There is a new mystique drifting around Rams Park. The coaches know it, the players feel it and the fans see it.
A total of 1,441 fans who showed up to watch the first official practice in full pads cheered and roared at every Sam Bradford completion, a lighting quick juke by Tavon Austin, or even a brutal stiff-arm Isaiah Pead delivered to second-year CB Janoris Jenkins.
Or how about the monster in the middle, Michael Brockers, who has reportedly been the most dominant player in camp thus far.
Only fans who have given up and grown weary of past failures are the only ones not dawning at Cheshire Cat smile thinking of the limitless potential of this current constructed team. With all the hubbub about Austin, roaming rookie linebacker Alec Ogletree and the thumper rookie safety–who delivered a shot to TE Cory Harkey in yesterday’s practice– T.J. McDonald, caused me to wonder if the Rams could possibly end the season with both the offensive rookie of the year, and the defensive rookie of the year.
And from my surprising find, the first year the NFL started giving separate OROY and DROY awards in 1967, the Detroit Lions had guys who won each one.
Running back Mel Farr and cornerback Lem Barney.
The OROY and the DROY has been awarded on the same team only once in NFL history.
From 2000 to 2012, only two wide receivers were handed the offensive honors, Anquan Boldin in 2oo3 and Percy Harvin in 2009. On the defensive side, 11 linebackers came away with the award during that same time frame. Two LBs have won DROY the last two years (Von Miller; Luke Kuechly).
As a matter of fact, linebackers have won nearly half of the defensive rookie of the year awards (21 out of 43).
Add those stats along with the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks both running the read-option, the projected starter Alec Ogletree will likely be around the ball early and often sacking the quarterback, tackling running backs, tight ends and wide receivers as he also will take responsibility in coverage.
Though Ogletree might have a better chance to come away with the award, Austin will get every opportunity to produce as the Rams hand the reigns over to Bradford and his array of other weapons. When Harvin won the award in 2009, he had a total of 8 TDs, two on kickoff, and six receiving. He also had 60 receptions for 790 yards, all obtainable stats for Austin who is every bit as explosive as Harvin.
The worldly Austin will line up in multiple positions to dictate matchups and cause confusion on the field. He will even be used as a decoy on plays as the defense shifts their attention to the speedster.
A case could be made for rookie running back Zach Stacy to win OROY. Running backs have won 30 out of 44 OROY award from 1967 t0 2012. But notice I said a case, not a strong case. Rookie running backs have come out the blue rushing for a 1,000 yards in recent years (Alfred Morris WAS; Doug Martin TB) but neither claimed OROY honors with the NFL evolving to a more passing league.
Only seven quarterbacks have won the award, and none from 1971 to 2003. However, three QBs have won OROY in the past three seasons.
In the case of McDonald, only two safeties have won DROY, the Jets Erik McMillan in 1988, and Mark Carrier of the Chicago Bears in 1990. Again, with the NFL chucking the ball up and down the field, he has a slim chance to come away with the award even if he’s penciled in as the starting safety.
The Rams thought highly of Austin to trade up to the no. 8 pick to select the gifted athlete, and trading back to select Ogletree in the first round as well (no. 30). Both will make immediate impact from day one and expect to play a large part in the Rams success this season.
It is extremely unlikely for the NFL to award both the OROY and the DROY to players on the same team, but it is possible.
Maybe the 2013 season is history in the making for the Rams two first-rounders.