ST. LOUIS —
Matthew Stafford, the No. 1 pick in 2009, led Detroit to a 10-6 record and the playoffs in 2011.
Bradford insists he’s not concerned about outside expectations, saying what he expects of himself is enough pressure as the Rams, 7-8-1 last year, try to take the next step and contend for the playoffs.
The piece the Rams haven’t replaced is running back Steven Jackson, who’ll be going for his ninth consecutive 1,000-yard season in Atlanta. Bradford “absolutely” accepts the mantle of leadership vacated by Jackson.
“I think I realized that the minute that I knew ‘Jack’ was gone,” Bradford said. “I think it’s the perfect time for me going into Year 4, going into Year 2 of this offense. I think it’s part of my evolution and part of my position that I need to step up and be the leader of this offense.”
Adding Long should give Bradford more time to execute plays. Rodger Saffold was the left tackle his first three seasons and moves to the right side, a revolving-door position in recent years.
Bradford said “there’s no doubt in my mind” that Long is a Pro Bowl caliber pickup and that Saffold would eventually thrive on the right side.
Austin will line up in the backfield, slot and out wide in a group of pass catchers able to stretch the defense. The anticipated net result is a lot more big plays.
“I think if you look at us over the past couple years, we’ve really struggled to create explosive plays,” Bradford said. “The best offenses in the league are great at doing that so hopefully the speed will help us.”