Speed has always been important in the NFL, but recently that attribute has been even further underscored in the wide-open, pass-happy league of today. Teams that use the ground game to move the chains and put points on the board have been left in the dust recently with the high-flying aerial attacks taking precedence. The St. Louis Rams are a team that was primarily run-oriented over the first three years of quarterback Sam Bradford’s career and even during the bulk of former running back Steven Jackson’s tenure with the team. If this offseason is any indication, these aren’t your father’s Rams anymore.
General Manager Les Snead and Head Coach Jeff Fisher have brought in some talent on both sides of the ball that will seriously speed up this Rams’ roster. The draft choice of wide receiver Tavon Austin may seem like the most significant speed upgrade to the roster, but that may not be the case. The Rams also drafted linebacker Alec Ogletree who was a former safety during his collegiate days with the Georgia Bulldogs. He will be awfully useful in an NFC West division that includes mobile quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick each of whom the Rams will battle twice a year.
Ogletree will be a spy of sorts to aid the defense’s ability to contain or eliminate the big plays from those aforementioned quarterbacks using their legs. According to stltoday.com, GM Snead told a story about Ogletree’s pre-draft visit with the team saying:
“Here’s a good story. (Linebackers coach) Frank Bush was drawing up a lot of things we’re going to see in our division and said, ‘Hey, what do you do right here?’
“Basically Ogletree drew a line and said, ‘I go right there and make the tackle right at the line of scrimmage.’ He didn’t get into this or that, he just said, ‘I’m going to meet that guy right there.’”
“I think Frank was sold at that moment.”
That type of confidence is infectious. The only reason a player of Ogletree’s caliber got to the Rams at 30th overall was because of some off the field concerns with his past at Georgia. Both Snead and Fisher seem confident that they can keep that harnessed and have the playmaking linebacker available to team week after week.
As for Austin’s speed on the offensive side of the ball, the Rams are likely to utilize that in a number of different ways. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer will probably have Austin run some misdirection plays, some fake reverses, some legit reverses, and of course plenty of high-percentage bubble screens that the shifty wideout can turn into big gains. His speed along with Chris Givens’ already dynamic deep threat ability should have opposing defenses worried when the Rams are on the upcoming schedule.
Clearly opposing offenses won’t be comfortable either knowing that a speedster like Ogletree waits at the second level of the defense to close and make tackles around the line of scrimmage. This Rams squad finally has difference making athletes that can challenge and even trump the athleticism that they line up across from on a week-to-week basis. Speed kills and the Rams can’t wait to prove it in 2013.