Everybody knows the Rams had a fantastic draft last year getting a possible nine future starters. The Rams just had a draft that looks good on paper, but you never know how a player is going to play until they step on the field, and even then you don’t know if they are just going to be a one-hit wonder. Drafts like those that the Rams just had in 2012 don’t happen very often, and with the Rams not re-signing many of their veterans, you have to wonder if they are asking too much of their rookies.
This past offseason the Rams let Steven Jackson, Quintin Mikell, Danny Amendola, Brandon Gibson, and Craig Dahl walk. Jackson, Amendola, and Gibson were basically the entire Rams offense last year and Mikell and Dahl were both the starting safeties. Austin, Bailey, McDonald. and Stacy were all drafted to help replace those players, but those are some pretty big shoes to fill, the question is are they going to be able to do it and have the Rams front office put too much faith in their young players.
The title to this article really should be are the Rams asking too much of their rookies and second round players. The Rams were already one of the youngest teams last season, and got even younger this season. The oldest player on the team is Scott Wells who is 32. Wells is still only one of two players on the Rams roster over 30, the other being Harvey Dahl . The Rams are building their team young, but with youth comes inexperience, and with inexperience comes mistakes.
It was a sad day for Rams fans everywhere when Steven Jackson announced he was going elsewhere. Jackson is the Rams leading rusher and you just don’t replace that. Instead of going out in free agency to get a veteran running back for a cheap price, the Rams decided to stick Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead, as the team liked what they saw from Pead and Richardson last season. On top of that the Rams also drafted Zac Stacy out of Vanderbilt in the 5th round of the draft. The Rams front office is putting a lot of faith in these three guys, and if they don’t produce, what do you do then, throw the ball 40+ times? I sure hope not.
The Rams not only let their face of the franchise go in Steven Jackson, but they also let both of Sam Bradford’s security blankets go. Amendola was Sam Bradford’s go to guy in the slot and it is proven that the Rams do better with Amendola on the field. Sam Bradford went 12-15-1 when Amendola played during the Bradford’s three years. When Amendola was injured Sam Bradford went 3-11. The coaches feel like Austin and Bailey can fill that void and think that Austin can do more than Amendola and be a better player. The Rams have also left the number one receiver spot to Chris Givens rather than go out in free agency to get a Victor Cruz, Wes Welker, Mike Wallace, or Greg Jennings. This group has the potential to be a minor second coming of the greatest show on turf, but they need to be able to step up and not make young player mistakes.
Finally on the defensive side of the ball the Rams have left the secondary up to T.J. McDonald and Darian Stewart. The Rams CB’s were already good, but after Mikell and Dahl were let go, the Rams have been left kind of empty at the safety position. Mikell didn’t make a lot of INT’s but he wasn’t a liability in coverage and he tackled well. T.J. McDonald can tackle well, he does miss some tackles, but overall his tackling is pretty good. However, his coverage skill have some question marks. Darian Stewart on the other hand has limited experience and you just hope he can be a player that rises to the occasion.
If the Rams rookies from last year have sophomore slumps, or this year’s rookies don’t produce like they are supposed to the Rams may be in for a long season. However given Snead and Fisher’s reputation, these players should be able to produce. The biggest question the Rams face is how these young players continue to evolve in their second year or how some of the guys adapt to new and expanded roles. These guys were brought here to play and play well. So it’s their job to do that. We’ll see how it plays out.