Make no mistake, this is a team that is building in 2012. In fact, you might even suggest that construction was the primary goal of this season for the St. Louis Rams. When you look at how many players from last years team washed out of the league, and actually didn't even play football this year, it becomes apparent that this team was in dire need of talent. The Fisher/Snead team has done a good job of infusing the team with young/athletic potential, so the question becomes-- how have they done so far, and where are they headed...
The Past: Weeks 1-8
Some Of The Good
- The team has been extremely competitive in almost every game (Hard to remember that in light of last weeks performance), and has show-cased a strong defense and hard hitting style of play.
- One of our biggest weaknesses from 2011, the secondary, has become a strength. Finnegan, Jenkins, Fletcher, and Johnson have proven that they can play at a high-level in the NFL.
- Our quarterback is slowly answering the call. I'd be lying if I said that I didn't often have my doubts about Bradford, but the fact of the matter is that he doesn't appear to be the problem on offense. When he has time to throw, he delivers an accurate ball, and can make elite throws down field.
- Robert Quinn looks like a young Dwight Freeney.
- We have a young deep threat in Chris Givens that looks like mix between Desean Jackson and Mike Wallace. Let's see if he can continue to ascend. He looks like one of the most successful wideouts of this years class so far.
Some Of The Bad
- The team that everyone said would get better as the season went on appears to be regressing instead. Our last few opponents have been tough, but Miami shouldn't have been the challenge that it was. Teams are figuring out our defense, and are fighting our conservative approach on offense with conservative defenses and aggressive offenses and special teams. Opponents are begging us to complete long drives, and so far we've yet to answer the call. There is a 'top' on the defenses we play each week, and even though Chris Givens is a threat, we play 95% of the game in a small box (self-imposed, or otherwise). Even our special teams, a unit perceived to be elite early in the year, has regressed the past 3-4 weeks.
- Brian Quick looks like it's his first day playing wide receiver every game he gets a chance. He has the physical talent, you can tell when he actually makes a play, but so far it looks like it might be hard to get him in position to make an impact this year and beyond.
- Injuries along the offensive line have masked the fantastic job Paul B. has done with this group. Imagine how much better this group could be if our starting 5 would have been able to stay healthy for the first half of the season.
- Safeties remain a terrible weakness on this team, and Animal Jr. needs their help in coverage. James appears to be having tough season, because he isn't getting the support he needs behind him in this defense.
The Future: Weeks 8-17 and Beyond
- The bye week will give our team time to get healthy. We should look forward to having Wells, Amendola, Hunter, Sims, and Saffold back. We all know the impact that Danny makes, but Sims has been a huge help to the pass rush of 3rd down, and who knows how much better the O-line will be with an infusion of healthy talent. I will caution on Wells however, he has been out most of this year with injuries (even before the current one), so it's likely he may need more time to get in shape.
- Our coaching staff will rebound and figure out how to tackle the back-end of our schedule. Coaching made this team competitive this year, and in the last few games their strategies have been used against them. I would expect them to do a masterful job in the second half, and for us to start closing out some close games. I think most of us would put Jeff Fisher and his staff up against just about any other staff in the NFL, right?
- If we don't trade Jackson, I said "if", we look to have a powerful running attack that is just getting started. Heck, even Isiah Pead was spotted last week in garbage time, and he looked pretty good when he was given space to run. Pead may not be a bust yet!
- We have a basket full of draft picks, and the front end of this years draft class offers a multitude of need-fillers. You name it, safety, tackle, wide receiver, they are all there for picking this year. Also, Washington appears to be making sure we get a top 10 pick again.
- There are certain things the bye week won't fix this year. Issac Bruce and Torry Holt will not be walking out of the tunnel on Sundays. Sam Bradford is going to have to make do the rest of the year with poor weapons at tight-end and wide-out behind a shaky offensive line. Our defense is stuck with two in the box safeties who will continue to give up middle range passes in the middle of the field.
- It appears Steven Jackson will soon be leaving St. Louis sooner or later, and this means filing another hole that was once filled by a perennial pro-bowler. Although Richardson has been good, he has yet to prove he can carry a full-load over time. Maybe Pead is his partner, but maybe not.
- We will enter a 4th season with one of the highest paid quarterbacks in the league, and even reasonable fans will still wonder if he is "the guy" for this franchise.
- Our playoff hopes look to be incredibly slim again this year. Let's be honest, that's what we all wanted deep down this year no matter how ridiculous it seemed.
You always have to take the good with the bad, and this year is no different; however, it's obvious that the arrow is pointing up on the future of the Rams. The second half of this season will tell us a lot about this teams future, and I for one am excited.
The Future Freaks Me Out