Last season was the true rebuilding year for the St. Louis Rams, and the team did fairly well in spite of that fact. Several positions on the depth chart saw serious makeovers from cornerback to wide receiver, but the safety position put those changes off until this coming season.
Both starters from last season in Quintin Mikell and Craig Dahl have moved on, leaving the team with a slew of unproven faces to fill those two vacancies. Darian Stewart is the oldest returning players with just four years of experience, but the club did sign Matt Giordano and his eight years in the NFL last week.
Rookies and second-year players are likely to be in serious contention for starting gigs this year with third round pick T.J. McDonald headlining the group. Along with him are Rodney McLeod and Matt Daniels entering their second seasons along with undrafted rookies Cody Davis and Cannon Smith. This lack of NFL snaps could be a bit unnerving at such an important position, but the Rams don’t seem too bothered by it.
After a season with no defensive coordinator in 2012, Tim Walton’s first year in charge of the defense after coming over from the Detroit Lions presents its own unique challenge. Perhaps he is excited to have players that can be molded and shaped rather than coaching guys who already have their habits engrained as league veterans. Walton told the team’s website:
“I’m excited so far. You’ve gotten a chance to see T.J. come in and get a lot of reps right now. He’s been able to step in and pick up things fast. Then you have Rodney McLeod that’s showing a lot of good things. He was on the team last year and showed his athletic ability. I’m impressed by the way guys pick things up, the learning curve of those guys. Then you have (Darian) Stewart, that’s the same way. Those three guys, we think that we’ll have a great group of guys that will be able to help us a lot.”
Unproven, sure, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There is something to be said for competition bringing out the best in players and that will play itself out this offseason in St. Louis. The quote that seems to summarize the situation best came from the second-year man in McLeod who said:
“A lot of people may think that us being younger is negative but we take it as a positive. A lot of guys are hungry and that’s one thing as younger guys, we have fresh legs and we are all just looking to compete, get better and prove people wrong. Even though we are young and may not be as experienced, we are tough and talented young players.”
The cream will ultimately rise to the top in the safety battle for the Rams. Having a mixture of experience and hungry rookies will push everyone in camp to be at their best on a daily basis in order to impress the coaching staff. Change can often times turn out to be a good thing even if the initial outlook says otherwise. The Rams’ battle at safety seems to fit perfectly into that unexpected positive surprise category.