For all of the potential and promise that the young St. Louis Rams offer, the team has just as much uncertainty and underperformance to cast doubt upon the future. The showings of some second-year players helped to affirm that hesitance when it comes to the team’s prospective success while the play of some rookies made those questions seem inconsequential. What is a certainty, however, is that the Rams need their young stars from this past season to take the next step in 2014 rather than following in the footsteps of some of the second-year underachievers from this past year.
Let’s begin with the good news; Zac Stacy and Alec Ogletree appear to be absolute stars in the making at running back and linebacker, respectively. Both guys flashed Pro Bowl potential if playing a full 16-game schedule, and both showed that they will be integral parts of the franchise moving forward.
For as much promise as these two showed, speedster and top-10 pick Tavon Austin was a mixed bag. For every explosive, jaw-dropping display there was an equally mind-numbing dropped pass or three-yard grab with zero yards after the catch. There’s no doubt he has loads of potential packed into his 5-foot-8 176-pound frame, but getting it to show up on a consistent basis is another discussion entirely.
As for the guys these players need to avoid emulating in 2014, second-year players Janoris Jenkins and Chris Givens were stars as rookies for the Rams. Jenkins scored four touchdowns as a cornerback and had four interceptions as a rookie while Givens set a record with a reception of 50-plus yards in five straight games while hauling in 42 receptions for a total of 698 yards and three touchdowns.
The numbers for Jenkins weren’t really the big concern as his mere one interception and zero defensive touchdowns aren’t that worrisome. What was troubling, however, was the amount of times he was burned deep in 2013 while becoming a liability in coverage rather than building on promising rookie year. And the same can be said for Givens at receiver as he had just 34 catches for 569 yards this year with his zero trips to the end zone being the most disconcerting stat. Both of these guys failed to build on great rookie seasons which is exactly the opposite of what St. Louis needs from Stacy and Ogletree in 2014.
One final issue was the development – or lack thereof – for wide receiver Brian Quick who stagnated badly in his sophomore campaign. His 11 catches for 156 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie were backed up by 18 grabs for 302 yards and two scores in 2013. That right there is the definition of stagnation.
The 2013 rookie that must avoid that fate next season is one Tavon Austin whose numbers weren’t great, but they weren’t top-10 pick worthy, either. 40 catches for 418 yards and four touchdowns is solid when paired with his nine rushing attempts for 151 yards and a score as well as averaging 8.5 yards per punt return and scoring once in the return game. What the Rams need, however, is for Austin to build on those stats rather than stagnating the way Quick did in his progression this season.
This may seem like an attempt to bash the youth on the Rams, but in actuality it is the exact opposite. The NFL’s youngest team has to embrace its youth, learn from its mistakes, and grow heading into the 2014 season. Showing progress is what the Rams are looking for next season, and without these potential stars taking the next step and realizing their true potential, reaching any goals aside from mediocrity will be impossible.