Each Friday this offseason, Audibles will pit two players head-to-head in an attempt to figure out which one will have a better 2013 season. We’ll then take it to Twitter, to get your opinions on the debate. Find our previous Toss-Ups here.
Will history repeat itself in Toss-Up No. 2? This week's battle pits St. Louis QB Sam Bradford against his Indianapolis counterpart, Andrew Luck.
Sam Bradford: Everything seems to be lining up for the former No. 1 pick (2010 Offensive Rookie of the Year) to deliver his best season yet in 2013. Bradford threw for a career-high 3,702 yards last year, plus delivered a 2-1-1 combined record against the Seahawks and 49ers. And the Rams have attempted to build on those marks by adding several exciting weapons to the offense (TE Jared Cook, WRs Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey) and promising to open things up more this coming season. St. Louis did bid farewell to RB Steven Jackson, but in Daryl Richardson, Isaiah Pead and fifth-round pick Zac Stacy have enough options to keep the heat off its QB.
Bradford also -- finally -- has the benefit of some stability in the Rams' coaching staff. He dealt with an offensive coordinator change between '10 and '11, then a full staff overhaul from the Steve Spagnuolo to Jeff Fisher regime between '11 and '12. Both Fisher and OC Brian Schottenheimer remain in place for a second season, which should help Bradford's development.
While his overall record as an NFL starter is not pretty (15-26-1), he's a much more respectable 14-17-1 if we toss out an injury-plagued 2011 that saw the Rams fall apart completely. The Rams also added left tackle Jake Long this offseason, in an effort to shore up a shaky front.
Andrew Luck: Indianapolis' No. 1 overall pick finished second to Robert Griffin III on last year's Offensive Rookie of the Year ballot, but he certainly had a strong case. Luck led the Colts to an 11-5 mark and a playoff berth, while finishing seventh in the league in yards passing (4,374) -- ahead of stars like Aaron Rodgers, Eli Manning and Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco.
One of the biggest issues for Luck: turnovers. He threw 18 picks and lost five fumbles over 16 starts. Neither that relatively high number of miscues nor a so-so completion percentage (54.1) take the shine off what Luck accomplished in his first attempt to fill Peyton Manning's Colts shoes.
Luck welcomes back in 2013 his leading receiver, Reggie Wayne, who made 106 catches last season. T.Y. Hilton may be ready for a breakthrough campaign, too, after a 50-reception rookie year; and Luck now has Darrius Heyward-Bey as another option. He also can count on second-year tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener, the latter of which Indianapolis' coaching staff has talked up this offseason.
Luck. From a fantasy-football perspective, that may be the wrong answer; with his shiny new targets, Bradford should soar past his 2012 yardage and touchdown totals.
In his one season in the league, though, Luck proved more consistent than Bradford. He's also just four wins shy of Bradford's career total, despite playing 26 fewer games. St. Louis' bevy of options at receiver and running back may be exciting on paper, but it's also a very young, inexperienced group. Bradford does not have a Reggie Wayne at his disposal.
If nothing else, Luck can lean on Wayne when things are not going well. Who will be that guy for Bradford? His two leading receivers from last season, Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson, now wear other uniforms.
Both teams' run games are up in the air, as well -- the Rams and Colts finished in the bottom half of the league in yards rushing last season. So, the pressure may fall back on Bradford and Luck to carry a lot of the offensive load. Luck had little trouble doing that last year, despite throwing 67 more passes than Bradford.
Bradford may be on the verge of a marked step forward in his fourth season. He's playing catch up on Luck, though, especially when it comes to delivering wins.
The Fans Speak
@chrisburke_si Sam! New LT to provide few more seconds upright & more options (healthy, hopefully) to throw to. Poised to breakout.
— Cory443 (@Cory443) May 31, 2013
@chrisburke_si SamB: Rams & Colts both add to OL, but Rams got top tier OT WR&TE. New up-tempo O more like Sam at OK. RamsD=more time4Sam
— Ed Triplett (@EdTriplett) May 31, 2013
@chrisburke_si Luck because he doesn't play 6 games vs. SF, SEA, & ARI.
— NFL Philosophy (@NFLosophy) May 31, 2013
@chrisburke_si luck, improved oline and defence, 2nd year weapons should be more productive, easier div/Conf, stat boosting playbook
— Thomas Walker(@ThomasWalker8) May 31, 2013
@chrisburke_si - my vote for a better overall 2013 season in all aspects is Andrew Luck.He's head and shoulders above Bradford as a leader
— Lynn Kupfer (@LynnKupfer) May 31, 2013
@chrisburke_si Andrew Luck will be better. A born leader who will improve from last season's stats with Manning-esque smarts and work ethic.
— Dan Roach (@DanRoach11) May 31, 2013
@chrisburke_si Bradford. The team around him is much better & his extra experience will only help him improve on 2012's stellar play. — Will Basler (@Little_Bill21) May 31, 2013