Boom And Bust In St. Louis
By Shlomo Sprung
There may be 53 men on each active roster, but any executive, pundit or fan can tell which player helps or hurts the team the most. These players stick out with their triumphs and blunders, game-winning touchdowns, game-saving tackles or embarrassing butt-fumbles on national television.
Some players have been pleasant surprises, while others bitterly disappointing. You get the point. We've pinpointed one St. Louis "boom" player and one "bust" player from the 2012 Rams season. Commens and criticisms are always welcome.
Boom: Janoris Jenkins, CB
The last time a rookie had four takeaways for touchdowns was 1981, when some defensive back named Ronnie Lott did it, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. For a second-round pick from North Alabama to be mentioned in the same sentence as Lott is an incredible accomplishment and a credit to the front office for drafting a guy like Jenkins, who was labeled a "project."
In addition to his 73 total tackles and his game-changing turnovers, St. Louis won both the games in which Jenkins returned picks to the house. Jenkins was a major contributing factor in the team's improvement on defense.
Football Outsiders' Defensive-adjusted Value Over Average metric (DVOA) ranked the Rams the No. 21 defense in 2011. Jenkins helped that unit rise to the 7th rated defense in the NFL in DVOA in 2012. The cornerback combination of Jenkins and Courtland Finnegan helped the team give up fewer big pass plays last season. St. Louis allowed only seven passes of 40 or more yards, ranked 10th in the NFL last season, five fewer than the number of big pass plays allowed in 2011.
Clearly the new corner combo is working, and Jenkins was a huge success in 2012.
Bust: Danny Amendola, WR
It's hard to make a significant impact on a football team when you can't stay on the field. Danny Amendola was a fantastic possession receiver, but he's started a total of nine games over the last two seasons combined. His 85-catch season in 2010 is now a distant memory because he's developing a reputation as an injury prone player. He caught 63 balls last year in 11 games, he missed time with a broken collarbone, in eight starts, but on 101 targets. FootballOutsiders rated him the 64th best wide receiver last season at only 40 yards above replacement level. Recently released WR Titus Young was nine spots ahead of Amendola in this ranking.
Let's pretend we shouldn't penalize Amendola because he can't stay healthy. Over the last three games of the regular season, when he was believed to be finally healthy, Amendola was targeted 28 times and recorded only 12 catches for 90 yards. He's now a free agent, and the Rams have to weigh whether an injury-prone possession receiver is worth keeping. Whatever ends up happening to him, he certainly did not help his case in 2012.
While the defense appears to be in good shape, this offseason will be a critical one for the team to improve its offense. Bringing back Amendola would only be prudent if it were at a discount. Jenkins, on the other hand, has a bright future with the team.