Watching Sam Bradford writhing in pain along the sidelines during week 7 was difficult. There was the fact you were watching a grown man in serious pain, and the sickening feeling that comes with watching your Franchise QB go down. It didn’t take an MRI to know Sam Bradford wasn’t going to be playing football again anytime soon. Bradford was off to a career best start, as we here at Ramblin’ Fan previously discussed in this article, and the Rams offense in general finally seemed to be developing a positive identity. Zac Stacy had established himself as the type of every down back Jeff Fisher loves, and the Rams running game was finally providing balance to the offense after being non-existent the first four weeks of the season. The 2013 season was allegedly a “make or break” year for Bradford in the minds of many NFL pundits, and the season ending injury clearly just postponed that storyline for 2014. I will say Kellen Clemens did an admirable job filling in for Bradford, his toughness and pocket presence served the Rams well down the stretch as they remained competitive in most games. With Clemens at QB defenses that could slow down the Rams rushing attack could quickly make the offense one-dimensional, and the gap between Clemens and Bradford’s talent level as a passer was glaringly obvious. While looking back at the season and the obvious differences between the Rams offense with and without Bradford it got me thinking about how his injury likely impacted the development of some of the other young Rams players. The Rams roster is loaded with incredibly young skill players like Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, Zac Stacy, Chris Givens, Brian Quick, Lance Kendricks, and Austin Pettis. All of these players were likely impacted by the loss of Bradford, but the largest impact would likely be on the first and second year players.
This offseason I will put together an article on how the injury to Sam Bradford may have impacted each of the teams young skill players. This article will focus on Brian Quick and how the absence of Bradford likely stunted the development of the young WR out of Appalachian State. The only receiver on the Rams roster that fits the mold of the fabled #1 wide receiver, Quick is a big physical wide receiver with impressive athleticism. Quick is 6’3″ tall and weighs 220 pounds, he ran a 4.549 40 yard dash at the NFL combine. Coming out of college he was labeled as a raw developmental type player with similarities to NFL stars Vincent Jackson and Terrell Owens. Each of those players was similar to Quick in size and athletic ability, and Vincent Jackson took 4 years before he developed into the 1,000 yard receiver he is today. Another player Quick reminds me of is Dez Bryant (6’2″ 225 lbs 4.53 second 40 time), both players are exceptional athletes for their size with a knack for winning the jump ball coming out of college. Of course Quick is miles away from where Dez Bryant is today but he has the physical tools to develop into a similar style of player, and has even shown flashes of that ability over his first two seasons. After being the first selection in the second round of the 2012 NFL draft Brian Quick has been a statistical disappointment having a mere 29 career receptions for 458 yards and four touchdowns on a measly 64 targets (Tavon Austin had 69 targets his rookie season). With so many websites out there developing advanced statistics to gauge player performance outside of their traditional statistical output I wondered if their metrics would label Quick as a underachiever or not. The first website I decided to look at was the wide receivers statistics page of footballoutsiders.com, for those not familiar with their rating systems I highly recommend clicking the link. It will help to fully explain terms like DYAR and DVOA for those that are new to their metrics. Here are the numbers they have on Quick from the 2013 season, the most important numbers being DYAR, DVOA and Eyds. DYAR is defense adjusted yards above replacement and DVOA is defense adjusted value over average, or basically how much more or less effective the player was when compared to an average replacement player. The Eyds number is their effective yards statistic where more effective yards than actual yards indicates a better performance than traditional statistics would indicate.
After reviewing the information from footballoutsiders (FBO) it looks like Brian Quick performed above the anticipated level of an average replacement player, something that may come as news to many Rams fans. His DVOA of 12.2% would have tied him with Danny Amendola at 21st in the NFL, if he had been targeted the minimum 50 times, and puts him ahead of receivers Brandon Marshall(8.8%), Alshon Jeffrey(10.1%), Dez Bryant(4.3%), AJ Green(2%), and Wes Welker (10.7%). The advanced statistics from FBO indicate that Quick was performing at an acceptable level, with the primary reason his traditional statistics were suffering was due to a lack of targets. I am not implying that if given 100 targets Quick would have produced like a #1 receiver. True #1 receivers are targeted heavily because of their dominance and not the other way around. The numbers would seem to indicate there is hope for Quick to develop into the playmaker the Rams desperately need.
