This was supposed to be the year that Sam Bradford put it all together.
The St. Louis Rams fortified the offensive line and bolstered the receiving corps. The running game has shown promise and the offense has continuity with another year in Brian Schottenheimer's system.
And the Rams defense has the pieces to be among the NFL's best units.
Yet rather than relying on such support to blossom into the projected star the Rams envisioned when they selected Bradford with the No. 1 pick overall in 2010, the franchise quarterback is headed back to rehab with yet another torn ACL injury.
It's a tough blow for Bradford, 26, who was impressive in his comeback bid this preseason after his 2013 season was cut short by a torn ACL in the same left knee.
He looked to be in the best shape of career, and had dropped 10 pounds from his listed weight (228), recently weighing in 218. After posting a 90.9 passer rating in his seven games last season (with a 14-4 TD-to-INT ratio), Bradford had a 104.8 passer rating, with no turnovers, this summer.
"If you saw him play in the last two preseason games, I think you'd agree with me that he's 100% back," Fisher said.
When I talked to him early in training camp, Bradford was buoyed by the potential of the offense – particularly with the threat of a lethal deep passing game featuring the likes of Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, Chris Givens and the newly-acquired Kenny Britt. And with a stronger O-line getting left tackle Jake Long back from injury and adding Greg Robinson with the second pick overall, the plan was for Bradford to be better protected.
Instead, the plan collapsed. Bradford will have to watch from the sideline again.
The Rams will move forward with a seasoned backup in 13th-year veteran Shaun Hill. But another setback for Bradford – hit on the front of the knee in Saturday night's exhibition at St. Louis – raises questions about the team's long-term plan for a quarterback.
Bradford, 26, has two seasons left on the six-year, $78 million contract – which included a rookie-record $50 million guaranteed – he received upon coming out of Oklahoma in the year before the NFL instituted a rookie wage scale.
Earlier this summer, Rams general manager Les Snead told me that he expected the team would re-sign Bradford before his contract expired after the 2015 campaign.
Yet with another injury, the dynamics have changed. Barring another setback, Bradford would return during the final year of a contract averaging $13 million – and after injuries ruined his previous two seasons.
Bradford should get a chance to prove that his health is intact before his contract expires, but given his recent luck that may be a big if. Even tougher could be both sides agreeing to his worth.
Although Bradford came within a victory of leading the Rams to a division title as a rookie, the hard knocks since then have prevented him from living up to his existing contract.
The Rams will have to square that, while mulling options for securing their future at quarterback – with or without Bradford. Even if they remain sold that Bradford is their long-term answer, his injury history could force the Rams to think hard next offseason about whether to draft another option.