"NFL Total Access" has launched its "32 in 32" series, breaking down the biggest subplots of every NFL team as the 2013 season approaches. Around The League will follow along and offer our own take. Up next: The St. Louis Rams.
1. I've watched quite a bit of Rams film this offseason to firm up opinions on Danny Amendola, Steven Jackson and Brandon Gibson carried over from the 2012 season. Along the way, one can't help but notice that Sam Bradford is an enigma wrapped in a riddle smothered in secret sauce. It's easy to see why scouts, executives and coaches drool over Bradford's arm talent. He can make any throw with ease. While Bradford has received little help from his surrounding talent behind a tattered offensive line, he's also shown shaky pocket presence, come-and-go accuracy and red-zone struggles even when he is afforded time to throw.
On one hand, the pressure is on Bradford to prove once and for all that he's a legitimate franchise quarterback now that the Rams have passable talent on offense. On the other hand, the organization has no choice but to keep lengthening his leash after bypassing the opportunity to draft Robert Griffin III.
2. Daryl Richardson rushed just 16 times for 24 yards (1.5 yards per carry) over the Rams' final five games. The coaching staff hinted throughout last season and into the offseason that he's a role player, best used on outside runs and in the passing game. The head coach continues to drop even stronger hints that Isaiah Pead will be given every chance to lead this backfield by committee, with rookie Zac Stacy also in the mix.
3. The Rams have been at the bottom of the NFL barrel in pass protection and offensive playmaking ability since Bradford entered the league in 2010. That changes this year, starting with No. 8 overall pick Tavon Austin -- widely viewed as the 2013 NFL Draft's most dynamic offensive talent. Throw in freakishly athletic tight end Jared Cook, and the Rams suddenly have a pair of mismatches in the passing game. If Jake Long is back to full health, the offensive line now has an advantage at both tackle spots after playing the past few seasons at a disadvantage.
4. The Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers deservedly hog the defensive spotlight in the NFC West. Meanwhile, the Rams are quietly building an impressive unit of their own, anchored by one of the league's most talented young defensive lines. The question marks on defense are the unproven safeties and whether first-round linebacker Alec Ogletree makes an immediate impact as a speedy playmaker.
5. Our takeaway: Now that the Rams have added the high-profile talents of Austin, Cook and Long, Bradford is out of excuses. This team doesn't have to crash the playoffs this year in the league's most brutal division, but Bradford does have to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the franchise is in capable hands after putting all of its eggs in his basket at the cost of losing out on Griffin.
Follow Chris Wesseling on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.