The St. Louis Rams Can Surprise In The Loaded NFC West
The St. Louis Rams had a solid and respectable 2012 season. They hired former Tennessee Titans Head Coach Jeff Fisher, who was out of the NFL in 2011. Fisher has this Rams team headed in the right direction. He is a coach that most of his current/former players love to play for. He is a players coach that will stand up for you regardless of the situation. He coaches a physical style of football on both sides of the ball that has given this team a new-found swagger . The Rams last season went 4-1-1 in the NFC West due to their smash-mouth style of football that their division presents. They know that in order to compete and possibly beat both the Seahawks and 49ers, they need to out-hit them and to play fast.
The St. Louis Rams definitely have what it takes to surprise in the NFC West. They have former No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft Sam Bradford, who has what it takes to lead the Rams back into the postseason. Bradford has shown great promise for the Rams and he stepped up his game last season in a big way. He passed for 3,702 yards and had 21 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions with a 82.6 quarterback rating. Those numbers are solid but the one number that wasn’t good was his completion percentage. Bradford only completed 59.5% of his passes and a sub-par offensive line in 2012 helped caused that low percentage. Rodger Saffold has been solid for the Rams at left tackle since he was drafted in 2010. The Rams knew that they needed another tackle to help solidify the offensive line. So they signed former Miami Dolphins left tackle Jake Long, who is a 4 time pro bowler and an all-pro left tackle. It is a huge upgrade that can help protect Bradford and help him thrive this season.
The play-makers around Sam Bradford are more than capable of contributing right away. The Rams have a solid and young running back in Daryl Richardson that will get his chance this season. He has big shoes to fill in replacing longtime Rams running back Stephen Jackson, who signed with the Atlanta Falcons in the off-season. The Rams wide receiver core has a somewhat new look to it to start the season. Danny Amendola was let go in free agency due to him missing 20 games in the past two seasons due to injury. The Rams traded up from the 16th overall pick with the Buffalo Bills, who had the 8th overall pick, to select wide receiver Tavon Austin from West Virginia. Austin is already one of the NFL’s best and fastest play-makers that can beat you in so many ways. He is a true deep threat that can run by any defensive back in the NFL. His 40 yard dash time at the draft combine was a 4.34. His speed is an asset to this team. Austin can also beat you on special teams due to his ability to return kicks on kick/punt returns. The Rams also upgraded the tight end position by signing Jared Cook in free agency. Cook spent the past four seasons playing for the Tennessee Titans. He has good speed and athleticism to go across the middle of the field against linebackers and safeties. Cook can potentially be that security blanket that Bradford needs to have going forward. The defense also has it’s share of play-makers starting with dominant defensive end Chris Long. Long has been playing like a star since 2008, his rookie season. His relentless motor and his instincts are off the charts and those traits are invaluable to have. Linebacker James Laurinaitis has been huge for the defense and linebacker core. Laurinaitis is a tackling machine and is arguably the best defensive player overall on the team.
The St. Louis Rams have the toughness and roster to compete in the NFC West. They gave the two time defending NFC West Champion San Francisco 49ers a run for their money last season. The key to that success was due to the grind it out style that’s needed to win in the NFL. The Rams don’t have a flashy offense like Green Bay but their front seven on defense and their offensive line is solid and physical. When they are clicking as a unit, it’s due to their offensive/defensive lines winning their battles up front. This roster on paper doesn’t have a lot of names that stand out. They have the pieces and veteran leadership from Cortland Finnegan and Jake Long to help the young players out. The NFC West is arguably the toughest division in the NFL entering the 2013 season. The Rams are not only headed in the right direction but they can challenge both the 49ers and Seahawks. They also have what it takes to duplicate their 2012 4-1-1 division record against their fellow NFC West rivals. The Questions for the Rams entering 2013 are – can they hang in the tough NFC West and win it or do they take a step back from last season’s progress?