I just read an article on Bleacher Report called “St. Louis Rams: 5 Strengths to Build On” (by David Heeb). I can appreciate an article that’s trying to put a positive spin on things… Ok, I’m lying. I’d much rather know the truth. Tell me like it is. At least that way I can have a realistic idea of what to expect. I have a friend who every year tells me how awesome the Oakland Raiders are going to be. Every year he says, “this is the year… we’re definitely going to the playoffs this year.” Really? (FYI, the Raiders haven’t been to the playoffs in 10 years). I hope he’s not reading this because his annual proclamation is ridiculous. (If he is reading this, the Vegas win/loss over/under is 5.5 for the Raiders in 2012. I need to cool my engines because it’s 6 for the Rams.)
Anyways, here’s what the article listed as the 5 core strengths of the Rams in 2012:
1 Defensive Line
2 Defensive Secondary
3 Steven Jackson and the Running Game
4 Sam Bradford
5 Receiving Options
Let’s take a look at each:
I tend to agree. The addition of rookie Michael Brockers will add a level of cohesion and confidence to the defensive line. With Quinn and Long on the ends the Rams have a rushing attack coming from every part of the line. What about defending the run? The Rams were second to last in the league in 2011. We have brought in some new faces at the linebacker position, but no one we can point at and say that is the guy. Remember our stud LB James Laurinaitis was on that 31st ranked 2011 team. Whether the Rams have the ability to consistently stop the run is yet to be seen.
On paper this is a possibility, but in real life? We have a 5’9” CB Cortland Finnegan who had 58 tackles last year with the Titans (Charles Tillman had 81, Darrelle Revis 41, Brandon Carr 39). He had a few on the field incidents a couple of years back, but overall a very strong addition to the Rams defensive secondary. His counterpart rookie Janoris Jenkins is completely unproven and has a long history of instability. Even if he does have the chops to play at the NFL level, how long will he be around? And our safeties Craig Dahl and Darian Stewart are really not that impressive. So until I see it play out differently, I disagree. Again, the way things are mapped out the defensive secondary could be strong in 2012, but it’s too early to tell.
STEVEN JACKSON (and the Running Game)
I’m gonna eat my hat on this one for sure, but I have doubts here. Do we love Steven Jackson? Yes, absolutely. Has he played injured, carried our team, and been the offensive back bone of our team for years? Yes, absolutely. But has he been effective? How many touchdowns has he scored in the last 5 years? 27, which is fair. He has been running his butt off. He has run for over 5,800 yards in the past 5 years, but how many of those games have we won? Yes, he is a work horse (who is entering his 9th year in the NFL btw), but he has not proven to be enough. Now the Rams have proclaimed themselves to be a smash mouth run first football team. To this end we have added a good fullback (Ovie Mughelli) and a unproven rookie running back (Isaiah Pead). We have a little wishful thinking going on if we think this philosophy (with these players) is going to get us a winning season.
A lot of people are going to scream at me here so all I’m going to say is that a whole lot of variables have to go our way in order for Bradford to have a good season. No surprises, but it depends on pass protection (will the guy at left guard be good enough?), can the running game get going, and will our receivers get open and actually catch the ball? If I’m Sam Bradford; I am renewing my friendship with slot receiver Danny Amendola (“Danny how you feeling today? Danny let me buy you to a steak after practice. Danny this beer is on me…”). Amendola could be the guy who makes or breaks Bradford in 2012. If the Rams can execute their offensive game plan (run the ball first) and protect Bradford in passing situations, then he can be effective. I’d have to say Bradford is more of a work in progress versus a core strength.
I love this because the header is not even “Receivers”; it’s “Receiving Options” lol. That’s a nice way of saying the Rams simply don’t have any great receivers. We have more options than last year… true. But we have only a couple of guys with solid receiving experience: Danny Amendola and Steve Smith. I’ll just leave Smith alone and hope this is the year he re-conquers his position. But who else is there? Quick, Givens, Gibson, Alexander and others… None of them are proven. Perhaps the wording for this section is accurate. We do have more receiving options. But once again, until I see it play out differently, I’m going to have to hold out on my agreement. We are not excelling when it comes to our receiving options; we are grasping at straws.
Ok, you hate me because I’m a pessimist. I’m really not though. I love the Rams, but I am a pragmatist. I like Jeff Fisher. No,I love Jeff Fisher. I like what he is doing with the offensive and defensive lines. All over the team he is bringing in young players who will be key contributors in the future (even near future). I don’t think we have all the pieces yet. We have a pretty tough schedule in 2012 so it’s going to be a rough season. I am still excited. I expect a much better team than last year. The best part of sports is you never know who is going to stand up and do something special. Will Isaiah Pead surprise us (me) and run for 1,000 yards? Will Steve Smith see a revival at WR? You never know. Again it’s good to try and have a realistic approach. Then when miracles happen or luck rolls our way we will be able to appreciate how far we’ve come.