Coming off the back of two 20 point wins, the Rams have improved to 5-6 for the season, and are 2-2 since losing Sam Bradford (arguably two plays away from being 4-0). Whilst praise for the impact of breakout players such as Robert Quinn and Zac Stacy has been reciprocated by many, and rightly so, the seemingly lack of drop-off from the Quarterback position has gone relatively unnoticed.
Bradford’s season ending injury exposed a severe lack of a suitable back-up, something which Rams fans have been aware of for a few years. Silly rumours were circulated, and Brady Quinn and Austin Davis were quickly drafted in, but it became clear that Kellen Clemens was to be handed the starting role for the remainder of the season. Surely the season was now a write off? Merely a chance for our young roster to gain some experience…or so we thought.
Here is a table of Kellens’ stats in the four starts he has had.
Clearly Clemens did not have the greatest of starts. Being thrust into a Monday Night fixture against divisional rivals and arguably the best team in the league, the Seahawks, was not ideal. A return of two interceptions for no touchdowns and a rating of 36.8 do not make pretty reading. Since then, however, he has produced four touchdowns for no interceptions and an average passer rating of 103.8, including a career high 140.6 rating in the win against the Colts. So what have been the key’s to his success?
Kellen Clemens has been playing the role of ‘coach’ more than back-up to Sam Bradford in the last couple of seasons and he beat Austin Davis in pre-season in the battle for the Number 2 position. Because of this, Clemens has full knowledge and familiarity of the play-book and Coach Fisher mentioned this as being an important factor in handing him the starting role for the remainder of the season. Although, admittedly, Clemens will only have been gaining reps with the back-ups in practice prior to Bradford’s injury, the familiarity with the roster and the play-book will have played an important role in allowing Clemens to step in admirably.
“I think I’ve gotten more comfortable each week, and hopefully we can continue to make plays and be effective on offense.” Clemens after the Colts win.
I’m sure the majority of you will read ‘composure’ and be yelling at the computer screen about the two last second losses to the Seahawks and the Titans. However it is undeniable that Clemens has shown good composure during the majority of his four starts; not only composure in the pocket, but also composure of himself during games. One criticism the majority of people have of Sam Bradford is his tendency to be too twitchy in the pocket and not let the play develop. This is not an issue for Kellen Clemens, who shows noticeably more composure in the pocket. Of course he has held onto the ball too long on occasion and taken sacks, but which back-up Quarterback hasn’t?
Clemens has also shown great composure in how he has dealt with adversity. Having been thrust into the Monday Night game against the Seahawks and narrowly losing, he returned and improved his performance in the narrow loss to the Titans. Whilst many, myself included, called for him to be replaced and a younger QB be given the chance to develop (such as Austin Davis) he responded again with the two recent wins.
Within games I have also been impressed with Clemens composure. One play in the first quarter of the Bears win shines as a prime example. Having been sacked for a big loss, he dusted himself down and immediately responded with a huge play to Stedman Bailey to gain a big First Down.
Perhaps mobility is the wrong word; scrambling ability may be more apt. It has not gone unnoticed by many that Clemens can scramble much better than Bradford is able to. Throughout his first three starts he had impressive scramble plays, and there were more examples in the recent win against the Bears. In the second quarter he escaped a seemingly inevitable sack and athletically found Jared Cook. He also had a similar play in the Third Quarter where he scrambled to avoid the sack and then found Tavon Austin with a nice pass.
It would be unfair on Sam Bradford, and perhaps too complimentary to Kellen Clemens not to mention the improvement of the offense as a whole. Zac Stacy has burst into the starting rotation and allowed Coach Fisher to play his preferred smash-mouth style Football; thus undoubtedly creating room for Clemens and his wide receivers and fundamentally changing the ethos of the offense as a whole. Tavon Austin has also joined the party and Brian Schottenheimer seems to have learnt how to utilise him in the offense more; this giving Clemens a weapon which was not available to Bradford during the start of the season.
Now this may suggest that I see Clemens as being the answer to the Rams back-up quarterback problem…this is not the case. I fully expect the Rams to draft a back-up in the later rounds of the draft, to push Sam Bradford.
However the admirable job done by Kellen Clemens since he has stepped into the Quarterback position should be applauded and he may well have kept us in the Wildcard hunt.