The 2013 NFL season meets the perfect description of a roller coaster for the St. Louis Rams. They have experienced extreme highs in close wins and blowouts alike to go along with blowout losses and games lost on the last drive. Failure to meet expectations by many offseason free agents and draft selections have led to a disappointing season for Rams fans.
It started with a promising win over the Arizona Cardinals where the offense was able to lean on Sam Bradford for a heavy passing attack. Newly signed Jared Cook looked to be the big TE that St. Louis was craving for in his Rams regular season debut. Cook had seven catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns to break out in an exciting way. However, since Week 1 Cook has not been able to pile up more than 50 yards in a single game. He’s looking a lot less like the freak athlete that he was expected to be. It was obvious in the first few weeks that his blocking skills were well below average and that the importance of Lance Kendricks was much higher than planned. Kendricks has developed into a solid pass catcher and an even better blocker often used in multiple TE sets.
After a few weeks of inadequate running Daryl Richardson found himself removed from the number RB spot on the depth chart in favor of the emerging Zac Stacy. Richardson has been dealing with nagging injuries for much of the season, and now Benny Cunningham is getting the majority of the backup role over former second round pick Isaiah Pead. Cunningham has surprised a few with his power and unexpected quickness leading to a 4.8 yards per carry average. Pead is pretty much done in St. Louis after a rookie season of fumble issues and a suspension. The Rams missed poorly on his selection, but Stacy’s production has been the saving grace of the run game. Even though Stacy wasn’t as productive last week, he is still a load to bring down for any defense.
Kellen Clemens has stepped in as the starting QB and performed better with each week. His first start in resulted in three turnovers (2 INTS, 1 Fumble) and a last second loss. In his second start the Rams lost again due to a key fumble late in the fourth quarter, but his performance wasn’t the lone reason for St. Louis dropping the game. Last week’s start only required Clemens to throw the ball 16 times which is a good thing if you’re a St. Louis fan. Two of those 16 passes ended up being touchdowns for the speedy Tavon Austin.
Austin has been a huge disappointment until last week’s matchup when he destroyed the Indianapolis Colts for three scores. He has been the victim of teammates’ penalties robbing him of big plays on several occasions this year. It is easy to say he has been a bust up until this point, but it sometimes takes receivers time to find their groove. Even Rams legend Isaac Bruce said that it took him eight weeks to feel like he could relax and just play the game. Austin’s breakout in Week 10 is a relief for fantasy players and the Rams. He shredded the Colts on punt returns and two receptions for 314 total yards. Things are looking up for Austin who has probably been dropped by most of his fantasy owners by now.
The biggest up and down of the season hasn’t been any aspect of the offense; it’s has been on the defensive side of the ball. Their inability to consistently stop running backs has killed them in games multiple times. One week they hold Marshawn Lynch to almost nothing and the next Chris Johnson runs for 150 yards. If you look at the opposing teams’ rushing numbers you can find a relationship to the score of the game. When opposing running backs cut through the Rams defense like urine through fresh snow, St. Louis has been blown out without even feeling like they had a chance at some point in the game.
Unless St. Louis finds a way to consistently stop or slow down running backs they won’t be a contender in the NFC West. Letting teams control the time of possession is a quick recipe for finding another L in the loss column. The Rams better be searching for a fix if they hope to build on last week’s success.