The St. Louis Rams are one of the more intriguing teams of the offseason, plugging their holes on the defense, letting some “big name” players walk to other teams, and essentially reinventing their offense in a span of two months. As of now, most expect the St. Louis Rams to “compete” in the NFC West, but there are few that genuinely believe that the Rams will be a legitimate contender for a playoff spot.
So, if making-over the roster is not enough, how else might the Rams be able to help themselves, both this season and into the future? There are some ideas that have been floated around recently, and over the past year, that might make sense.
1) Move Trumaine Johnson to safety
This rumor started spreading the minute that Johnson was drafted by the team in 2012. The “new wave” of safeties in the NFL are all bigger, taller, stronger, and faster… Johnson fits that mold. With the cap casualty release of Quintin Mikell, the current depth chart featuring Darian Stewart and 2013 draftee, T.J. McDonald, might leave some grasping for more in the deep secondary. Johnson showed last season that he could match up well on the outside, especially against larger, “star level” wide receivers. Case and point, Johnson best two performances (according to Pro Football Focus) were against Tampa Bay (Vincent Jackson) and San Francisco (Michael Crabtree). Those same attributes could be transitioned into playing over the top, with the added luxury of not having to have a foot race with the receivers off the line. The drafting of Brandon McGee gives the Rams a viable candidate for the 3rd cornerback slot, in a player possessing the skill set to man-up on the outside in the nickel package when Cortland Finnegan moves into the slot. McGee was praised by scouts for his quickness on underneath routes and straight line speed, and, while height might be an issue, would benefit from having a monster like Johnson helping over the top. With T.J. McDonald and Trumaine Johnson at safety, the Rams would have a solid secondary core in place into the foreseeable future. The most basic rule in football is find a way to get your best players on the field. This is one way to ensure that…
2) Release/Trade Harvey Dahl
Currently, Dahl counts $4 million against the St. Louis Rams cap, one the is fitting pretty snug at this point in the offseason. The Rams’ starting guard will be coming back from an injury that left him on the IR for the final two games of the season. Dahl’s play in 2012 was average, at best, grading out as the 26th ranked guard in the league; allowing 12 hurries and 3 hits on the quarterback. Dahl also graded out negatively in run blocker in 2012; in fact, he has never graded positive on the ground since coming to St. Louis from Atlanta.
Contrary to popular belief, the one position on the Rams’ roster where there are plenty of bodies is guard: Rok Watkins, Chris Williams, Shelley Smith, and the newly drafted, Barrett Jones; along with a couple of fringe players. Many might suggest waiting to make this move in 2014, or even after that season, when Dahl’s contract expires. The Rams’ might think otherwise! $4 million in cap room is nothing to raise your nose at, and it wouldn’t hurt to allow some of the younger players to dive in and get some experience. Barrett Jones, Chris Williams, and Rok Watkins all possess the potential to be a starter in the NFL. We’ll never know until they are in the game…
3) Start Stedman Bailey over Brian Quick
Most have Brian Quick and Chris Givens penciled in as the starters on the depth chart, with the assumption that Tavon Austin will be on the field just as much, if not more. However, Stedman Bailey might be the upgrade on the outside for Brandon Gibson that the Rams have been hoping for over the last couple of years. Bailey appears to be more “NFL ready” than Quick, and clearly possesses the confidence of a wide receiver in the league. He was the most productive receiver in Division I football last season, and did so with the spotlight shining heavily on West Virginia. Bailey not only gets the nod in “readinesss,” but also in chemistry on the field. The connect between Austin and Bailey is undeniable, and which could make them a lethal force when paired together in the NFL, especially with a significantly more polished and accurate quarterback throwing them the football. The move might also benefit Brian Quick. The “third year” rule for receivers could definitely apply to Quick, and, with another year to absorb and acclimate to the NFL without any pressure to produce on the field, the sophomore stud could spring to life in 2014.
Keep in mind that I do not necessarily endorse all, or any, of these moves this season. However, as we saw last year with the decision to bench Alex Smith, it sometimes takes some bold ideas and bold actions to set a team up for success in the present and into the future. The St. Louis Rams are blessed to have an abundance of youth on the roster. How they approach the development and usage of that youth will be a determining factor in whether or not the franchise will break out of is current, non-winning ways.