St. Louis Rams: Unit Grades, The 53 Man Roster And The Upcoming Season

I have been a Ram fan for 43 years now and have seen over the years the highest of highs and the lowest of lows from our beloved Rams. This 2012 offseason has been one of the busiest, most exciting, well executed and productive offseasons in many a year. The hiring of Jeff Fisher and Les Snead, quality free agent signings, the big trade, the excellent 2012 draft, the hiring of a first rate coaching staff, a top ranked UDFA class and impressive OTA's have us all feeling optimistic and confident that the franchise is in the beginning stages of building a special team with a bright future.

We are now anxiously awaiting the start of training camp, preseason games and the first kickoff of the new season. After all of the above-mentioned good things that have happened (and the massive changes that have occurred) so far this year it is a good time to look at how our team shapes up heading into training camp. How are the individual units on the offensive and defensive side of the ball grading out going into camp? How good can they potentially be? How many new faces will make the roster? How many wins can we expect from all of the changes?

The first thing I needed to do was to create a system for grading the individual units. I decided on using a lettering system of A, B and C (with +'s and -'s for each letter as well) as the basis for grading a unit. From there I positioned the 32 NFL teams to reflect where each team or unit would fall in the grading scale depending on how they would rank overall in the NFL. The grading scale is as follows in the chart below:

A+ (1-4)

A (5-8)

A- (9-12)

B+ (13-14)

B (15-17)

B- (18-20)

C+ (21-24)

C (25-28)

C- (29-32)

For example, if a linebacking unit was in the top ten in the NFL (lets say 8'th), it would get a grading of A.

It should be noted that 12 teams had winning records last year. 8 teams were 8-8. The remaining 12 teams had losing records. The grading scale places the top 12 teams in the "A" range of grades, the 8-8 teams fall in the "B" range of grades and the teams with losing records fall into the "C" range of grades.

Each unit will have in it the players that I predict will make the 53 man roster. Each unit will be assigned two grades: one for where the unit is at this point and one for where the unit could potentially be at by seasons end. The average grade for all of the units combined will then be used to predict our record for the upcoming season (the average grade being weighted to reflect the importance and impact of some positional units over others).

Offensive Line


C Scott Wells

G Harvey Dahl

G Bryan Mattison

T Jason Smith

T Rodger Saffold

Reserves: Robert Turner, Rokevious Watkins, Quinn Ojinnaka, Barry Richardson

There are many question marks surrounding the offensive line. Will Saffold and Smith rebound from injuries and poor performances in 2011? Will the left guard position be a liability this season? Will the line gel and become a cohesive unit this season? The addition of C Scott Wells should be a boost to the line and to Sam Bradford. Dahl is solid and will remain so. The Rams added experienced depth in Turner, Ojinnaka and Richardson. Watkins, who will need some development, shows promise. The offense being installed should benefit this line immensely. If the question marks are resolved in a positive manner the line will be able to approach its potential grade.

Unit Grade C Potential Unit Grade B-

Wide Receivers


WR Brian Quick

WR Danny Amendola

Reserves: Steve Smith, Chris Givens, Greg Salas, Austin Pettis

Both Brian Quick and Chris Givens were drafted this year and are welcome additions. Both are talented but will need some time to develop and adjust to the NFL. The addition of Steve Smith may pay big dividends if he can return to pre-injury form. Both Greg Salas and Danny Amendola return from shortened 2011 seasons due to injury. Bradford is counting on a return to form of his favourite wide receiver (Danny Amendola). There are many question marks that need to be answered for this unit to achieve results worthy of its potential. Can Amendola, Salas and Smith fully rebound from injuries? How much production can we expect of first year receivers Quick and Givens?. This unit shows great promise and should produce better results than last years wide receiver corps.

Unit Grade C Potential Unit Grade B-

Tight Ends


TE Lance Kendricks

Reserves: Mike Hoomanawanui, Matthew Mulligan

Lance Kendricks is the key here. His upside is high. He had some problems as a rookie (route running and dropped passes) that need to be overcome in order to reach his vast potential. The Rams are counting on a healthy Hoomanawanui to add another weapon to this unit. Questions marks abound here as with the wide receiver unit. Health and the development of Kendricks are the key concerns. It is possible the Rams will carry four tight ends, in which case the favourite would be Deangelo Peterson.

Unit Grade C Potential Unit Grade B-

Running Backs


RB Steven Jackson

FB Brit Miller

Reserves: Isaiah Pead, Darryl Richardson

Steven Jackson and 1000+ yards rushing are almost a sure thing every year. The addition of Isaiah Pead is intriguing. He should provide a nice change of pace alternative. Pead will likely line up with Jackson at times to create all kinds of problems for opposing defenses. Both Jackson and Pead are excellent receivers, adding another dimension to the Rams passing attack. Experienced depth could be an issue for this unit. Losing Jackson to injury for any prolonged period could jeopardize the Rams season.

