Turning The Corner
TE J.Cook, OT J.Long,
RB S.Jackson, WR D.Amendola,
LB R.McIntosh, S C.Dahl,
S Q.Mikell, WR B.Gibson
In his first year at the club, head coach Jeff Fisher led the team to a 7-8-1 record, a five win improvement over the previous season. They were also an impressive 4-1-1 against their NFC West opposition and were the only team in the NFL to have the best intra-division record, but not capture the title.
With Fisher, a defensive minded head coach at the helm, the Rams showed marked improvement on that side of the ball. Defensive Ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn both reached double digits in sacks and they helped their unit tie for the league lead with 52 in that category, along-side the Denver Broncos.
The Rams took the NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers to overtime twice, earning a victory and a tie and the only lopsided loss they suffered during the season was at the hands of the New England Patriots in London.
At 25.32 years, the Rams were the youngest team in the league last year and Fisher’s team is even younger heading into 2013. They are also headed in the right direction as they try to make their mark in what has become the toughest division in the NFL.
It took Fisher three years to get the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans to .500 and six before they, ironically, lost the Super Bowl to the Rams. If these Rams improve in year two like they did in year one, they will be right on schedule.
Holding the second pick in the 2012 NFL Draft that boasted two franchise quarterbacks, the Rams made the decision to upgrade their roster by dealing the selection for a package of draft picks, while sticking with Sam Bradford as their pivot.
Bradford rewarded the team’s faith by posting career highs with 21 touchdowns, 3,702 passing yards and an 82.6 passer rating.
Entering his fourth season in the league, the pressure to produce will be even greater on Bradford than it was before, as he is continually compared to not only other quarterbacks taken recently with number one overall picks such as Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and Detroit Lions signal caller Matthew Stafford but to Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III who was selected with the pick the Rams dealt.
Offensive continuity will be a huge advantage for Bradford in his second season with co-ordinator Brian Schottenheimer.
The addition of four-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jake Long will strengthen the offensive line in front of Bradford allowing him more time to make plays inside the pocket.
With Long in the fold, Rodger Saffold will take over at the right tackle position to provide stability on the other side of the protection scheme.
Tavon Austin, who was selected by the Rams in the first round of the 2013 draft, is expected to make an immediate impact on the offence.
He is a dynamic receiver that will play wide, in the slot and at times out of the backfield, to give their formations unique looks over the course of a game.
It will be essential for him to be comfortable early as he will be asked to do a lot of the work that previously fell to wide receiver Danny Amendola who moved on to the New England Patriots in the off-season.
Over the past nine seasons there has been one constant on the Rams and that has been the powerful and explosive play of running back Stephen Jackson. Jackson was selected in the first round of the 2004 draft by the Rams and made his debut during the same season. He has impressively rushed for over 1000 yards in every season since 2005, including a career high 1,528 in 2006.
During the off-season, Jackson was given the opportunity to void his contract and he left the Rams, inking a three-year deal with the Atlanta Falcons and leaving a gaping hole in the St. Louis backfield.
There is a long list of candidates that will be vying for the position of number one running back in the offence and could even find themselves being used in a committee depending on health and success.
The front runner for the position could be Daryl Richardson who was the second last pick of the 2012 draft. He rushed the ball 98 times last season for 475 yards, an average of 4.8 yards a carry.
Rookie Zac Stacy will have a shot at the position after being selected in the fifth round of the 2013 draft. Terrance Ganaway, a sixth round pick of the New York Jets in 2012, was claimed off waivers in the off-season after playing in only three games for the Jets during the season.
Finally, Isaiah Pead a 2012, second round pick of the Rams who whether he wins the job or not, will not be in the backfield for any snaps in Week 1 as he sits out due to a drug suspension.
Replacing Jackson was never going to be easy because of not only what he brought to the offence but the pressure he took off Bradford over the course of a game, based on the aforementioned options, running back has all the makings of a problem position for the Rams in 2013. (-TSN.ca)
Last season, rookie cornerback Janoris Jenkins led the team with four interceptions and he turned three of those into touchdowns, including two against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 12 to earn himself NFC Defensive Player of the Week.
He will once again be counted on as one of the anchors for the defence alongside DT Michael Brockers another rookie that played well last season.
NFC WEST PROJECTIONS
Division Winner, 1st round bye
5th in NFC, wildcard berth
Improved, but tough division
Done in by difficult schedule
Outside linebacker Alec Ogletree was selected late in the first round of the 2013 draft and is expected to be inserted right into the lineup as another young impact player on the roster.
Safety T.J. McDonald was selected in the third round of the draft and is being look upon as a possible solution at a position the Rams struggled at last year. T.J. is the son of former 49ers’ safety Tim McDonald and like is father is considered a physical player in the secondary.
The Rams also feature impact veterans on the defensive side of the ball in fifth year linebacker James Laurinaitis and DE Chris Long who has 42.5 career sacks entering his sixth season in the league.
Last season the team ranked 14th in both points and yards allowed placing them in the middle of the pack but a stark improvement from the 26th and 22nd places respectively that they finished in 2011.
Young players tend to be inconsistent players so the Rams will look like both world beaters and amateurs at times on both sides of the ball, but they should also continue to show strong improvement. (-TSN.ca)
Special Teams: K G. Zuerlein, P J. Hekker, KR T. Austin, PR T. Austin
Special Teams: K G. Zuerlein, P J. Hekker, KR T. Austin, PR T. Austin
Special Teams: K G.Zuerlein, P J.Hekker, KR C.Givens, PR A.Pettis
Fantasy - By The Numbers
The first overall pick in 2010, QB Sam Bradford threw for a career-high 3,702 yards and 21 touchdowns last season, but that's not enough to be considered anything more than a fantasy backup.
Get ready for the fantasy season with the latest from TSN.ca.
Rankings: QB | RB | WR | TE | DEF
Fantasy Schedules: AFC | NFC
2013 Auction Values: Cheat Sheet
Fantasy Depth Charts: AFC | NFC
Young receivers, second-year man Chris Givens and rookie Tavon Austin, will be the core of the offence, but that doesn't help Bradford's value so much in the short-term unless Austin busts the league open.
With the running game going to be handled by Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead, the Rams have a lot of inexperienced hands in prime skill positions, so TE Jared Cook, the former Tennessee Titan, could be a sleeper. He has big-play potential and is more established than pretty much anyone else to whom Bradford will give the ball.
Value for the Rams, then, could come on defence, where defensive ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn can both get to the quarterback, while MLB James Laurinaitis, who has 142 total tackles in each of the last two years, is a safe fantasy starter. CB Cortland Finnegan and SS Darian Stewart are both productive enough to have fantasy value too. (-Scott Cullen)