Sam Bradford, the St Louis Rams quarterback, is targeting a strong start to season against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Bradford's reasons for optimism
Sam Bradford was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year without the team upgrades the St Louis Rams made in the off-season.
Now the talent pool is deeper and he is a year older and wiser, Bradford believes everything is going to be much better.
"There's no question he's more prepared," Steve Spagnuolo, the coach, said. "He's matured beyond his years."
The Rams shed their doormat image with a six-win improvement last year, a 7-9 record that left them one game out of the play-offs in the NFC West. Bradford's sound play in a no-frills offence helped make it happen.
Around mid-season, Spagnuolo stopped referring to Bradford as a rookie. An immediate gauge comes on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles, perennial NFC contenders who signalled their intention to go for the Super Bowl in free agency.
"Obviously, everyone's talking about Philly," Bradford said. "They deserve it. If we could come out and get a win against a team like that I think it would give guys on the team a lot of confidence."
Bradford set NFL rookie records for completions and attempts and had 3,512 yards passing, second only to Peyton Manning. The former Oklahoma star was one of only three rookies to pass for 3,000 yards in league history, and last year was among three quarterbacks to play every snap.
The Rams expect to open things up under Josh McDaniels, new offensive coordinator, and Bradford said the two have developed a nice rapport. During a productive pre-season in which Bradford threw five touchdown passes with two interceptions, he learnt about minding the details.
"When you sit and watch tape with him, he points out things that I don't see the first time or I'm not necessarily looking for," Bradford said.
"It's always good when you have someone like that in the room with you. I think it's been great, I think everyone's really bought into the system."
St Louis also signed the guard Harvey Dahl, the wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker and backup running backs Cadillac Williams and Jerious Norwood, and anticipate immediate impact from their second-round draft pick, the tight end Lance Kendricks.
Opponents should not be able to focus as much on Steven Jackson, coming off his sixth consecutive 1,000-yard season. Jackson is expected to get more pass-catching duty, too.
"We have the potential to be a very good offence," Bradford said. "I think it could turn into a special year. It's just a matter of everyone doing their job and being great on Sunday."
The Eagles won the NFC East at 10-6 last year and are favourites to win in St Louis. "They're really good," Bradford said. "We're going to have to be good on Sunday, there's no doubt about it."
* Associated Press