St. Louis Rams’ Weaknesses Turned Into Strengths and Vice Versa
St. Louis Rams' Roster Weaknesses Turned Into Strengths and Vice Versa
For a team that had won a combined 15 games over the past five seasons heading into 2012, the St. Louis Rams and their fans couldn’t have been expecting much. With a new head coach in Jeff Fisher and general manager in Les Snead, the club made a complete organizational overhaul which commenced with the NFL Draft trade involving Robert Griffin III to the Washington Redskins. That set in motion a building momentum that has yet to cease as we head toward the 2013 season.
A 7-8-1 record isn’t all that impressive for most teams, but combining that with a 4-1-1 record in the NFC West, one of the toughest divisions in football, makes it sound a whole lot better.
Despite their most successful in nearly a decade, the Rams didn’t rest on their laurels heading into the upcoming season. The team made some serious changes again this offseason via both free agency and the draft. Some of these moves were made without choice while others came out of necessity due to the team’s precarious salary cap situation.
Regardless of the reasoning behind the changes, the youngest team in the league last season will likely be even more youth-laden in 2013. Rookies and second-year players will make up a large portion of the 53-man roster. This club is building a nucleus that will be competitive for years to come, and it is all a result of different philosophies.
Whether it was free agency that made these alterations or simply the nature of the salary cap constrained NFL beast, here are the positions where the Rams turned strength into weakness in 2013 along with some places where things went in the opposite direction.
Weakness into Strength
It’s hard to believe that a team can lose two of its top three receivers from a season ago and actually upgrade, but that’s exactly what happened with the Rams this offseason. Danny Amendola’s departure for a bigger bank account with the New England Patriots and Brandon Gibson heading to the Miami Dolphins left a big hole on the depth chart at receiver.
That didn’t last long, however, as GM Snead traded up in the NFL Draft to land the dynamic playmaker Tavon Austin and then selected his college teammate, Stedman Bailey, in round three. Add to that the free agent signing of sometimes tight end, most of the time wide receiver Jared Cook, and this team saw some serious improvement in the pass catching department.
Weakness into Strength
Quarterback Sam Bradford has spent the majority of his three NFL seasons so far picking himself up off of the ground. The Rams took some serious strides toward changing that this offseason by signing Jake Long in free agency. Adding him as the blindside protector allows Rodger Saffold to slide over to the right side and solidify to shaky positions with one move. The selection of the versatile Barrett Jones in round four of the NFL Draft didn’t garner much attention, but he will be very useful all over the place should injuries arise.
This unit will also see an upgrade with Scott Wells being healthy from the get-go this offseason after he missed the bulk of the year in 2012. Look for the Rams to have a powerful offensive front in the upcoming season.
Strength gets Stronger
Now I know this violates the parameters set forth at the start, but there is no way to avoid the strength that the Rams have along their defensive line. Chris Long and Robert Quinn are animals on the edge as the team quietly tied the Denver Broncos for the most sacks in the league last season with 52. Add to that the fact that Kendall Langford was in his first season transitioning from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defensive tackle last season and the fact that Michael Brockers was just a rookie in 2012, and this team has the makings of juggernaut defensive front.
52 sacks will look like a mere pittance after the Rams ravage opposing quarterbacks during the 2013 season.
Strength into Weakness
This is the most obvious position where the Rams took a significant step backwards heading into 2013. Losing a stalwart like Steven Jackson will be a detrimental thing to the running game with two second-year players in Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead along with rookie Zac Stacy there to share the load now. Richardson saw some solid action a year ago, but that was merely in a complementary role. As the lead dog, it’s hard to believe he can be a workhorse.
The duties on the ground will be shared this season, so expect the Rams to be missing their veteran production.
Strength into Weakness
To say that safety was a strength wouldn’t be completely honest, but it was certainly stronger on paper than it is entering this season. Both starters from last season in Craig Dahl and Quintin Mikell are gone, and the team will be handing over the reigns to some unproven youngsters. Rookie T.J. McDonald figures to get every chance to start at one spot while second-year Rodney McLeod and fourth-year man Darian Stewart will battle it out on the other side.
This could prove to be an upgrade as time moves along, but there will definitely be some growing pains in 2013. Look for the back-end of the coverage for the Rams to have some serious issues to iron out as the year progresses.