In amongst all the Shurmur bashing, criticising of Spags for being conservative, remembering of gamebreaking misses, and rueing of potential trades we could have made, I think it’s a good opportunity to have a look at the good decisions and personnel moves that Devaney and Co. made this season.
1. Getting Rid of Players:
Alex Barron, sad to lose a fan favourite. LINK
Adam Carriker, was a poor fit in 4-3, we essentially got Eugene Sims and Hall Davis in return, seems hardly groundbreaking but Carriker was just a known quantity who the coaching staff believed didn’t suit the team.
Randy McMichael, there are only so many drops we can take.
Marc Bulger, probably not a good idea to let Sam see what we let happen to him.
Claude Wroten, far from four pillars.
2. Free Agent Acquisitions:
Fred Robbins, considered a solid if not unimpressive pickup, played well above expectations. Hopefully he can continue it for a few years whilst we further build the D-line.
A.J. Feeley, good mentor for Sam, I was worried he would be our starter at first, definitely useful to have his experience when working with our main man.
Na’il Diggs, considered a decent veteran, played at a solid to good level before injury. A reliable fill-in whilst the rebuilding continues.
Danario Alexander, you all wanted him, and he delivered, for the most part. Credit to Devaney for making it happen, hopefully science makes some gains in android knee technology soon.
Sam Bradford, I can’t say anything you haven’t heard already, but he’s the main reason I’m optimistic about our future. Sure, Suh can kick field goals, but I don’t know if he can run a two minute drill.
Rodger Saffold, a lot of people thought other positions were in greater need, myself included. Saffold quickly made us forget about that decision. Turns out that anyone hoping for Jerry Hughes was a bit of a goose, with even Colts GM Bill Polian saying it would have been a better idea to draft Saffold instead LINK. Smart pick. So far the draft could be considered a success on these two picks alone
Mike Hoomanawanui, promising in pre-season and very good in a few games this year, injuries got the better of him, but the offense looks better when he’s in it.
George Selvie, useful rotational lineman, deserving of a roster spot. Good value pick.
4. Starting Rookies:
Starting Sam from the beginning, and for the entire season. We wouldn't have been talking playoffs without this move.
Starting Saffold on the left, shifting Smith to the right. It played to our strengths, protecting Sam's blindside with the better pass blocker.
Mark Clayton, we picked him up for swapping a 6th round pick for a 7th. He had some drops but made a hell of a lot of catches in just a few games and developed a great combination with Sam. I’ll honestly be shocked if he doesn’t come back next year.
6. Returning Players Who Played Better Than Expected:
James Hall, over ten sacks, no-one on the outside saw this coming, he’s getting on in years, you can’t tell though. Excellent year, and let’s be honest here, it must have in part had to do with coaching and the co-beneficial play of teammates.
Danny Amendola, I’m sick of people calling him a poor-man’s Wes Welker. This year he proved he’s far from anyone’s "poor-man". One of the most well-liked players on the team, and deservedly so. This is just freaky: LINK
Craig Dahl, a tackling machine, at times he was the life of our defense. Sometimes has issues in coverage, but has been a pleasant surprise ever since joining the team.
7. Returning Players Who Were Expected to Improve, and Did:
Chris Long, explodes to the QB faster than anyone can yell ‘bust’ (which many tried before this year), an intimidating rusher, he just doesn’t stop. This is the guy we were expecting him to end up as.
Bradley Fletcher, showed solid improvement, starting pretty much the entire season.
Jason Smith, had his issues this year but only had half a rookie year so it didn’t take much to improve, his run-blocking was pretty good. His improvement was marginal, but as long as he continues to improve we really shouldn’t complain.
James Laurinaitis, he was a beast in his rookie year, now he’s a monster. Don’t be disrespecting his coverage skills. LINK
Main Positive Points:
1. Overachieving defense, led by a pretty damn good defensive coach.
2. Young and promising offense who can only improve.
3. Quality team character, with ultra-competitive leaders.
What I’m trying to get at is that even though some of the Rams season was mediocre, much of it wasn’t, and that’s why I’m optimistic for the future. This season was a success in the context of previous years. Who will step up next year? Donnie Avery? Fendi Onobun? Jerome Murphy?
It finally feels good again to be a Rams fan. Feel free to add stuff I’ve missed or criticise what I’ve got.