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Danario Alexander, Sam Bradford, Correlation, Causation, Etc.

It's presumably difficult to be Danario Alexander—so much talent, undermined in the same place it exists—but it's positively tough, as a St. Louis Rams fan, to be a Danario Alexander watcher. Week 16's 25-17 win over the San Francisco 49ers was the most recent example of Rams fandom's Danario Problems; it was the third game out of five appearances in which he was heavily targeted, and uncoincidentally it was the third game out of five appearances in which Sam Bradford looked about five years ahead of schedule. The questions, as Danario Alexander Watchers—the infuriating ones—are these: What's going on when he's good? What's going on when he's not?

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When Alexander disappeared from the offense Weeks 13 and 14 the Rams were weirdly mum about it—plays run for him just didn't work out, or he wasn't a right fit, as though Bradford had something better going on in the course of throwing two interceptions at New Orleans, or going 21-for-43 against the Kansas City Chiefs. When he disappeared from the offense Week 7, right after his outstanding debut, the Rams were only briefly mum about it, before letting slip about surgery number five. For most potential number-one wide receivers a disappearing act is frustrating; for Alexander it's frustrating and ominous.

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And even when he's excellent it's hard to tell what's happening. Is he driving Sam Bradford's star turns? Was the difference between Bradford's noxious performance against the Chiefs and his perfect 49ers play Alexander, or is it Super Bradford who finds ways to utilize a still-raw, still-recovering Alexander when Regular Bradford can't?

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This is what frustrates me about football—in baseball we could ask these questions, then wait 80 games for the sample size to fill out. In football, 80 games is five years.

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