The hope/excitement of the draft has yet to wane and with reports of Chris Long breezing through the love fest that was the Rams minicamp, thoughts of rookie sensations are sweeping through my head.
And with nothing much happening on the Rams front for awhile, what better time than to pull the cib webs off the ol' history book, crack it open and take a look back at some of the better rookie seasons in Rams history.
Unfortunately, you've got to have a long, really long memory for stuff like that, as football just hasn't established the footprint on the web that baseball has, where a click or two of the mouse gets you arse deep in history and tradition. So, I thought I'd break it down by memory, starting now with the Rams' history since coming to St. Louis in 1995. Again, not to slight the team's history, but I have a much better recollection of the Rams after they came to St. Louis than before. We'll get into the Los Angeles period later this week.
Kevin Carter, 1995
Taken by the Rams with the sixth overall pick in the 1995 draft , we all hope Chris Long enjoys a long and prosperous career like Carter's. In his rookie season, the team's first in a new city, playing in that old bowl shaped monument to the functionalist architecture of the 1960s, Carter started all 16 games, recorded 33 tackles, 6 sacks, and a safety for good measure.
Eddie Kennison, 1996
That's right, before he was the Chiefs' possession guy, he had a three season stint with the Rams , who drafted him 18th overall in the 1996 draft. His rookie season, it turns out, would be his most memorable for awhile, until he landed with LC in 2002. With the Rams in 1996, Kennison caught 54 passes for 924 yards and a 9 touchdowns. Not bad for the Tony Baks era. It would be his best season until 2004 with the Chiefs, when offensive coordinator Al Saunders' system helped EK, at 31, get his first 1000+ yard season and 8 TDs to boot. If there's ever been a reason to feel confident in the Rams WR picks, it's now, with Al Saunders on board.
Orlando Pace, 1997
There's not really much in the way of stats for the o-line, but Pace started 9 games for the Rams in his rookie season. That year, the Rams allowed 44 sacks and passed for 3,198 yards and 14 TDs. The year before, the Rams allowed 57 sacks, passed for 2,765 yards and 18 TDs. It was the beginning of something beautiful.
Tony Horne, 1998
Finding something good about the '98 season taxes even the most optimistic fans, but Horne picked up 1308 yards on 56 kick returns, including one for a 102 yard TD.
Torry Holt, 1999
Who didn't have a good season in 1999? Holt, the 6th overall pick in the draft , madea splash with 52 catches, 788 yards and 6 TDs, behind only the great Marshall Faulk and Isaac Bruce in receptions and receiving yards in the year the Greatest Show on Turf was born.
Kurt Warner, 1999*
Technically, Warner's rookie year was 1998, but since he made only one appearance and threw just 11 passes, maybe we can make an exception. Besides, Warner was kind of an exception already, getting his into to hte NFL in his late 20s. Anyway, it's not hard to remember Warner passing for 4353 yards and 41 TDs. It's easy to see why fan boards are still filled with "bring back Warner" posts.
Adam Archuleta, 2001
Fans take note, another Rams first round pick had an impact season in their rookie year. Arch Delux didn't lead the team in any one category, but the safety became a solid contributor out of the defensive backfield in his rookie year. He posted 2 sacks, 47 tackles, a forced fumble and 3 pass deflections.
Marc Bulger, 2002
Starting seven games in place of the injured Kurt Warner, Bulger made his mark as the future franchise QB passing for 1826 yards, 14 TDs and just 6 INTs.
Pisa Tinoisamoa, 2003
Arguably his best season so far . The Rams newest LB and 2nd round pick recorded 2 sacks, 67 tackles, 4 forced fumbles, 7 pass deflections and 3 INTs. Injuries have conspired to hide all that Pisa is capable of for the last two seasons, and the Rams will be counting on him to have a healthy and productive year in 2008.
Steven Jackson, 2004
Not his most memorable season by any means, but on 134 carries, SJ had 673 yards and 4 TDs. Faulk, who played in just 14 games that year, had 774 yards on 195 carries and just 3 TDs, ruining fantasy hopes across the country. Jackson also had 138 yards on 19 receptions.
Tye Hill, 2006
Sour times for Rams fans and rookies. You really have to get the magnifying glass out to see the team's bright spots in the middle part of this decade. Hill, the Rams first round pick, had 47 tackles, 6 pass deflections, and 3 INTs, tying him with Brown and Atogwe for the team lead in a season where the Rams defense was forgettable at best. His second year marred by injury, we're all anxious to see what Hill can do this year.
Clifton Ryan, 2007
You thought I was going to say Carriker here, huh? Well, intangibles aside, Ryan owns the better rookie numbers from last season. The surprise stand out from the 5th round played his way into an indispensible role at DT. In the process, he accumlated 24 tackles, 3 forced fumbles, and 2 sacks. Nothing huge, but enough to help put the Rams defense back on the road to respectability.
Ok, feel free to add your own picks in the comments below. The encouraging thing here is that there's a solid history of Rams rookies making their presence known right away. This season, there are several candidates to have a big impact on the team's fortunes. The easy pick is Chris Long, but guys like Donnie Avery, Keenan Burton, Roy Scheuning, John Greco, Justin King and even Mr. Irrelevant, David Vobora, could surprise us all. Care to venture a guess?