Dec 8, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; St. Louis Rams wide receiver Tavon Austin (11) runs the ball during the third quarter against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the rams 30-10. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

St Louis Rams Alternative 'Making The Leap' List

This week the NFL Media’s Around the League team concluded their ‘Making The Leap’ series on their website and podcast, listing the top 25 players who, in their view, will enjoy a big increase in performances and profile in 2014 compared to last season. Looking at the list with Rams-tinted glasses on, one glaring fact stands out. No one on St Louis’ roster has made the list. There are a number of possible explanations for this which may fill several articles themselves, but regardless of the reasons for the lack of Rams in the ATL crew’s list, there is a strong case to make for several members of the St Louis Rams to make the leap:
Tavon Austin: The number 8 overall pick from a year ago showed flashes of brilliance in his rookie season, most notably against Indianapolis where Austin finished with 3 touchdowns and 310 all-purpose yards. That said, Austin was drafted for his speed out of the slot and potential to make huge yardage after the catch. Given Sam Bradford’s past tendency to look for Austin’s predecessor in the slot, Danny Amendola, and (rightly or wrongly) the over-reliance of Brian Schottenheimer to base the offensive scheme around the running game and short-range passing, the hope of all Rams fans going into 2013 was that the former West Virginia man would have an instant impact. As it turned out, catching 4 touchdown passes and accumulating only 418 receiving yards represented quite a modest tally. Interestingly, these numbers are remarkably similar to the 4 touchdowns and 469 yards registered last year by Cordarelle Patterson of St Louis’ week one opponents, Minnesota, who the Around The League crew placed at number 1 in their list. Heading into his second season, with a revived Sam Bradford taking the snaps and an increased awareness and anticipation of how opposing defensive backs will be coming after him, expect to see great things from Austin in 2014.
Alec Ogletree: The second of St Louis’ first round draft picks in 2013 (thank you Washington Redskins,) Ogletree had a great rookie season. Leading the team with 94 solo tackles (117 combined), finishing behind only Robert Quinn in the Tackle-For-Loss column with 11, and weighing in with a 98-yard pick-six against Houston, Ogletree certainly looked immediately at home in the NFL. While the Rams brought in multiple reinforcements for the secondary in the 2014 draft with Larmarcus Joyner, Mo Alexander, EJ Gaines and Christian Bryant, the linebacker corps saw no additions, giving us no cause to suspect Ogletree will see less playing time in 2014 thereby giving him every opportunity to put up high numbers again. With Gregg Williams taking over the reigns as defensive co-ordinator, there is every reason to believe Ogletree will be used to the full and become a real defensive star for St Louis, gaining national recognition accordingly.
Joe Barksdale: Maybe one to raise a few eyebrows, but 2014 could really see Barksdale thrive. Rated by Pro Football Focus as the most under-rated offensive lineman on the Rams roster, the 5th overall on the entire team, it is clear the potential is there. Few can argue that the Rams line under coach Paul Boudreau has not improved, and Barksdale has cemented his place firmly within that line. Of further note is the fact that next off-season will see Barksdale as an unrestricted free agent, thereby giving him every incentive to show the Rams front office as well as the rest of the league what he is capable of. With quarterback Sam Bradford returning from the ACL injury, the offensive line will be under renewed pressure to keep him upright. Throughout 2013, Barksdale’s name was mentioned increasingly often as one of the better performing right tackles in the league. With an extra year maturity, experience and knowledge, 2014 should see this trend continuing.

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Tags: Alec Ogletree Joe Barksdale St. Louis Rams Tavon Austin

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