It’s time to unwrap quarterback Sam Bradford’s new toys in a game that matters.
The St. Louis Rams expect to have a much more dangerous offense given Bradford’s familiarity with the system in his second year with coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. Plus, they have Tavon Austin, Jared Cook and Jake Long now.
“I’m ready to go,” Bradford said. “I’m ready to see these young guys out there. It’s going to be really fun to see those guys get out there and light it up on Sunday.”
For the first time in several years, the Rams appear well-stocked at wide receiver, with a speedy rookie (Austin) who’ll line up all over the place and breakaway threats across the board. That includes a hybrid tight end (Cook), plus there’s a former No. 1 overall draft pick (Long) helping protect Bradford, another former No. 1.
Now, Bradford gets to dip into the playbook and show how it’ll all work in the opener at home Sunday against NFC West rival Arizona.
Austin certainly has the Cardinals’ attention.
“Every time he touches the ball,” coach Bruce Arians said, “you hold your breath.”
Bradford is coming off his best statistical season but the Rams were 25th in the NFL in scoring and also in the bottom third in total offense and rushing offense. Bradford wants more and wants it now, but reminds himself there are times when he should settle for less.
“Last year we really struggled on third down but a big reason for that is first and second down weren’t very efficient,” he said. “There’s times during games where I’ve got to understand down and distance better and get us into better situations.”
QB SITUATIONS CLEAR UP
Four teams entered the week with unsettled quarterback situations, and that number has been reduced by half after the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills announced that they’ll start rookie quarterbacks in Week 1.
No. 16 overall draft pick E.J. Manuel will start for the Bills, and No. 39 pick Geno Smith will go for the Jets.
Oakland Raiders coach Dennis Allen refused to name his starting quarterback, even though all signs point to Terrelle Pryor getting that call over former Seattle Seahawks reserve Matt Flynn. The San Francisco Chronicle and NFL.com have reported that Pryor would start.
The Jacksonville Jaguars, meanwhile, might not know until Sunday whether Blaine Gabbert will start against Kansas City.
Gabbert sustained a hairline fracture in his right thumb during a preseason game Aug. 17. If he can’t play, backup Chad Henne would get the start.
The NFL players union set up a system that uses smartphone and GPS technology to provide safe rides for its members in more than half of all NFL cities, including Seattle. When a player requests a ride through the smartphone app, a ride will arrive within minutes, the NFLPA said. … Niners linebacker Aldon Smith and former 49ers tight end Delanie Walker have been named in a lawsuit by a Northern California man who said he was shot during a party last year at Smith’s house. … The Rams waived outside linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar rather than wait for their second-leading tackler from last season to serve a four-game suspension, but coach Jeff Fisher said there’s a chance St. Louis could re-sign Dunbar. … Giants running back Andre Brown and Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta were placed on the injured reserve-designated to return list by their respective teams. Brown broke his left leg in the preseason finale last week, and Pitta is recovering from hip surgery. They can begin practicing with their teams in six weeks and will be eligible to return for Week 9 of the regular season. … Veteran cornerback Champ Bailey was ruled out of the Broncos’ season opener against the Ravens on Thursday because of a sprained left foot. Bailey hasn’t practiced since getting hurt in a preseason game Aug. 17 at Seattle.
TODAY’S NFL GAME
BALTIMORE RAVENS AT DENVER BRONCOS
5:30 p.m., Ch. 5.
Line: Broncos by 71/2.
Notes: This game marks the 12th consecutive season the NFL kicks off its season with a midweek contest, and for the 10th consecutive time features the previous Super Bowl winner. But for the first time in that stretch, the reigning champion is on the road. (Baseball’s Orioles share a parking lot with the Ravens and already had a home game scheduled for Thursday.) … Baltimore has won its past five openers.
The skinny: Baltimore’s roster has had a massive turnover, with key players on defense and offense gone. Denver has suspension (LB Von Miller) and injury problems on its defense, the latest setback coming Wednesday when key CB Champ Bailey (foot) was ruled out. The Broncos will be looking for revenge after losing at home to the Ravens last season in the playoffs, in a game that went into overtime because Denver’s defense broke down and allowed Jacoby Jones to catch a 70-yard TD bomb with 31 seconds to go in regulation to tie the score. Because of defensive deficiencies for both teams and potentially potent offenses, look for a shootout. Peyton Manning usually wins those.
The pick: Broncos, 34-23.