Like many teams at this juncture of the NFL season, the St. Louis Rams are merely playing for pride at this point as they attempt to assess their roster for what promises to be another influx of youth next year. Despite the fact that the outcome of the game means very little to the team as a whole, the play of some of the younger guys on this team in the closing stretch will mean a lot for their fortunes looking ahead to 2014.
In order to avoid this point again next season where the finishing stretch means very little in terms of wins and losses, the development of these young guys will be vital. That’ why the main focus for the Rams coming down the stretch is to get the most out of their rookies and second-year guys so they can accurately gauge which positions truly need overhauled this offseason.
Though the Rams have been playing a great deal of their younger guys all season long out of necessity, this week until the finish line should be the time for them to really take a look at the guys who haven’t seen as much of the field all year. A guy like Tim Barnes will be starting inside at center and Barrett Jones needs to join him on the interior line to help the team figure out just how big of a need that area really is looking ahead to next season. It wouldn’t hurt to get cornerback Brandon McGee some more time on the field to spark his development or throw linebacker Ray Ray Armstrong into the fire as well just to see if he sinks or swims.
It would also be beneficial to see just how much progress the wide receiving corps has made this season. Austin Pettis is the eldest member at just 25 years of age in his third season, but second-year guys like Brian Quick and Chris Givens really need to prove their worth in these closing games. Their lack of productivity can’t be solely blamed on them given quarterback Sam Bradford’s injury, but Givens has yet to find the end zone this season after three scores last season and countless game-breaking plays. Quick has been a red zone target on occasion, but his lack of consistency is still a big question mark heading into next year.
The opponent might be Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints this week, but the Rams as an organization really has to have little to no concern about getting the win. What Jeff Fisher and the coaching staff have to focus on is getting the most out of their young roster and preparing this team to make the leap in the coming offseason. It may seem like a poor attitude to have with three games remaining on the schedule, but it’s what will best serve the Rams in their quest to building a consistent winner in the coming years.