Poor play of Pats’ defense bigger surprise than Sam Bradford

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick watches his team play against the St. Louis Rams in the fourth quarter of their NFL preseason football game in Foxborough, Massachusetts August 26, 2010.  REUTERS/Brian Snyder  (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

I haven’t done a Google search yet, but I can only imagine how many, “Should Sam Bradford start Week 1?” topics are floating around the web after the rookie’s performance in the Rams’ 36-35 win over the Patriots in Foxboro last night.

The third preseason game is when starters usually play an entire half and maybe even some of the third quarter. So for Bradford to look as poised and as comfortable as he did completing 15 of 22 passes for 189 yards and two touchdowns against New England’s starting defense was impressive. Whether or not he gets the opportunity to start as a rookie is a hot topic right now – as it should be.

But the biggest takeaway for me last night wasn’t the play of Bradford, but how poor the Patriots’ first-team defense looked.

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Rams taking right approach with Bradford

On Wednesday, Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo answered questions from fans (all four of them) at the Missouri Botanical Garden and reiterated that A.J. Feeley was his starting quarterback for now.

“It would be an injustice to Sam and the rest of the team” to set a timetable, he said. “He’s in the early stages of developing as an NFL quarterback. He came into the league far advanced from some quarterbacks I’ve worked with. We’ll do first what’s right for the team and second what’s right for Sam.”

St. Louis fans might not have wanted to hear that, but Spags is right when he says it’s not far to Bradford to make him the starter right away. He’s in the infancy stages of his career and just went from basic algebra to advanced calculus in terms of his learning curve from Oklahoma to the NFL.

The inexperience of the Rams’ offensive line also plays into whether or not Bradford should start right away. Assuming 2010 second round pick Rodger Saffold joins 2009 first round pick Jason Smith in the starting lineup, the Rams’ offensive tackles will have a combined seven games of experience under their belts. That’s not to say that the line won’t be a strength by the end of the season (Smith and Saffold both offer plenty of upside, while center Jason Brown is an excellent pass blocker and guards Adam Goldberg and Jacob Bell are serviceable) – it’s just too early to tell what the Rams have at the position.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the team has an extremely young receiving corps. I really like Laurent Robinson’s potential, but he hasn’t been able to stay healthy and neither has Donnie Avery, who was a bit of a disappointment last season. Brandon Gibson showed last year that he could push for a starting job, but he has fallen victim to nagging injuries himself. Rookie Mardy Gilyard is lightening in a bottle, but like Bradford, he too has a learning curve to overcome. Everyone focuses on the offensive line when it comes to judging whether or not a young quarterback should start, but the talent and experience level of the receiving corps plays a huge part as well.

Spagnuolo and his staff are handling Bradford well. They’re allowing him to learn the system without having the pressure to succeed right away hanging over his head. If he looks like he’s ahead of the learning curve in preseason, then maybe the Rams can visit the idea of starting him as a rookie.

Until then, let the kid learn.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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