NFL Season Preview: St. Louis Rams are the Classic Dark Horse Team
Lost in all the hoopla about the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West, the St. Louis Rams have been gradually building a new team in the image of head coach Jeff Fisher. The “Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda” line only works in fan circles, but the Rams lost four games in the final minute and on the last drive. Considering that they finished 7-8-1 in 2012, that’s the difference between winning 11 or 12 games and missing the playoffs altogether. This fact was lost on many people following the 2012 season, so the fact that the Rams got even better during the offseason and via the 2013 NFL Draft, they will sneak up on people, when they probably should not.
QB Sam Bradford is continuing to come into his own, and earn his stripes as being a guy who can take his lumps and continue coming back to compete. He played behind brutal offensive lines for years, which only earns him the admiration of Marc Bulger, and is still coming back for more. Bradford also has more weapons to work with in 2012, as he has a completely revamped WR corps. Slot receiver (and Bradford’s favorite target) Danny Amendola left via free agency to sign with the New England Patriots. There isn’t a single start amongst the bunch, but the combination of Chris Givens, Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, and Austin Pettis will be the primary four WR for Bradford. The run game has had a change at lead back for the first time in nearly a decade, as Steven Jackson is now the lead RB for the Atlanta Falcons. Daryl Richardson will have a chance to prove that he can carry the load. Jared Cook was brought over from the Tennessee Titans to play TE with Lance Kendricks.
The Rams’ defense was somewhat overlooked in 2012, but their bookend DE tandem of Chris Long and Robert Quinn were disruptive all season (despite appearing to wear down late in the regular season). Michael Brockers was a force, and almost everyone else amongst the DT rotation is a rookie or a second-year player, which is exactly what Jeff Fisher wanted. Jo-Lonn Dunbar and James Laurinaitis lead the LB corps, as rookie Alec Ogletree (Georgia) enters the fold. Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins are the lead CBs for the Rams, while the safety rotation will be a bit interesting, with Matt Giordano, Rodney McLeod, and two rookies: Cody Davis and T.J. McDonald being the main safeties for the Rams entering 2013.
” It Is Only A Game, Until You Bet It “