Summer is about to begin, which means the bulk of the roster shuffling has settled for most teams. Free agency is stagnate, the NFL Draft is over, and OTAs and minicamps are nearly complete. Most in Rams Nation would look at the current roster and be satisfied with the moves that were made this offseason. However, it was a mere four months ago that there were some MASSIVE questions that needed to be answered. Here, we have to look back at some of the headlines of mid-February…
Q: Will either Steven Jackson or Danny Amendola be on the Rams’ roster at the start of 2013? If not, how will the team fill the massive void left by the two offensive stars?
A: No… Jackson moved down South to Atlanta and Amendola crossed enemy lines to New England. To fill the void, the Rams’ finally focused on the offensive side of the ball in the draft, and didn’t waste any time doing it. St. Louis traded up and took Tavon Austin to replace Danny Amendola in the slot, then took his teammate, Stedman Bailey, at the end of the 3rd round. They selectioned Zac Stacy from Vanderbilt as the “big body” back, who will join the rotation with Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead. They also made a splash in free agency with Jared Cook, who figures to line up primarily in the slot as a off-line tight end.
Q: Will St. Louis finally get Sam Bradford some young, talented skill position players?
A: *Emphatically* Yes! Not only did they attack and conquer the biggest play-making tight end available in free agency, they use valuable resources in the draft (i.e. picks) to move up and take the most electrifying player in the 2013 class with the 8th overall selection. Tavon Austin, Jared Cook, and Stedman Bailey will be joining last year’s duo of Chris Givens and Brian Quick to form one of the most unique collections of receivers in the NFL; not to mention Lance Kendricks and Austin Pettis, who have both showed significant improvement heading into their third year in the league. With crazy speed, height and quickness mismatches, and an offensive oriented around Sam Bradford, the Rams’ young signal caller should finally be able to show his worth as a former top overall pick.
Q: Safety and outside linebacker appeared to be the only weak points in the defense last season. How will those spots get addressed?
A: The coaching staff essentially did a complete overhaul of the starters, with the lone exception of Jo-Lonn Dunbar. Craig Dahl was gifted to the San Francisco 49ers, Quintin Mikell was nixed as a cap casualty, and the aged duo of Mario Haggan and Rocky McIntosh were allowed to walk without a contract. As one replacement, Darian Stewart, who missed most of last season with injury, will be filling in at one of the safety spots. The Rams used their second 1st rounder on Alec Ogletree, who was tagged as the top 4-3 outside linebacker prospect in the 2013 class, and their first 3rd rounder on T.J. McDonald, who was widely considered the hardest hitting safety in the class. Between the two rookies and Stewart, St. Louis hopes to sure up a defense that showed glimpses of Top 10 ability. The drafting of a competent outside linebacker will allow the defense to frequent their 4-3 base formation more often, while the combination of Stewart and McDonald should have better success manning the deep-halves in the Cover 2/Man Under scheme that Fisher and new defensive coordinator, Tim Walton, prefer to run.
There is also a slight chance that a sophomore, Rodney McLeod, or an undrafted rookie, Cody Davis, could fight their way into the starting lineup. Fisher has shown that he is not afraid to put the best players on the field, regardless of their salary or the round they were taken in the Draft. Last season alone, a 7th rounder (Richardson) started over a 2nd rounder (Pead) and a 4th rounder (Givens) started over a 2nd rounder (Quick). We will have to see how that battle shakes out…
Q: The offensive line situation was rough last season, with injuries to Rodger Saffold, Scott Wells, and Rok Watkins. However, even with injuries, the line allowed Bradford to get hit on far too many plays. Will they upgrade the unit?
A: First things first, the team got rid of Barry Richardson, who likely only maintained a starting role on the roster because there were so many injuries. The Rams made a huge move in signing the 1st overall pick in the 2008 draft, Jake Long, to man the blindside for Sam Bradford. That consequently led to Rodger Saffold moving to the right side of the line, essentially giving the Rams two top-tier blockers as bookends. On the inside, St. Louis lost Rob Turner, but did draft Barrett Jones, who was a Swiss Army knife on the O-line at Alabama. They will be banking on a healthy return from Scott Wells and Harvey Dahl to sure up the interior of the line, and will likely give Chris Williams, a former 1st round tackle, a shot at the starting left guard spot. Mike McNeill and Lance Kendricks should give some added support on the ends and in the backfield, with both being listed as fullback/tight end hybrids.