson spending his first season not in a Rams uniform, there's some transition issues to be worked out for sure. Richardson is a very limited back. Isaiah Pead has been extremely disappointing and is on the verge of bust territory; his suspension for this game isn't helping. Zac Stacy and Benny Cunningham are intriguing, but I think that's largely because there's no solid option in front of them. So I'm skeptical that the Rams will lean on the running game early in the season until defenses start playing into guys like Tavon Austin, Jared Cook et al.
ROTB: The Rams, like the Cardinals, aren't expected to be great. What are the fans' expectations in Year 2 of the Jeff Fisher regime?
TST: I think something on the order of last year, schedule-wise, is the threshold. Going into week 15, the Rams were featured on those playoff contention graphics you see on NFL-related television shows late in the year. Anything below that will likely be a disappointment. The defense has quality at the first three levels. The offense has stocked the depth chart with some talents to help what looks like a franchise QB have a breakout year. With two first round picks in the 2014 NFL Draft, I think most Rams fans understand the future looks brighter than the present. This is just the second year under HC Jeff Fisher and GM Les Snead. They've shed the dead weight they didn't want on the team leaving them with the youngest team in the NFL. So things are trending up, and the fan base is eager to see the promise therein come to fruition. I think anything less than some late-season hope will put a damper on that promise.
ROTB: Which team do Rams fans like less? The Niners or the Seahawks?
TST: Yes. (Touche!)