There is no doubt that a team coming off of a 2-14 season like the St. Louis Rams could really use some difference makers in 2012. If you are looking for potential breakout performers under the new coaching staff, the coaches themselves have suggested a player on each side of the football that they really like.
On offense, the Rams drafted tight end Lance Kendricks in the 2011 selection hoping that he would provide quarterback Sam Bradford with a much needed security blanket, checkdown receiver over the middle. New offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said: “I know one thing, starting with Lance, we really liked Lance back in New York when we looked at him. He’s got a chance to be a terrific all-around player.” After 5 drop on 54 targets last year (highest percentage in the NFL for players with more than 50 targets), Kendricks definitely needs to step it up.
For the defensive breakout player, it may be a stretch to say that James Laurinaitis needs to step up, but he will certainly be taking on more of a leadership role in the coming year. The man figured to be in charge of the defensive responsibilities, Dave McGinnis, said: “He’s perfect. He’s the perfect middle linebacker for this defense. The ultimate linebacker for this defense when it started evolving was Mike Singletary. I was with Mike Singletary for seven years. The quarterback of the defense is the middle linebacker and in this system, he has to be so in tune — I mean, he has to be right in the defensive coaches’ skin. He has to understand it and know it from a lot of different angles.”
“We could not have asked for a more perfect middle linebacker to install this system than James Laurinaitis. I remember watching him come out. I interviewed him at the combine when he came out and I loved him then and I love him even more now because he’s exactly what you need.” Words like these are more than mere fluff as McGinnis really believes that Laurinaitis is the most important player on the Rams’ defensive unit. There is good reason for that praise and as one of the elder statesmen on the defense now, a lot will be expected of Laurinaitis this season.
Plenty of other possible standouts remain on the roster, but the staff was quick to point out these two guys as real difference makers. With the Rams looking to reverse a half-decade of ineptitude in 2012, the team will really need a boost from these players and more in the year ahead.