Rams’ Bradford finally comfortable, on pace for big season

Posted Saturday, Sep. 21, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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The St. Louis Rams could have had Robert Griffin III. They instead traded the pick to the Washington Redskins, who chose Griffin, and St. Louis opted to use the extra choices to try to build around Sam Bradford.

Three of Bradford’s top four targets were selected the past two drafts, including leading receiver Tavon Austin.

It is a reason Bradford is on pace for his best season ever.

The other reason is he spent an off-season with the same offensive coordinator and the same system, the first time that happened in his four seasons.

“I feel like during training camp and OTAs we were really able to get into more detail in the playbook, where last year and years previous when you were trying to learn the offense, you were just trying to learn the general concepts and the timing and the rhythm, and it’s hard to get into details,” Bradford said in a conference call. “So I feel much better this year going into year two.”

Since the Rams made him the No. 1 overall pick in 2010, Bradford has had Pat Shurmur, Josh McDaniels and now Brian Schottenheimer as his offensive coordinators. He had his best season in 2012, throwing for 3,702 yards with 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

He expects even bigger things this season.

“I think I’ve learned a lot since my rookie year,” Bradford said. “We’ve been through a lot. There’s been a lot of ups and downs here, both on the field and off the field, really. I think I’ve learned how to handle a lot of different situations. I just feel so much more comfortable in this offense with what we’re trying to do this year, the plays that we’re running. I really do feel like this is the year for us to really grow as an offense.”

The former Oklahoma Sooners star has completed 63.4 percent of his passes — his career-best is 60.0 — and is on pace to throw for 5,208 yards and 40 touchdowns.

“This being his second year in his system, I think that’s the difference,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. “He had a great off-season. He got through camp, was very helpful with the younger players on offense, and he has a good feel. He has a great relationship with Brian and [quarterbacks coach] Frank [Cignetti]. It’s been equally fun to watch him get to a point now where he’s got command of this offense.”

Lechler still kicking it

Shane Lechler, at one time, thought he might be a Raider for life. He spent 13 years in Oakland, where he became the “next Ray Guy” after the Raiders drafted him in the fifth round in 2000.

Now, though, he’s back home, on a team with a chance to win the Super Bowl. The former Texas A&M standout, who built a house in Richmond, Texas, five years ago, couldn’t be more excited.

“This is one of those things where free agency couldn’t have worked out better for me,” Lechler, who signed a three-year, $5.5 million deal with the Houston Texans, said in a phone interview. “There were some other teams interested, but I was pretty much only interested in one.”

Lechler already has proved his worth to the Texans. He has placed eight of his 10 punts inside the 20, earning a nickname of “Yellow Jacket” from running back Arian Foster.

Foster was referring to the gold jacket given to Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees. Lechler entered this season with the highest gross punting average in NFL history at 47.55.

“I was brought in here to do my job,” Lechler said. “… I’ve been able to put the defense in some good situations as far as being backed up. So it’s good just to go out there and do what they brought me in here to do.”

Only one true specialist — kicker Jan Stenerud — is in the Hall of Fame. Guy, as one of two senior committee nominees for the Class of 2014, has his best chance ever to become the first punter elected.

“I think Ray deserves to be in,” Lechler said. “I just firmly believe that whenever somebody says a position, and you’re the name that pops up in 90 percent of people’s heads, it’s obvious you deserve to be in. Everybody pretty much agrees he put punters on the map, and the guy won a lot of football games for the Raiders.”

Lechler suffered a lot of losses while with the Raiders, but he did get to a Super Bowl. He was on the 2002 team that lost to the Tampa Bay Bucs in Super Bowl XXXVII. Lechler hopes to return this season as a member of the Texans.

“I want to win a championship,” Lechler said. “I was close once, so that’s my main goal right now.”

Charean Williams 817-390-7760 Twitter: @NFLCharean

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