Dec 15, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Kenny Stills (84) looks to avoid St. Louis Rams free safety Rodney McLeod (23) as he carries the ball during the first half at the Edward Jones Dome. Mandatory Credit: Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports

Way-Too-Early Predictions For The St. Louis Rams 2014 Starting Lineup


 

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?

starters

 

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

  • Henry Owen

    Nathan, d’you think Stedman Bailey will replace Pettis once his suspension is up? Also who’s going to fill the other OLB spot on 3-linebacker downs, Dunbar or Armstrong?

    • Nathan Kearns

      Not sure how the roster will shake up by Week 6 (when Bailey returns). If whoever is starting is playing well, Bailey will likely have lost his opportunity and likely settle for special teams reps as his primarily means of getting on the field. If not, he’ll still have to battle his way up the depth chart, especially with Brian Quick in his “breakout third year”

      In terms of Ray Ray, I just don’t see it happening. I like him, but primarily as a special teams ace, tagging along with Daren Bates. Armstrong got no experience on defense last season, and likely won’t take the reins from Dunbar, who knows Gregg Williams’ defensive scheme better than anyone on the roster. In all honestly, Etienne Sabino likely has as good of a chance to take reps at OLB than Armstong.

      • Henry Owen

        I agree with you on Ray Ray, but I don’t really think that Quick, Pettis or Britt are going to prove to be much better options than Bailey by week 6. I felt that he played some solid games towards the end of last year and should get a chance to prove that he can still play at a high level this year.

      • UhhDuhh

        I keep going back to the block Pettis threw on the Chicago LB on Tavon Austin’s reverse TD and I don’t see any other WR doing these effort plays and being sound in fundamentals like Pettis. Although not an “elite” WR, he keeps showng up as a reliable possesion guy, has the longest chemistry with Bradford and is big enough for the red zone. Otherwise, your predicted starters are spot on but the big question is McLeod at FS. Maybe Joyner can play FS and Gaines can come in as CB2 (he did shut down Evans) and Jenkins move to CB3 in the nickel.

        • https://twitter.com/HenryOwen1Seven Henry Owen

          Jenkins has the potential to be a top 10 outside corner in my mind, why move him inside in favour of Gaines?

          • UhhDuhh

            Because Jenkins can probably play the slot better. Or, if Reid can play the slot then Jenkins can stay outside but either way, McLeod has not shown he can be a solid safety so at this point, the only fit would be Joyner which means the slot has to be covered.

          • https://twitter.com/HenryOwen1Seven Henry Owen

            Play Gaines in the slot? Jenkins has shown, especially in his rookie year that he can play outside

          • UhhDuhh

            Not arguing with you Henry. Just speculating but its all moot now since just read Joyner will be the nickel. That still leaves FS as a weakspot unless McLeod progressed by leaps and bounds over the off season. Maybe Mo Alexander at FS? Don’t know but we’ll see I guess.

        • Nathan Kearns

          Austin Pettis has been far from reliable in his tenure with the St. Louis Rams. I picture him as less drop-prone version of Brandon Gibson; a player that is adequate on the field, but shouldn’t be a WR1 or WR2 in any respectable receiving corps. Pettis certainly had a nice block in that game, but that was the exception, not the rule.

          Sam Bradford has proven time and time again that he can quickly build chemistry with talents receivers (Amendola, Lloyd, Clayton, etc.). If Austin Pettis is the starter, then we are going to have a problem offensively.

          Also, in my opinion, EJ Gaines won’t even challenge for reps in the nickel. Greg Reid, Marcus Roberson, and Lamarcus Joyner as are superior talents, and he’ll have to make a name for himself on special teams or as a practice squad player if he wants to keep the golden horns. Mizzou fans don’t like to hear that, but his “shutdown” performance against Mike Evans was an aberration, helped by the injury to Johnny Manziel.

          With that said, I hope I’m wrong and Gaines turns into a stud nickelback

          • UhhDuhh

            I agree Pettis is not a 1 or 2 WR but I disagree in his being unreliable. As exapmples, he caught a behind the back pass on fourth down to keep the winning drive alive to beat the Bills two years ago and kept the drive alive and caught the TD pass that gave them the lead in SF that same year. I also notice Bradford always looking for him on third down as if Pettis is the only one he feels comfortable with to be in the the right place and run the correct route. As for Gaines, I just don’t feel confident McLeod can be our FS yet so that only leaves Joyner as a possible FS if McDonald moves up to the box. If Roberson and Reid can do a better job, you are not going to see me argue.

  • Gary Stewart

    no disrespect to mc leod but i hope someone out of the draftees can displace him, if he mcleod wins the job then our draft failed to secure the GUY!! i am with you on pettis if heart and desire was all thats needed he would easily be the #1 wr on the team unfortunately skill and athleticism are also needed and pettis comes up short in that area. baileys return to the field or the sideline may hinge on fishers feelings as to what and why the peds were used was he trying to heal or? fisher was not pleased with dunbars suspension but he played when he returned if bailey can perform and fisher believes in him bailey will be our other guy come week 6!!