Since 2000, the St. Louis Rams have only made the Playoffs four times, and haven’t reached the postseason since 2004. Needless to say, that is a substantial drought; the 4th longest current streak in the entire NFL. Through those long nine seasons, the franchise has gone through a revolving door of front office figures and coaches until the perfect match was found. In 2012, Jeff Fisher, Les Snead and other aggressive front office executives were brought in to potentially “right the ship” and finish the re-building process. But, after two seasons of still failing to even break .500, let alone the playoffs, Rams fans and players are tired of it. It seems that the 2014 version of the Rams, though, have the most potential of ending that skid, but several things need to happen:
Sam Bradford must play like a No.1 overall pick
Drafted first overall in the 2010 draft, Sam Bradford was expected to be the future of the Rams. After a promising rookie campaign which found the Rams one win away from the Playoffs, it seemed that Bradford would be just that. But, after an injury plagued sophomore season, a mediocre 2012, and another injury shortened 2013, the “franchise quarterback” label that was placed on him when he was drafted has become a little cloudy. At the beginning of 2013, Bradford was on pace for a career year. He posted 1,600 passing years and a +10 touchdown-to-interception differential, but he tore his ACL in week 7 and the season came to a crashing halt. Going into 2014, Bradford has recovered well from that injury and is starting to throw at OTA’s. This is a great sign for both Bradford and Rams fans. If the former number 1 overall pick can play at the same level he did at the beginning of last season, the Rams are that much closer to a playoff run.
The young secondary needs to step up
The Rams have built a top tier defensive front seven behind All-Pro defensive tackle Robert Quinn, team captain James Laurinaitis and grinding defensive end Chris Long, but the secondary has been an Achilles’ heal. After losing veteran leader Cortland Finnegan this past offseason, the young, raw players on the Rams secondary have to come together as one to fill that void. Led by cornerback Janoris Jenkins, the Rams secondary has immense potential, but the “rookie mistakes” have begun to mount and are slowing their development down. Last season the Rams finished 19th overall in pass defense which is something to build on. With the additions of rookies Lamarcus Joyner and Maurice Alexander, the Rams secondary certainly have the ability to contend with the high-powered receiving cores around the league. If they can mature, the group will be able to come into their own and make the Rams defense one of the best in the league.
A true number 1 receiver must emerge
Since the departure of Torry Holt in 2008, the Rams have not had a true number 1 receiver for their quarterbacks to throw to. The closest thing Sam Bradford has had was Danny Amendola, but his size and his inability to play more than 8 games a season resulted in his departure from St. Louis. Now, The Rams receiving core looks like this: Tavon Austin, Chris Givens, Kenny Britt, Austin Pettis, Stedman Bailey, and Brian Quick along with other undrafted rookie free agents. After not drafting a wide receiver in the draft, one of those players will have to step up and be a true number one target for Sam Bradford. Out of all of them, so far, it seems that Kenny Britt may be that guy. Even though this is his first season in St. Louis and he struggled in his tenure with Tennessee, Jeff Fisher and the other coaches have praised Britts passion, intensity and playmaking ability so far at camp. Fisher said that Britt beat both Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson during 1 on 1 drills at camp and made a few impressive catches. This is a promising sight for Rams fans and it seems that Britt could be the guy that emerges from the shadows and has an impressive year. If he can, and the other receivers on the roster are able to all step up and make plays, they will give the Rams that chance at a playoff appearance.