By Vic Carucci, Senior Editor
That’s primarily because the Texans’ Matt Schaub and the 49ers’ Alex Smith had the support of strong rushing attacks that kept the Browns’ defense on its heels. Actually, “strong” doesn’t seem a sufficient enough word to describe the Texans’ 261-yard rushing effort last Sunday.
But this week, the Browns’ front seven just might have a chance to finally crank up a little bit of heat – provided it doesn’t allow Rams running back Steven Jackson to dominate the way Arian Foster, Ben Tate, and Frank Gore have the past two weeks.
Sam Bradford, the Rams’ second-year quarterback, has not performed at the level that earned him rookie-of-the-year honors in 2010. His passer rating of 72.3 puts him in 30th place among starting quarterbacks in the NFL.
Part of the reason is that Bradford has struggled in the scheme of new Rams offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who began the season by mainly having Bradford taking deeper drops on long-developing pass plays in order to generate longer throws. The approach was a radical departure from the West Coast scheme that Bradford ran last year under the guidance of then-Rams offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, now head coach of the Browns.
It exposed Bradford to a great deal of punishment in the pocket, thanks to protection that simply couldn’t hold up on all of those extended pass plays and an injury depleted receiving corps that didn’t always do the best job of giving Bradford open targets to find.
After McDaniels switched to a fast-paced, no-huddle attack, Bradford began to find more of a comfort zone and came up with a highly productive performance against the Packers. But a high ankle sprain suffered in that game put him out of action for the next two games. Bradford returned for last Sunday’s overtime loss against the Cardinals. He was sacked four times and was under constant pressure in the second half.
The variations in the Rams’ offensive philosophy could be compromising Bradford’s protection. And that could very well create opportunities for the Browns’ pass rushers to get after Bradford. The Rams will still try and take some downfield shots to take advantage of Bradford’s strong arm. When they go to an up-tempo offense, they’re likely to put a little too much pressure on their offensive line to properly execute assignments while maintaining a hurried pace.
That should offer some encouragement to Browns ends Jabaal Sheard and Jayme Mitchell, especially if tackles Ahtyba Rubin and Phil Taylor are able to consistently collapse the front of the pocket … while not allowing Jackson to take over the game.
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