With the 2014 NFL Draft out of the way, the next item that analysts will focus their attention on are the “project starting lineups” for all 32 teams. Much of that attention will be placed on the handful of teams that opted for a shiny, new quarterback in the Draft. Blake Bortles and Johnny Manziel, the prized signal callers in this year’s class, have been deemed “backups” by their respective teams for the upcoming season. However, with Chad Henne and Brian Hoyer as their competition, it is certainly not unfeasible to imagine both rookies taking the starting reins at some point this season; likely sooner, rather than later. However, pundits have not neglected to predict rosters for the rest of the league. In fact, NFL.com recently released their projected starting lineups for all 32 teams. So, how do they see the St. Louis Rams in 2014?
The vastly majority of the roster is already set in stone, barring some unforeseen setbacks in rehab for Jake Long or Sam Bradford. Both the offensive and defensive lines are locked in, assuming Scott Wells can stay healthy throughout the offseason workouts. The linebacking corps is solid, with Jo-Lonn Dunbar as the other “starting” outside linebacker in the Rams 4-3 base defense. Zac Stacy is the front-runner for the starting running back gig, with backing from both Les Snead and Jeff Fisher this offseason. So, where could there be a shakeup?
The two mystery units are, per usual, the receiving corps and the secondary. Trumaine Johnson, Janoris Jenkins, and T.J. McDonald will undoubtedly man their starting spots from last season. However, there are questions marks at both nickleback and free safety, with plenty of rookies competing for their shot at the openings. The Rams have suggested that Lamarcus Joyner, the Rams opening pick on Day 2 of the 2014 NFL Draft, will likely be filling the nickelback role in the upcoming year. However, with talented prospects like E.J. Gaines, Marcus Roberson, and Greg Reid, it isn’t unfathomable to project Joyner getting pushed back into the deep secondary, next to McDonald. Rodney McLeod was adequate, at best, in his shot at the starting role last season, but with new talent in Mo Alexander, Joyner, and a healing Christian Bryant, the “winner” in the battle for the centerfielder spot in the secondary is far from certain.
The question mark is equally large for the St. Louis Rams receiving corps, with sub-par play in 2013 and a new “wildcard” addition making the starters difficult to predict. Tavon Austin will most certainly be the starting slot receiver, with an excellent showing in the second half of the season, prior to his injury. Chris Givens and Austin Pettis are, to some extent, the elder statesmen in the corps. However, with Brian Quick hitting his magical “third year” and Kenny Britt coming on-board as a Jeff Fisher favorite, penciling in the WR1 and WR2 spots might be a little tricky. If you had to bet the house, Chris Givens is likely the “safest” pick for the starting role, after showing some promise in his rookie season, and demonstrating a willingness to re-dedicate himself to perfecting his craft this offseason. Austin Pettis may get the nod for the other spot, purely out of seniority. However, Jeff Fisher did not bring on Kenny Britt without the idea of giving him every opportunity to man a starting role in the offense. If Britt is anywhere near the cream of receiver crop at camp, expect him to get a shot early in the season as the starter. Thanks to the suspension of Stedman Bailey, the field is likely narrowed to only Pettis and Britt for that final “starting” position.
So, what would we change?
Without having seen any of these rookies in camp, it is hard to make these way-too-early predictions about the starting lineup. Mo Alexander was selected relatively high in the draft, which should make him, if nothing else, a player to keep your eye on for the starting role in the deep secondary. Marcus Roberson is arguably the most talent prospect in the cornerback class, and, if he can keep him mind and body straight, could certainly make a push for reps.
Our changes from NFL.com’s Week 1 starting roster:
WR2 – Kenny Britt
CB3 - Marcus Roberson
FS - Lamarcus Joyner
Unlike year’s past, there is actually a lot of talent in both the receiving corps and the secondary. We should have a much better idea about the “starters” as these rookies and new additions battle during their offseason workouts. For now, we’ll stick with these way-too-early predictions, and see how the next couple of months play out.
Tags: St. Louis Rams