Bradford faces Rams for 1st time when Cards visit Coliseum
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Six years before the Rams chose Jared Goff with the No. 1 overall pick to be the savior of a struggling franchise, they tried the same thing with Sam Bradford.
And if Bradford had been running an offense created by the likes of Sean McVay, he might still have that job instead of being on the other sideline Sunday with the Arizona Cardinals.
Bradford faces the team that drafted him No. 1 when the Cards (0-1) travel to the Coliseum to face the Rams (1-0), who have been through franchise relocation and a thorough transformation in the three years since they traded Bradford and his troubled knee from St. Louis to Philadelphia.
After a two-year stop in Minnesota, Bradford moved back into the NFC West this season with Arizona, where he finally gets to face the franchise that employed him for the first five years of his career. But when asked if the Rams’ horned helmets stir up any special emotions, Bradford said: “Not really.”
“I think if it would have happened sooner in my career, maybe there would be more. But the staff there is completely different. There’s only a handful of guys on that roster that were there when I was there, so there’s just really not a lot of connection that’s still there for me.”
Indeed, the current Rams have few parallels to those not-so-good old days in Missouri.
When Bradford left, this team was mired deep in a streak of 13 consecutive non-winning seasons. Bradford is seeing the Rams again after their evolution into one of the NFC’s top Super Bowl contenders. Los Angeles has a star-studded lineup and a vaunted coaching staff led by McVay, who was a 24-year-old assistant tight ends coach for the Redskins during Bradford’s rookie season with the Rams.
The Rams come into their home opener fresh off an impressive Monday night win at Oakland, while the Cardinals stumbled to a 24-6 loss to Washington in coach Steve Wilks’ debut. The Rams also drilled their rivals twice last season, a 33-0 shutout in their “home” game in London last October before a comfortable 32-16 win in Glendale, Arizona in December.
While Bradford prepares to dodge Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh, Goff is fresh and ready after sitting out the entire preseason and then barely getting touched by the Raiders.
“I don’t think I’ve ever met Sam,” Goff said. “I think he’s tremendous. I have followed his career just through being a fan and being a fellow quarterback, and I think he’s a great player. The guy that our defense is getting ready for is as good as he can be.”
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HOME SOUR HOME
For all their success last season, the Rams still have won only four of their 15 games at the Coliseum since returning to Los Angeles in 2016. The franchise also is losing a home game this fall to the NFL’s international schedule for the third straight season, giving the Rams only seven games to impress the nation’s second-largest market. The players would love to establish a home-field advantage in their 95-year-old temporary arena before they move to Inglewood in 2020.
Despite a subpar game by the defense, Arizona did sack Washington’s Alex Smith three times in last week’s opener. That included the first career sack for Robert Nkemdiche and one by Chandler Jones, who has 5 1/2 sacks in five career games against the Rams, including 4 1/2 in four games since coming to the Cardinals in 2016. Jones led the NFL in sacks last season with a franchise-record 17. He could get some help on the other side if Markus Golden is able to return. Golden, coming off major knee surgery, practiced on a limited basis this week but might not be quite ready to play in a game. Golden led the Cardinals with 12 1/2 sacks two seasons ago.
McVay has a short week of preparation after a Monday night game, but the Rams boss gave his players two days off from intense practices. McVay is preparing for the Cardinals’ new coaching staff by watching tape of the Carolina defense last season under Wilks, and the Denver offense last season under Cards coordinator Mike McCoy. McVay said Arizona running back David Johnson is “as complete as there is,” comparing him favorably to Todd Gurley.
Like just any team Arizona faces, the Rams must concentrate on 14-year veteran Larry Fitzgerald. Given his long history against this team, their attention is highly understandable: Fitzgerald has 176 career receptions against the Rams for 2,017 yards and 18 touchdowns. That’s not only more receptions than any other Rams opponent, that’s more catches than anyone has against any single opponent in NFL history. Only Jerry Rice and Bob Hayes have more TD catches against a single foe.
Josh Rosen will be at the game, but the quarterback probably will have to wait for his Los Angeles NFL debut. The Manhattan Beach native and three-year starter at UCLA should inherit the Cardinals’ starting job from Bradford eventually, but he’s returning to LA as a backup. Rosen lost twice at the Coliseum with the Bruins, including a 28-23 loss to Sam Darnold’s Trojans last November.
AP Sports Writer Bob Baum contributed to this report.