Rams Getting Offensive Or Defensive?
By Matt Moreno
The offense got a huge facelift this offseason. The Rams put a necessary emphasize on improving one of the league’s worst offenses and the moves should pay off. Sam Bradford’s top two receivers (Danny Amendola, Brandon Gibson) and reliable running back Steven Jackson all skipped town for greener pastures. In addition, the make-shift offensive line needed some rebuilding and depth.
The Rams signed Jake Long and Jared Cook back-to-back to give a veteran presence to the line. Cook, aside from being an above-average blocking tight end, is also an above-average receiver. Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey will fill the holes Amendola and Gibson left nicely, and most likely better. Amendola could have been a playmaker, but never seemed to unleash true home-run power. Gibson was a good possession receiver, but never broke tackles or had elusive speed. Austin has the hands and the speed. Stedman is physical for his size and can nab any ball near him.
The surprise of this group may be Zac Stacy. Stacy, a fifth-round draft pick out of Vanderbilt, will get his share of touches. What he does with those touches is all on him. Isaiah Pead’s one-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy puts Stacy one step closer to making a big impact as a rookie. The only one in Stacy’s way appears to be Daryl Richardson. While Richardson played admirably last year, he is not an every-down NFL back. Stacy could be this year’s Alfred Morris.
Key additions: Jake Long, Jared Cook, Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, Zac Stacy
Key Departures: Steven Jackson, Danny Amendola, Brandon Gibson
The defense will see many of the same faces. It was a decent quad last year, largely in part to James Laurinaitis, Chris Long and talented cornerbacks Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins. The defense got even stronger with the addition of Alec Ogletree. The first-round pick slides in perfectly with Jo-Lunn Dunbar to patrol the weakside. The defensive line is overflowing with talent, thanks to previous drafts. Alongside Chris Long (2008 first-round pick), Robert Quinn (2011 first-rounder) and Michael Brockers (2012 first-rounder) are sure starters for the front four. Eugene Simms (2010 sixth-rounder) and William Hayes gives the Rams some great depth at the defensive end position.
Key additions: Alec Ogletree, T.J. McDonald
Key Departures: Quintin Mikell, Craig Dahl
Winner: Defense (barely)
There are too many question marks on offense to know exactly where they sit. How good is Tavon Austin? Who will be the starting running back? Can Sam Bradford get it together? If everything gels together, they could be amazing. Of course, the NFL isn’t a perfect world. If the injury bug bites the offense, there’s not enough depth to overcome many situations.
The defense is much closer to being top tier. There’s not much that changed, but not much needed to. Nine of the 11 starters on defense are reliable guys and recognizable names. Up the middle, teams will need to fear running the ball. On the outside, Finnegan and Jenkins will have no trouble shutting down the pass game.
The only issue is safeties. The Rams haven’t signed anyone special and passed on a group of talented defensive backs in the NFL draft until getting an unproven talent in T.J. McDonald in the third round. St. Louis will need to find a diamond in the rough to make the defense a complete package. Still, the position and team defense should improve – considering Craig Dahl was a starter last year.