One area Rams receivers struggled this season was with dropped passes. As a team Rams receivers had the third highest drop percentage in the NFL, according to sportingcharts.net. Surprisingly Brian Quick did not lead the Rams in drop percentage he just managed to save his drops for big moments, think dropped touchdown against the Carolina Panthers. Quick only had 2 drops the entire season for a 5.9% drop rate and a 52.9% catch rate. Looking at the numbers from sportingcharts.net you can find where those numbers ranked among NFL receivers. Quick’s 5.9% drop rate is very similar to Calvin Johnson/Eric Decker/Roddy White 5.1%, Steve Smith 5.5%, Demaryius Thomas 5.6%, Vincent Jackson 5.7%, Greg Little 6.1%, Santonio Holmes 6.8%. With significantly fewer targets than those other receivers one could say with more targets he would have more drops, but the other side of the coin is with fewer targets each drop counts as a higher percentage. The number that really seems low is the 52.9% catch rate, surprisingly it is similar to catch rates of Stevie Johnson 51.5%, Ted Ginn Jr. 52.9%, Santana Moss 53.2%, Robert Meachem 53.3%, Cecil Shorts 53.7%, Calvin Johson 53.8%, Malcom Floyd 54.5% , Josh Gordon 54.7%, Mike Williams 55%, and AJ Green 55.1%. If you were to tell Rams fans before the season that Brian Quick’s drop percentage and catch rate would both be within one percent of Calvin “Megatron” Johnson, I am sure most fans would be ecstatic.
The advanced statistics and league rankings for drop rate and catch percentage seem to indicate Brian Quick is far from being a lost cause, but can we learn anything from the numbers comparing Quick’s performance with Bradford vs. Clemens? I put together a basic chart comparing Quick’s numbers over the first seven games (Bradford) and the final nine games (Clemens).
|Yards per reception||21.8||11.8|
|First Downs|| |
Two numbers really jump out at you when looking at the table, the number of targets and the yards per reception numbers are much higher with Bradford at QB than when Clemens was playing. The yards per reception number reinforces something I had previously thought, the Rams vertical passing game was virtually non-existent after Bradford went down. Regardless of your opinion on Bradford as a franchise QB it is impossible to deny his arm talent, he can make every throw in the NFL accurately, something Clemens just can’t do. Of course with Bradford in the lineup the catch rate for Quick was significantly lower than it was with Clemens, but part of that is likely attributed to the fact Bradford was willing to look for Quick deep and in jump ball situations, two types of plays with lower success rates in general. It does seem that Bradford was beginning to look for Quick quite often before his injury, having 50% of his total targets from week three through week seven. Another statistic that jumps out at you from the table is 15 out of Quick’s 18 receptions went for a first down. If you take the numbers from when Bradford was QB and project them over the season Quick likely could have ended the season with 32 receptions on 60 targets for 693 yards and 3 TDs.
One area of Quick’s development that was likely accelerated due to the injury to Bradford is his blocking on the perimeter. Without Bradford the Rams relied heavily on their ground game, giving Quick a primary role as a blocking wide receiver. While I haven’t found a chart rating wide receivers by their run blocking, I would have to say Quick ended the season as the most reliable and effective downfield blocker for the Rams. If you go back to the film and review the big runs by Zac Stacy you are likely to see either Brian Quick or Austin Pettis clearing the way downfield. The Rams ability to utilize their downfield threats (Quick and Givens) was definitely impacted by the loss of Bradford, but the actual amount it impacted their development is hard to say. It seems safe to assume a full season with Bradford under center would have yielded better receiving statistics for all the Rams receivers. Thanks for reading and as always Go Rams!!!