Unit Grade B+ Potential Unit Grade A-



QB Sam Bradford

Reserves: Kellen Clemens, Austin Davis

Many things conspired to ruin Bradford's 2011 season. Poor receiver and line play, injuries (including his own high ankle sprain that is still a concern), a new offensive system that had little time to be implemented and wasn't suited to his talents were all contributing factors to his season. A return to the performance level of his rookie season is both expected and needed in order for the Rams to achieve any success in the upcoming season. The new/old offense being installed this year is more suited to/better complements Bradford's abilities and he should thrive in it. The addition of Scott Wells should help him in many ways. The drafting of Quick, Givens and Pead and the return of Amendola from injury should provide a better stable of weapons for Bradford to use. Clemens is an ok backup. Expect Austin Davis to become the third quarterback.

Unit Grade C+ Potential Unit Grade B

Defensive Line


DE Chris Long

DE Robert Quinn

DT Michael Brockers

DT Kendall Langford

Reserves: William Hayes, Trevor Laws, Eugene Sims, Darell Scott

The Rams made some drastic changes to the defensive line this offseason. Older players llike Robbins, Bannan and Hall were let go in favour of younger and more talented players. Depth and the lines inability to contribute to stopping the run were the main deficiencies of last years unit. The additions of Brockers, Langford, Laws and Hayes addressed both concerns. This unit has the potential to be the best on the team this coming season. Brockers should immediately upgrade the run defense. Langford should push the pocket and with coaching may be able to be a plus in the run defense. Look for Quinn to continue to improve. Long has the potential to be a Pro Bowler this year. Hayes is an underrated addition to this line. 40 sacks and allowing 25 yards less rushing per game are attainable goals for this unit.

Unit Grade B Potential Unit Grade A-



MLB James Laurinaitis

OLB Jo-Lonn Dunbar

OLB Rocky McIntosh

Reserves: Josh Hull, Mario Haggan, Sammy Brown, Aaron Brown

Laurinaitis is the mainstay of this unit and the heart and soul of the defense. His numbers should improve this year with better DL play and he has the potential to finally make the Pro Bowl. The gradings for this unit would go down significantly without his presence. The Rams neglected to address the OLB position in the draft with an earlier pick. They did add Aaron Brown in the 7'th round and two intriguing UDFA's in Alex Hoffman-Ellis and Sammy Brown. Special teams will benefit from the young additions. The additons of Dunbar, McIntosh and Haggan are not long-term answers. They should help though in making the unit somewhat stronger than last years unit.

Unit Grade C+ Potential Unit Grade B-



CB Cortland Finnegan

CB Janoris Jenkins

Reserves: Trumaine Johnson, Bradley Fletcher, Jerome Murphy, Josh Gordy

This is another unit that underwent a major overhaul in the offseason. Jenkins and Johnson were added in the draft. Finnegan was signed as a free agent. These additions instantly upgrade the position and make the unit the deepest (and potentially the best) on the team. Finnegan comes close to being a shut down corner and Jenkins comes out of the draft with top ten talent. There is concern regarding depth if Fletcher and Murphy have trouble coming back to form from last seasons injuries. There is concern with the likelihood of a rookie starter this year. Jenkins should be able to quell those concerns as the season progresses.

Unit Grade B+ Potential Unit Grade A-


S Quintin Mikell

S Darian Stewart

Reserves: Matthew Daniels, Craig Dahl

Mikell is a solid contributor but is turning 32 this year. Stewart has shown promise and big play ability but needs to cut down on his amount of missed tackles. Depth is very thin here and the Rams do not seem inclined to convert a cornerback to safety. Daniels was a nice pickup as a UDFA and should make the team. Dahl is not an ideal solution for depth but he is the only other experienced safety on the 90 man roster.

Unit Grade C+ Potential Unit Grade B-


K Greg Zuerlein

P John Hekker

LS Jake McQuaide

Having two rookie kickers on your team is always a risk to some degree. Both Zuerlein and Hekker have the potential to be upgrades over last years kickers. The jury is out on this unit.

Unit Grade C Potential Unit Grade B-

Overall Team Grade C+ Potential Overall Team Grade B

The team grade of C+ translates to a 6-10 record for the upcoming season. However, this team has the potential to rise to an 8-8 record (B grade). As the players become more familiar with the systems being put in place, the rookies grow as the year progresses, veterans returning from injury find their way back to form and the coaching staff does their part in improving the units as the season progresses it is more than possible that this team reaches towards its potential during the upcoming season. As an interesting note, if my roster projections hold true then the Rams will have only 26 holdovers from last year. The team will have 27 new players: 13 free agents, 10 current year draft picks and 4 UDFA's.

The Practice Squad

TE Deangelo Peterson

TE Jamie Childers

OL T-Bob Hebert

OL Joe Long

RB Calvin Middleton

DE Scott Smith

LB Alex Hoffman- Ellis

S Rodney McLeod

Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Here's to a great season.

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