Positives to Take Away from 2013

I'm new to the Fanpost game, so be gentle with me. I can't guarantee I'll have any groundbreaking stuff, but I'm just a fan wanting to chat about our St. Louis Rams.

There was a bittersweet feeling that swept over me as the clock wound down on today's disappointing 27-9 loss for the Rams. On one hand, there was the excitement for the upcoming offseason knowing the Rams have the 2nd picked locked up, as well as their own pick at 13. The draft is fun, but it's even better when your team is in the mix of things and could be wheeling and dealing come April.

On the other hand, knowing we won't see the fellas in Blue and Gold until next fall is always something that hits me like a ton of bricks. Whether they're competing for championships like back in the GSOT days or stumbling to a 1 or 2 win finish like the dark days of the Spagnuolo era, the end of a season means no more looking forward to a Rams game each week. No 3 hour blocks on Sunday where I give my undivided attention to my team regardless of their record.

That said, I try to be a positive person and here are the positives I take away from the just completed 2013 St. Louis Rams campaign.

1. Robert Quinn Is a Freakin' Animal

Defensive player of the year? I say yes. 19 sacks? Unbelievable. It's a shame he couldn't win the Deacon Jones Award for most sacks in a season, but a franchise record is nothing to look down upon. And even more, how many potential sacks by Quinn were erased by a hold that was never called? Is there anyway that can even be calculated? Someone smarter than I could probably look, but it seems that Quinn gets held on almost every other player and generally they aren't called.

That aside, we saw a special coming out party in Quinn this year. We've seen his potential since he suited up. The man became a force this year. He was so good, Chris Long tweeted that Quinn was the best player he's ever played with. Will we see 19 sacks from Quinn again? Hard to say. Getting one sack in the NFL can't be easy, getting 19 is something only a few special souls can do. But when I think back to 2013, I'll always remember the year Robert Quinn tore up offensive lines and gave quarterbacks nightmares.

And for all the bad things Spags and Devaney did, they gave us Quinn, so one hat tip to you fellas.

2. Zac Stacy Gets the Starting Nod

In the first four games of the season, the Rams' running game with Darryl Richardson and Isiah Pead was atrocious. I'm not going to look up numbers because chances are, they'll make me nauseous. Shortly thereafter, the Rams decided to turn the starting job over to Zac Stacy and he literally ran with it.

He fell just short of 1000 yards and while that's disappointing, remember he only had 1 carry for 4 yards in those first four games. Had he started all along, one could argue he might have been in the conversation for Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Alas, I'll remember Stacy as the human pinball who could bounce off would-be tacklers to pick up extra yards. Letting Steven Jackson walk was tough to see as a Rams fan, but watching Zac Stacy churn up yardage has softened that blow. Looking forward to seeing what #30 can do in year two.

3. The Tavon Austin Show

Did Tavon have a season that would live up to the 8th overall pick? Probably not. But the potential is there. The game breaking playmaking skills are there (as witnessed in the game against the Colts). Personally, it seemed as if it took awhile for Brian Schottenheimer to figure out what he had in #11. Early in the season, the Rams often tried to run screens with Austin, but those plays would often be snuffed out by opposing D's.

Once the Rams started employing more swing routes, end arounds, and plays that allowed Austin to be at top speed when he received the ball, the yards started piling up.

That goes without mentioning his return game where he had several big returns negated early in the season. Had those stood up, his numbers would look a lot better. But that's an if that doesn't matter in the long run. What does matter is that Tavon gets healthy and is in peak form come 2014. By then, hopefully the Rams' coaching staff will know how to use Austin regularly on offense.

4. Alec Ogletree - Future Stud?

Ogletree played like a future defensive stalwart for the Rams. It was an impressive rookie campaign that included some up's and down's, for sure. But he is yet another young player the Rams have that possesses game changing skills.

He seemed to be all over the field every game. Were there missed assignments? Sure. But chances are that when a tackle was made, Ogletree was in the area.

Check the statline: 117 tackles, 23 assists, 1.5 sacks, 1 INT, 1 TD, 6 FF.

All of that from a guy who fell to the bottom of the first round where the Rams were able to snatch him up after they traded back to acquire more picks. Another great building block and a potential stalwart on the Rams defense moving forward.

5. Johnny Hekker - Pro Bowler

The Rams went with two rookies at punter and kicker back in 2012. Greg Zuerlein got all the press for his otherworldly leg, but it's been Hekker that finally broke through and put the St. Louis Rams' special teams on the map. Punting is not the most interesting part of football, but it can be when you have someone as good as Hekker. It's easy to say that after a record setting season, sure, but it doesn't take an expert to see that he is really, really good at what he does.

On top of that, he's a great social media presence, which endears him to Rams and football fans alike. It's easy to pull for a guy like that. And it will be awesome to see him wearing the Horns at the Pro Bowl next month.

6. Honorable Mentions

Kellen Clemens doing an admirable job guiding this team down the stretch, including wins against Indy, Chicago, and New Orleans.

Stedman Bailey emerging in the 2nd half as the best Rams route runner I've seen since the days of Isaac and Torrey. Maybe it's hyperbole to say that, but he's so sharp in and out of his cuts, and he seems like he's got the hands to go with it. I'm really looking forward to seeing his development continue.

The Offensive Line. Obviously, they almost turned Stacy into a 1000 yard back. But on top of that, the pass protection was much better, and even though injuries caused a lot of shuffling, guys were plugged into roles and the Rams stayed competitive.

Much to look forward to in the coming months, Rams fans. Things are on the upswing. And that RGIII trade continues to be a gold mine. All Hail Snead.


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