ST. LOUIS — It may be the same offense that quarterback Sam Bradford ran last season under offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, but it doesn't look the same.
"There is no doubt that this offense has a totally different feel than the one last year,'' Bradford said after the Rams' first full-squad practice of training camp. "I think if you look at some of the pieces that we've added, we're faster at almost all the positions on the field now, and I think that puts a lot of stress on the defense. If they hesitate for a second, we're by them.''
Having gone against Bradford and company during Organized Team Activities (OTAs) during the spring, Rams middle linebacker James Laurinaitis offered testimony to the offense being much more unpredictable this year.
"Offenses are so complex that it takes about 45 seconds to call a dang play, but they look way different,'' Laurinaitis said. "Schotty knows Sam, Sam knows Schotty. They present matchup problems and they are going to make defenses have to think, and think quickly. You can see a growth with the whole 'O,' and it's exciting to see what they are doing to us.''
Laurinaitis said the biggest difference this year is Bradford now has some deep threats that can stretch the field.
"Some offenses in the past that I've been around here would be a lot of quick slants, check downs, stuff like that,'' Laurinaitis said. "You saw him trying to throw bombs over Baghdad today, and it was good to see. It was good to see him just slinging it. When you look back to what people think of Sam Bradford, this guy is a slinger.
"In college, he threw 50 touchdowns (in 2008). We know that he has that. I hope that gets displayed this year because we all know here that he has it.''
The first overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft is coming off his best season in the NFL.
Bradford threw for a career-high 3,702 yards and 21 touchdowns last season. He had a career-high 82.5 quarterback rating.
With running back Steven Jackson and wide receiver Danny Amendola playing elsewhere, Bradford enters his fourth season in the NFL knowing that the Rams are counting on him more than ever.
"I think I realized that the minute that 'Jack' was gone,'' Bradford said. "I think it is the perfect time for me going into Year 4 and going into Year 2 of this offense. I think it is part of my evolution and part of the position that I play that I need to step up and be the leader of this offense.''
Though some may see it as a make or break season for Bradford, Rams coach Jeff Fisher doesn't see it that way.
"I think it's just the next year for a young quarterback with a great future ahead of him,'' Fisher said. "That's not the way we look at it.''
Fisher said he expects Bradford to continue improving, especially with a more dynamic supporting cast around him.
"He's improving, which is good, but I've said this all the time: The better the people who are surrounding him are, the better chance he has of taking another step,'' Fisher said. "We've done everything to this point of doing that.''
The additions of wide receiver Tavon Austin, the team's first-round draft pick, and tight end Jared Cook, a free-agent acquisition, along with returning wide receiver Chris Givens give the Rams three receiving threats with top-end speed.
"It's going to (give) us the opportunity to create more explosive plays,'' Bradford said. "I think if you look at us over the last couple of years, we've really struggled to create explosive plays. The best offenses in the league are great at doing that, so hopefully the speed will help us.''
The Rams ranked 27th in explosive plays -- pass receptions for at least 16 yards and rushes for at least 12 yards -- last season. They had 69 pass plays for 16 or more yards and 33 rushing plays for 12 or more yards.
Bradford's teammates believe he can improve upon those numbers this season.
"Sam just needs to go out there and play his game,'' Laurinaitis said. "We have all the confidence in the world in him. Trust me, we see it everyday. I think now he is more confident than ever. He has a unit in front of him that as an O-line is a little better than what we've had in the past and he has some weapons around him that are extremely explosive and can make some plays.''
Contact reporter Steve Korte at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2522.