With only two weeks left in the season, much of the media attention will shift to the postseason, the Pro Bowl, and the end-of-the-year awards for the NFL. In an earlier piece, we highlighted that two St. Louis Rams player, Robert Quinn and Jake Long, have essentially sealed their invitation to Hawaii, ranking No.2 and No.5 overall at their position in Pro Bowl voting. However, honors like Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year, and the other handful of awards are an obvious step up in the competition. Aside from Robert Quinn, few from the Rams roster will even be mentioned among the legitimate candidates for the awards. So, we at Ramblin’ Fan decided to do our own rankings, confining them to only those players on the St. Louis Rams. So, without further ado, the Ramblin’ Fan awards…
Most Valuable Player
Quinn may be the only player on the St. Louis Rams that will be genuine considered for a league-wide award at the end of this season, likely front-running the race for Defensive Player of the Year. The Rams’ third-year stud is Top 3 in nearly every relevant category for pass rushers, including leading the league in forced fumbles and total quarterback disruptions (sacks, hits, and hurries). Moreover, he one of the few 4-3 defensive ends in the league that can actually change the game with his performance on the field. To illustrate that point, the Rams are 1-4 this season in games where Quinn did not get a sack, and 5-4 when he has gotten to the quarterback…
Next in line: Jake Long, Zac Stacy
Offensive Player of the Year
Despite riding the pine for the opening quarter of the season, Zac Stacy is still among the Top 15 running backs in nearly every pertinent rushing category. After the injury to Sam Bradford, Jeff Fisher essentially placed the entire offense on the shoulders of Zac Stacy and the offensive line. Instead of crumbling under the pressure, the 5th-round rookie thrived, taking 202 carries for 854 yards and six touchdowns this season. Without Stacy in the backfield, the St. Louis Rams would not be where they are today.
Next in line: Jake Long, Tavon Austin
Defensive Player of the Year
In the spirit of sharing, we cannot hand every defensive award to Robert Quinn. So, instead, we’ll give it to the next man on the list, Trumaine Johnson. The big-bodied cornerback has been one of the most improved players on the team, and jumped at the opportunity to start in place of the ailing Cortland Finnegan. He is currently ranked 4th on the team in tackles, 2nd in pass deflections, and 1st in interceptions. Moreover, he has been the “1a” to Janoris Jenkins on the outside, taking the best opposing receiver on nearly as many snaps as his partner, including beautiful performances against Andre Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald.
Next in line: Alec Ogletree, James Laurinaitis
Offensive Rookie of the Year
Zac Stacy is likely the deserving party for this award, but Tavon Austin could certainly make his case, especially with his contributions to numerous facets of the game. He has set countless arbitrary records for his “explosive” stretch of long touchdowns, and is one of only two players in NFL history with 150+ yards rushing (151), receiving (418), and punt returning (398 kick; 280 punt) in the same season. Once he hit is groove in the middle portion of the season, Austin proved that he could be a playmaker in the NFL and a vital part of this offense in the future.
Next in line: Stedman Bailey, Benny Cunningham
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Ogletree may actually be a long-shot candidate for this league-wide award, leading rookie defenders in a number of categories this season, including solo tackles and forced fumbles. However, and maybe more impressively, the first-rounder may finally knock James Laurinaitis of his “Tackling Throne,” currently leading the Rams in both solo and combined tackles this season. Tack on the fact that he is 2nd on the team in tackles for loss (behind Quinn) and 3rd on the team in pass deflection (behind Johnson and Jenkins) and you have an air-tight, indisputable case for Ogletree as the team’s DROY! It also helps that there is only one other defensive rookie starter on the roster… and that he broke his leg a quarter of the way through the season.
Next in line: T.J. McDonald, Ray Ray Armstrong (Special Teams)
Most Valuable Free Agent
Jake Long could make a very strong case for any of the offensive awards, despite playing on the offensive line. For the first time since the days of Orlando Pace, the St. Louis Rams offensive line has some consistency, and has been effective in both run blocking and pass protecting this season. Long added a much-needed veteran presence to the locker room and the huddle in the absence of Steven Jackson, and his play on the field will earn him a spot in the 2014 Pro Bowl. Lastly, one cannot overlook the inevitable effect he has had on the progression of Robert Quinn this season. Legitimate competition breeds success, and that has shown in the dominating performance by Quinn this season.
Next in line: Jared Cook, Matt Giordano (?)
Under-Appreciate Player of the Year
You cannot wins game without someone competent taking the snaps from under center. Clemens has been everything you could have hoped for in a veteran backup, facilitating the Rams to a 3-4 record in the absence of Sam Bradford. Most will hand all of the credit to Zac Stacy and the St. Louis offensive line, both of which deserve a bulk of the praise for the offense’s success. However, Clemens masterful knowledge of the playbook allowed Brian Schottenheimer to “expand” the offense, and afforded this young group of skill players and the “newly-formed” offensive line to progress as the season continued. Cheers, Mr. Clemens.
Next in line: Chris Long, Janoris Jenkins