Yesterday was a bittersweet day in Rams Nation, marking the end of a wild season marred with devastating injuries and bolstered by young talent rising from the ashes. The Jeff Fisher-led St. Louis Rams are now 14-17-1 over the last two season, despite having played a Top 5 strength of schedule with the youngest roster in the league in both seasons. That is not too shabby, considering the Rams had only 15 total wins in their previous five seasons, dating back to the Scott Linehan-era in 2007. Obviously there was plenty to take away from yesterday, so let’s jump in…
1. On the flight to Seattle, the “official” Pro Bowl roster was announced. Jeff Fisher reportedly got on the intercom and professed that both Johnny Hekker and Robert Quinn would be flying to Hawaii. However, Jake Long was not one of the names mentioned, despite being ranked as the No.6 overall offensive tackle in the NFL this season. If you needed something to showcase his importance to the team, all you had to do was watch the St. Louis Rams struggle to run against Seattle last night. In Week 8, Long registered a 4.1 run blocking grade, one of the highest on the season, and paved the way for Zac Stacy to rumble for a career-high 134 yards. Yesterday, Stacy managed only 15 total rushing yards on 15 carries. Case closed.
2. Chris Givens regression from last season was on full display last night in Seattle: 1) He ran lazy routes and gave minimal effort on the deep ball, barely even reaching out his arms to attempt catches, 2) was hesitant on his lone rushing attempt, shutting off the speed on the reverse for a -4 yard loss, and 3) made no effort to “play defense” on the Kellen Clemens jumpball-interception. The writing may be on the wall for both Chris Givens and Brian Quick, with Austin Pettis continuing to show leadership on the field, and Stedman Bailey putting in someone phenomenal work with added snaps. If “effort” has any role in the decision making process, you can almost surely push Givens to the bottom of the list headed into 2014.
3. Lance Kendricks and Jared Cook still may arguably be the best tight end catching duo in the NFL this season, despite the fact that most fans outside of St. Louis wouldn’t recognize their names. The pair totaled 83 catches for 929 yards and nine touchdowns on the season. Throw Cory Harkey in the mix and you have a trio that put together 1,000+ yards and 10+ touchdowns on the season, playing in a ground-and-pound offense with a backup quarterback throwing them the ball for a majority of the season.
4. Most will blame Kellen Clemens for the loss on Sunday. However, most also forget that he was playing behind an offensive line that was missing their three highest paid linemen (Scott Wells, Jake Long, and Harvey Dahl). The St. Louis Rams might have more money on the bench/IR then any other team in the NFL this season…
…just how much money? Five of their six highest paid offensive players were not on the field on Sunday versus the Seattle Seahawks, including Sam Bradford, the three aforementioned offensive linemen, and Tavon Austin.
5. Switching over to the defensive side of the football, there was only one real “disappointment” on Sunday. Robert Quinn, who is still the likely front-runner for Defensive Player of the Year, fell 0.5 sacks short of the Deacon Jones award. However, 50 solo tackles, 19.0 sacks, 12 tackles for a loss, seven forced fumbles, and league-leading quarterback disruption numbers are nothing to be upset over at the end of the day. Still, we all would have loved to see Quinn bring the first annual “sack award” back to where it belongs; with the Rams!
6. Aside from that small detail, the St. Louis Rams did manage to hold Marshawn Lynch under 100 yards rushing and Russell Wilson under 200 yards passing. However, offensive turnovers and idiotic penalties essentially handed the Seattle Seahawks points on a number of drives. No one really wants to hear a rant about the officiating or about the immaturity of some of the St. Louis Rams’ roster… so, we’ll skip it.
7. Alec Ogletree officially de-throned James Laurinaitis as the “tackling machine” in St. Louis. The rookie will finish the season with 117 combined tackles, while Laurinaitis will round out the year with a pedestrian 116 on the season. Despite llittle-to-no attention, Ogletree should have a solid case for Defensive Rookie of the Year. Regardless, his 117 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 10 pass deflections, one interception, one defensive touchdown, and six forced fumbles are a solid start to, what most hope will be, a long career in St. Louis.
8. While the contact negotiations of Rodger Saffold will likely be the talking point of the St. Louis Rams offseason, the most “difficult” decision may revolve around the contract of Kendall Langford. Aside from being thrown out of the game yesterday for “contact with an official['s hat],” Langford has put together some brilliant performances in the second half of the season. In fact, dating back to Week 9 against the Tennessee Titans, Langford registered three Top 5 grades among interior defensive linemen against the run. Moreover, the converted 3-4 defensive end finished the season with 49 tackles (2nd among linemen), with five sacks, six tackles for a loss, and four pass deflections. While it certainly does not hurt to be lined up next to the best pass rusher in the NFL, Langford has shown that he has the ability to be a top tier interior 4-3 defensive tackle. However, he is currently sporting the eighth-highest average salary on the entire team, fourth-largest among defensive players. We’ll see if that stands this offseason…
9. Shoutout to Johnny Hekker for another brilliant performance on Sunday, booming seven punts for an average of 48.1 yard per kick. More impressively, the oft-deadly Golden Tate managed -2 yards returning on the day, thanks to some ferocious special teams play by Eugene Sims and Ray Ray Armstrong. Meanwhile, the “Pro Bowl snubbed” John Ryan watch as several of his punt return records circled the drain. After having allowed only 25 total return yards on the season, the Seahawks gave up 57 on Sunday, including a 32-yard, gamebreaker by Austin Pettis. So, while the numbers aren’t “official” at this point, Johnny Hekker should finish the season with the highest net average in the NFL and the fewest return yards allowed (Hekker: 79 yards to J. Ryan: 82) this season. Enjoy Hawaii, Mr. Hekker.
10. With this being the last “quick thoughts” of the season, we wanted to thank all of the St. Louis Rams players, coaches, and fans for an amazing season. Make sure to stick with us through the offseason, as we talk about the 2014 NFL Draft, the Combine, free agency, and more!