Can the St Louis Rams dispel the penalty curse in 2015?

Much has already been written this offseason about the changes to the Rams roster and coaching staff, and how the changes may affect the teams’ playoff chances. One aspect that will also need to change in 2015 is the tally of penalties. As all Rams fans know, flags have come often and fast in recent years, often setting the team back in crucial situations.

In 2014, the Rams gave up 1139 yards in penalties, third in the NFL. In 2013 it was 1009 (6th) and in 2012 it was 973 (5th). No other team has been featured in the league’s top six in total penalty yards in each of the last three seasons. The Rams three-year total of 3121 is surpassed only by Baltimore (3226) and Seattle (3552).

Breaking it down further, it is no coincidence that the Rams offensive struggles mirror the number of flags thrown against them. In 2014 St Louis were tied for 7th for the number of false starts conceded, 1st for count and total yards lost for offensive pass interference and were 1st for most yards conceded for offensive holding. These kinds of penalties kill an offense – particularly an offense without a recognised starting quarterback and a line lacking in quality such as the Rams had last year.

Oct 20, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; NFL head linesman John Schleyer (21) picks up a penalty flag during the game between the Indianapolis Colts against the Denver Broncos in the second quarter at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Going into 2015 with a new offensive coordinator and a new quarterback, the young Rams offensive line will have to be far tighter and more disciplined if the team is to make a realistic push for the playoffs. Having shown some signs of promise in 2014, Greg Robinson will need to really make the left tackle spot his own and play like a number two overall draft pick. With rookies Jamon Brown and Rob Havenstein both projected to start on the right side of the line along with potential center Tim Barnes who took just 9 snaps last year, the young linemen will need to quickly adjust to some of the powerful defensive lines that appear on this year’s schedule.

With high hopes for Tre Mason in year two along with this year’s first round selection Todd Gurley, it is no secret the Rams will be keeping the ball on the ground a lot this year. For that game plan to work, the offensive line has to keep tight and not concede penalties such as the holding calls that have plagued the team recently. It is accepted that the officials don’t always got things right, and that certain games (last season’s loss to the Cowboys springs to mind right away) may well have turned very differently. That said, all too often the team shot itself in the foot by making errors and drawing penalties at key points. Can the young team show sufficient maturity and discipline to cut the flag count? The season may depend upon it.