7 Reasons Why the St. Louis Rams Will Win The NFC West Division In 2013
7 Reasons Why St. Louis Rams Are NFC West Team To Beat in 2013
I understand that Sam Bradford isn't nearly as interesting of a guy as say Colin Kapernick or even Russell Wilson, but don't the St. Louis Rams deserve a bit more respect for their 7-8-1 season in 2013? Your average fan would say that the loss of Steven Jackson removes the Rams from the division race, yet he's probably the same guy who also claims that the Chicago Bears are "stupid" for letting a 35-year-old Brian Urlacher walk, so take it with a grain of salt.
Moving on, St. Louis has quietly rebuilt itself via the draft, and great scouting has allowed the Rams to save money on the free agent front. With that being said, the Rams spoiled themselves a little bit this summer as they brought in a trio of difference makers on the offensive side of the ball. First-round pick Tavon Austin is supposed to have a Percy Harvin-type impact for the Rams, yet that's quite a bit of pressure to put on a rookie wide receiver.
However, the Rams also added some All-Pro prowess to an otherwise battered offensive line by bringing Jake Long to the Midwest. Long was the Miami Dolphins' best O-Lineman for four of the last five seasons, with his 2012 campaign being one that was marred with injury. Left tackles like Long are hard to find, so the Rams are rightfully ecstatic about their revamped offensive front.
At the end of the day, Rams' head coach Jeff Fisher has been to his fair share of big games and the time has finally come for St. Louis to be rewarded with a divisional championship.
Here are seven reasons why the Rams are going to win the NFC West in 2013.
Reason No. 7: Steven Jackson Circus Now In Atlanta
Don't believe those narrow-minded football fans, who claim that Steven Jackson was God's gift to St. Louis. I understand that Jackson was a staple of consistency for the Rams, but it was time for Jackson to hit the road. From now on, promising running backs like Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead will be given the reins to the St. Louis' running game and ready to produce. Not to mention, Jackson's departure also allows for Sam Bradford to take control of the Rams' offense, which should open offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer's playbook tremendously.
I'm not saying that St. Louis isn't going to miss Jackson's weekly contributions, but there's a reason why the Rams never had a winning record during Jackson's nine-year tenure with the club.
Reason No. 6: Jake Long Gives Rams' Offensive Line Boost
The Miami Dolphins made a big mistake by letting Jake Long hit the road this offseason.
Long is a left tackle, who has played his way to four Pro Bowls in just five seasons. The Dolphins' inept offense usually kept Long away from the spotlight, but a closer look at Long's production makes you wonder how the Rams got him at such a low price. Bringing a stout left tackle to St. Louis only helps an improving offensive line -- Bradford was sacked 55 times in 2011, but that number went down to 35 last year.
Keep an eye out for the Rams starting center Scott Wells, who missed nine games last year with a broken leg. This guy won a Super Bowl with the Green Bay Packers in 2010, so he knows what an offensive line must do in order to hoist the Lombardi Trophy upon seasons end.
Reason No. 5: Talent, Depth At Linebacker Position
James Lauranitis is the most underrated middle linebacker in the NFL.
Rarely do you see an every-down linebacker like Lauranitis go so far under the radar. With seven interceptions in the last four years, the Rams' MLB has showcased his ball skills in a giant way. Not to mention, the St. Louis' linebacking core also features rookie standout Alec Ogletree, who is extremely quick as he started his collegiate career as a safety.
Veteran Will Witherspoon isn't a great starting outside linebacker, but he's merely a stop-gap guy, who's going to be replaced the second that Jo-Lonn Dunbar returns from his four-game suspension.
Reason No. 4: Pass Rush Will Be Better Than San Francisco 49ers'
You heard me.
The San Francisco 49ers' pass rush was dominant last year with Aldon Smith and Justin Smith combining for 22.5 sacks. However, the Rams defensive ends will be better than San Francisco's in 2012. Let's be honest, Justin Smith isn't getting any younger and he'll be lucky to play more than 10 games in this his 13th NFL season.
On the other end of the spectrum you have the advantageous, young and physical Rams front four. St. Louis led the NFL in sacks last season with 52 and are returning all four defensive linemen from 2012. Chris Long and Robert Quinn are both under the age of 28, and combine to make one of the deadliest defensive end pairings in the league. In order to win the NFC West you need a stout defensive line and the Rams' down linemen have what it takes to keep dual-threat quarterbacks at bay.
Reason No. 3: Chris Givens Is NFL's Next Best Wide Receiver
The Rams haven't had a down-the-field threat sine Torry Holt was in St. Louis, so to say this team is desperate for a big-time wide receiver would be an understatement. Chris Givens is only 23 years old, yet he has the potential to be the best wide receiver in the NFC West...not counting Larry Fitzgerald. The most impressive statistic from Givens' rookie year was that he caught a pass of 50 or more yards in five straight games!
Bradford has always been able to throw the deep ball, which makes a speedster like Givens so valuable. A revamped Rams' offense line also allows for Bradford to have more time in the pocket and will ultimately result in an increase in Givens' production.
Reason No. 2: Rams' Advantageous Defense
Most people only think of All-Pro cornerback Cortland Finnegan when the conversation turns to the Rams' secondary, but there is definitely more than meets the eye in St. Louis. In fact, rookie Janoris Jenkins was arguably more potent than Finnegan last season as the rookie corner led the entire NFL with four defensive touchdowns! Although the Rams' defensive backs have a knack for the big play, they also have perfected the art of keeping the play in front of them.
St. Louis gave up just 36 pass plays of 20 yards or more in 2012, which was second-best in the NFL behind only the Pittsburgh Steelers. While many think the NFC West is built on rushing and rushing alone, the Rams know that it takes a deep and advantageous secondary to take home the divisional crown.
Reason No. 1: Sam Bradford Finally Has Stability
The 2013 season will mark the first time in Sam Bradford's three-year career in which he will have the same offensive coordinator in consecutive seasons. Bradford and OC Brian Schottenheimer have clicked from the get-go and the Rams' quarterback finally has some stability. A great offensive mind like Schottenheimer is responsible for guiding the high-priced Bradford straight into the postseason for the first time in Bradford's brief career.
Putting a physical specimen like Jared Cook in this St. Louis offense is exactly what the doctor ordered for Bradford. Now, the steadily-improving quarterback has a red-zone target, who can be trusted when it matters most as one of the league's top tight ends.
Bradford is getting paid like the best football player to ever put on a helmet, so it's time for him to mature into the best passing quarterback in the NFC West. On the heels of his best season yet, Bradford will only build on his impressive 2012 campaign and pioneer the Rams to their first divisional title since 2003.
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