Roster cut downs came and went on Saturday, and as expected the St. Louis Rams are again the youngest team in league heading into the 2013 season. With an average age of just 24.98, general manager Les Snead and head coach Jeff Fisher have again sided with youth and upside over veteran track record and stability across the board. Perhaps the easiest area to see where the Rams are giving youth the upper hand over experience is at safety.
That is the primary position of worry for the where right now rookie third rounder T.J. McDonald and second-year man Rodney McLeod are slated as starters. Darian Stewart was penciled in as the starter when training camp began, but the Rams decided to go in a different direction as things progressed. He is the most experienced returning player on their roster at safety so going in a different direction says a lot about their faith in their young guys.
Veterans Quintin Mikell and Craig Dahl were let go this offseason by St. Louis after mediocre seasons at best last year manning the two safety spots. Regardless of their level of play, the veteran leadership is something that is difficult to replace, especially on a defense this young. Matt Giordano made the roster cut despite being injured and unable to participate for much of camp, and at 31 he is one of the oldest players on the entire roster.
It’s not like the Rams didn’t try to add a veteran presence to their secondary this offseason as Detroit Lions safety Louis Delmas was recruited hard by his former defensive coordinator Tim Walton, who is now the Rams’ coordinator, to sign in St. Louis. Delmas ultimately decided to re-up with the Lions leaving the Rams with uncertainty at the safety position to say the least.
Despite the lack of a true experienced leader at the position, the team appears to have all the confidence in the world in the undrafted McLeod who is entering just his second season. Obviously McDonald has their backing given his third round selection this past April. Even though he will be a work in progress while learning on the job his instincts are tremendous, and he has the ability to be a multi-faceted safety in the middle of the secondary.
Watching the safety play this season will be a very interesting subplot to the young defense as a whole in St. Louis. The Rams are putting a lot of faith in two very unproven players at positions that are becoming vital to defensive success in the NFL. Hopefully youth is served again this season as the Rams attempt to find their first winning record in a decade in 2013.