The offensive identity of the St. Louis Rams shifted greatly last season. The front office added a talented tight end in Jared Cook, and they drafted West Virginia receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey to compliment Chris Givens and Austin Pettis. All of a sudden Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer was a kid in a candy store. The Rams were set to create a pass first spread offense that harkened back to quarterback Sam Bradford’s Heisman winning days at Oklahoma.
Opening day against Arizona showed us a glimpse of how dangerous the Ram aerial attack could be when firing on all cylinders. Bradford shredded the Card’s defense for 299 yards and two touchdown tosses, en route to a QB rating of 100.7. As the season wore on however, the Rams struggled with becoming one-dimensional and they were losing by large deficits.
The emergence of RB Zac Stacy, the fifth-round pick out of Vanderbilt, completely changed how the Rams attacked defenses. We got to see a small sample of what the offense may look like next year with a healthy Bradford and an established running back behind him in the Jacksonville and Houston games.
Unfortunately all of that momentum was halted when Bradford tore his ACL in Carolina. The Rams then shifted completely away from the pass and they ran through Stacy for the rest of the season. They were able to get four wins, and most of them came from establishing the run and playing stout defense (with the exception of the Colts game – still laughing about that one).
With Bradford coming back healthy, the Rams may be tempted to use their stable of receivers and tight ends to spread out defenses again (especially with the addition of WR Kenny Britt and the emergence of Bailey). Schottenheimer should avoid falling in love with a pass heavy offensive scheme again. The Rams are in need of balance, forcing defenses to play the run and pass equally.
This strategy would utilize the variety of weapons the the receiving corps possesses and it would also add longevity to Stacy’s career and increase his effectiveness. Despite Stacy’s tackle breaking ability, if defenses are loading the box he may struggle – especially after he established himself as a legitimate ‘number one’ back last year. Teams will gameplan around shutting him down and the Rams need to be able to exploit them through the air when that happens.
The Rams have been searching for an offense identity and this year could be when they figure it out. The Blue and Gold are unique in that they have multiple tight ends sets, which they can use on the ground or through the air. TE Cory Harkey has been a boon for the offense’s potential. He is an adept blocker and a willing receiver, and he joins Cook and Lance Kendricks in what is potentially the deepest TE corps in the National Football League. Schottenheimer would be wise to use that strength to attack defenses in multiple ways, taking full advantage of their positional depth.