With organized team activities (OTAs) in the book, the St. Louis Rams coaching staff and players will head their separate ways for a month before reconvening at the start of training camp. With only a handful of non-padded, no-contact practices to evaluate players, it may seem a bit early to try and hammer out an opening day roster. However, with these next couple of weeks being the only true “dead period” in the NFL, predictions and depth chart analyses will become commonplace; assuming everyone can stay out of trouble until the end of July. So, with that in mind, how do we at Ramblin’ Fan see the offensive starting lineup playing out for Week 1 against Minnesota, based solely off OTA performances?
Quarterback: Sam Bradford
Barring some unforeseen setback in rehab, Sam Bradford will undoubtedly be under center to start in Week 1 for the St. Louis Rams. By all accounts, the former 1st overall pick has performed admirably in his first time back on the football field, shaking off some early rust and attempting to re-connect with his offensive weapons. No need to go any further with this “prediction”…
Running Back: Zac Stacy
Despite the speculation from Brian Schottenheimer (and Tre Mason) that the starting running back position would be “up for grabs” this offseason, it is hard to imagine anyone stealing the reins from Zac Stacy within the next two months. Few, if any, doubt that Tre Mason will snag a decent portion of the carried from the near-1,000 yard rusher. However, Mason is not only battling to outperform Stacy on the football field, but also having to learn an entirely new offense, with new terminology, new responsibilities, and new personnel. While it may be an “open competition,” Stacy will undoubtedly start off with a significant advantage. If he can stay healthy (a big “if”), then the starting job will be his versus the Vikings.
Wide Receiver: Kenny Britt, Chris Givens, Tavon Austin
So far, two names have stuck out in the receiving group: Kenny Britt and Stedman Bailey. Sadly, Bailey will be manning the sidelines in St. Louis until Week 6, serving out his four-game suspension for a failed drug test. However, Britt should have a solid chance at taking over one of the starting spots on the outside, and has certainly taken advantage of his opportunities on the field thus far. Britt, both physically and verbally, has stood out over the last couple of weeks on the field. To start off OTAs, the former-1st rounder introduced himself to the Rams’ defensive backs, burning each of the starting cornerbacks during one-on-one drills, which subsequently led to some extracurricular activities between he and Trumaine Johnson. By all accounts, Britt has been the best receiver on the field for St. Louis, and with Jeff Fisher looking to give his 2009 selection another shot, all signs point to Britt in the starting lineup to begin the season.
As for the other outside spot, the “starter” is still up in the air. Schottenheimer has praised the progression of Brian Quick, but it seems unlikely that he would jump from the bottom of the depth chart into one of the top spots in a single offseason. Austin Pettis may have a shot at that role, merely out of seniority and chemistry with Bradford. However, the smart money would be on Chris Givens, who might be the only “consistent” deep threat option on the receiver depth chart. After some struggles in his sophomore season, the Wake Forest product took a new approach this offseason, eliciting help from some all-time greats, and truly focusing on improving his craft. Assuming Kenny Britt is manning one side of the field, Givens should be able to comfortably settle in as the No.2 receiver, and will (hopefully) be able to take advantage of one-on-ones on the outside. While his skill set certainly seems like a solid match, opposite a true No.1 receiver, he will still have to “show out” during training camp to re-claim his starting spot.
Oh yea, Tavon Austin. We know that he’ll be in the slot…
Tight End: Jared Cook, Lance Kendricks
Much like quarterback, the tight end starters are pretty much locked into place. Cook will re-unite with Sam Bradford as the top tight end receiving option, and Kendricks will likely take the H-back role, shifting around the formation wherever he is needed. Cory Harkey may very well replace one of these players in the future, but as long as these two are under contract in St. Louis (and healthy), they will man the top two slots on the depth chart.
Offensive Line: Jake Long, Greg Robinson, Scott Wells, Rodger Saffold, Joe Barksdale
On paper, the St. Louis Rams might have one of the most talented offensive lines in the league. Jake Long and Scott Wells are both Pro Bowl-caliber starters, when healthy, and Rodger Saffold showed glimpses of All-Pro potential in his brief stint at guard last season. Joe Barksdale was outstanding on the right side of the offensive line last season, finishing the year ranked among the top at his position in pass protection. Greg Robinson was the first offensive lineman off the board in the 2014 NFL Draft, and has drawn comparisons to Hall-of-Famers like Orlando Pace and Jonathan Ogden.
However, off the paper, things aren’t so pristine. Jake Long is battling back from an ACL tear at the end of last season. Scott Wells hasn’t been healthy since his move to St. Louis, and has been sidelined for a majority of time this offseason. Even Rodger Saffold, who ended the year with a string of healthy games, has struggled to stay on the field over the last two seasons; losing his starting spot at right tackle to Joe Barksdale last season due to injury. Even Greg Robinson has reportedly “struggled” on the interior, after moving from left tackle to guard this offseason.
Questions marks aside, this will be the starting offensive line for the St. Louis Rams against the Minnesota Vikings, if everyone can stay healthy through training camp and the preseason. Let’s just hope their bodies can hold up for the grind of the regular season!