Dec 8, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; A detailed view of a St. Louis Rams helmet during warm ups before the first quarter against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the rams 30-10. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sport
Going into every season, there are always a lot of question marks that circle around teams. The Rams are no different, and they, perhaps, have the most questions that need answering. Heres a few that are some of the most important things that fans will be looking for heading into the new season:
Will Sam Bradford finally break-out?
This is a question that Rams fans have been asking for quite some time. Sam Bradford was drafted 1st overall in 2010 and was expected to be the quarterback of the future; the guy that was finally going to get the team out of the basement. In his rookie year, it looked like that statement would be true. Bradford got the Rams one win away from the playoffs, but came up just short in a tough loss against Seattle. Then, an injury shortened sophomore season kept the team below .500 for another season. In his third year, the Rams played well in one of the toughest divisions in football, going 4-1-1 throughout the season in the division, but that wasn’t enough to get into the payoffs either. And finally, last season, Bradford started out phenomenally. Posting 1,600 yards, 14 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions to start the season, but tragically tore his ACL in week 7 and the season was all but over. Now, heading into his make-or-break season, Bradford needs to preform well to continue to play in St. Louis; the time is now. All the pieces are there for him to be successful, too. The Rams have arguably one of the better defenses in the league, a solid run game with Zac Stacy and decent receivers. The Rams are a team that could make the playoffs this year (or go above .500) if they get good play out of Bradford. If he plays like he did at the beginning of last year, they will do just that, but if he plays poorly, it will be another year of mediocre play out of the Rams.
Will the defensive line live up to the hype?
After the draft, the Rams seemingly have one of the best defensive lines in all of football. Lead by veteran workhorse Chris Long and All-Pro defensive end Robert Quinn, the Rams line has solid anchors on the outside. Then, you add the mammoth Michael Brockers and rookie run-stopper Aaron Donald, it seems that the Fearsome Foursome has been revived. The Rams have already coined the unit “#SackCity”. Over the past few seasons, the Rams defensive fronts have consistently been able to get pressure on the quarterback. The Rams lead all of football in total sacks over the past 3 seasons with 144 total sacks. That total will only increase with the addition of Donald who had 11 sacks and 16 QB hurries in his senior season at Pitt. This is a question that will leave little doubt. The Rams defensive front has been their most consistent unit over the past few seasons and we can expect that to continue in 2014.
Can Zac Stacy produce the same numbers he did last season?
In the beginning of the season last year, the Rams run game was almost nonexistent. It wasn’t until week 4 that Zac Stacy came into the starting role, and he took the bull by the horns and took over the Rams backfield. In his 12 starts last year, the 225 pound Stacy rumbled for 973 yards on 250 carries and found the end zone 7 times. These kinds of numbers put the league on watch. Stacy was second among rookies in rushing during that 12 game span and the Rams will certainly be looking for that same production next season. They drafted Auburn running back Tré Mason in the third round of this years draft so it seems that the Rams will have a two-headed monster in the backfield with Stacy’s power and Mason’s speed. But, Stacy is expected to be the started. Even though Mason will take some carries away from Stacy, we can still expect the same type of production out of Stacy seeing how he still split carries last year with Daryl Richardson and Benny Cunningham and he still almost ran for 1,000 yards. Match that kind of run game with (hopefully) Bradford’s good quarterback play, it would seem that the Rams offense could be dangerous in 2014.
Will the secondary finally come into their own?
Over the past few seasons, the Rams secondary have been the achilles heal of the defense. Now, they are a very young, raw unit that needs to mature as a core before they try to rival top-tier secondaries like Seattle’s L.O.B. and New England’s up and coming unit, but for now the Rams unit seems to be rising, hopefully. After Cortland Finnegan was cut earlier this offseason, third year man Janoris Jenkins is the most veteran player in the secondary. This isn’t necessarily bad, but its not good either. The Rams added Lamarcus Joyner in the draft that will help solidify the corners, but the safety position is still a big question mark. T.J. MacDonald is a guy that can play physical over the top, but he cannot do it alone. It will be interesting to see ifs rookie Maurice Alexander can produce, even though he was drafted in the later rounds. This is a question that could easily go either way. If they can use their lack of age to their advantage and use their raw talent and physical play to break up passes, the secondary will be able to move in a positive direction, however, if they continue to make poor mistakes and get burned like they have in years past, it will be another long season pass defensively for the Rams.