Round 1 is through... I've already written two other fanposts this evening about plans to move forward... but I just wanted to take this opportunity to take a step back and look at just where we are talent-wise.
Our defense is still our stronger unit... We're a safety or two from having a Top-5 defense, and can perhaps boast the best defensive line in all of football (although the Lions might have something to say about that now... along with the Vikings)
Positionally, this is where we stand.
SS - Perhaps Darian Stewart, or perhaps one of our two 3rd round picks... There are still quite a few starting-caliber safeties available.
FS - Probably not on our roster at the moment, but within the next two days likely will be.
CB - Finnegan was one of the most solid corners in the NFL last year... He did a great job leading our secondary. Jenkins was a dynamic source of big plays... they weren't all positive, but he gave us a glimpse of just what he's capable of. Johnson also showed that he belongs in this league. He did a wonderful job in the opportunities he was given, and will continue to earn playing time. We need 1 or 2 more on our roster, but I definitely trust Fisher there... He has a knack for finding good defensive backs in the mid to late rounds.
LB - We now have 3 starting linebackers that I'm confident in. It's going to be exciting watching Dunbar and Ogletree fly around the field making plays... along with seeing JL55 get back to form and lead our defense. We turned a unit that two years ago was a weakness into a strength.
DL - I mean, c'mon... what's not to like? The only player that could even be marginally upgraded is Langford, and he's poised to do much better this year. This unit strikes fear into the hearts of every team we play... Plus, we're starting to have good depth in this unit!
To be honest, sometimes a team can be held back by their best player. Steven Jackson was the best player in a Rams uniform for the past while, and deserved to be fed time and time again. However, now that he has moved on, other guys have a chance to shine. Let's look at where we are positionally...
QB - Sam Bradford is quickly becoming elite... Watch and see the numbers he puts up in the next two years. He took a big step forward this year, and for the first time in his NFL career, will actually be running the same offense this year (sort of). Except, rather than the offense being designed around SJ39, it's developed specifically for Bradford. Bradford has excelled in no-huddle, spread out situations... When you look at the personnel we have on our roster now, you'll see that we're putting him in a place to succeed.
RB - We have two RBs who are designed to excel in a spread out system. Isaiah Pead ran for miles in Cincinnati's offense, and works really well in space. Daryl Richardson is also a great compliment to him, because he runs north and south; this can be devastating when you have 4 guys spread out and there are only 5-6 men in the box. Yes, we need to add a back for short yardage situations and red zone work, but this unit will be able to move the ball very well.
TE - Lance Kendricks as a primary receiving tight end screamed of mediocrity to me... He could do some good things, but I never saw him becoming a top 10 TE in this league. However, Kendricks as a TE2 is absolutely wonderful... He'll be able to utilize his skillset perfectly: He can do a lot of work in the block and release, and doesn't have to be relied upon to beat a good defender generally. Cook also provides another player that the defense has to truly account for. His potential hasn't come to fruition yet, but when it does, watch out. He'll be a great seam target this year.
WR - This is the unit on our team with the most to prove. It's scary that Austin Pettis is the closest thing to a veteran receiver that we currently have. We caught a glimpse of what we'll get with Givens, who is quickly becoming a high-end #2 receiver and low end #1 receiver for us. Unfortunately, we haven't seen much of Brian Quick yet, but what we did see showed why the Rams thought so highly of him. And Tavon Austin will come in and play the Randall Cobb role in our offense. I mean, cmon, Cobb even made James Jones look good. This is a unit that can't be fully relied upon yet, but has scary upside. It's going to be a blast to watch them develop over the next two to three years.
OL - Long, X, Wells, Dahl, Saffold
Check this out... Wells struggled last year (mostly due to injury)... however, he had great success in Green Bay... Green Bay runs what kind of offense? Oh yes, a spread out one. We have two bookends who can be great pass blockers (unlike Barry Richardson, who likely wouldn't survive long in a pass-first system). Dahl has been a proven commodity, who may not have played up to his ability last year. At LG, Rok might be able to play, but I'm not convinced. However, we have a few mid-round picks; one of which could be used on a LG. What has long been an abysmal weakness of the Rams is quickly becoming another strength.
I think that the word "special" really defines what our ST unit is. We have a kicker who can blast the ball over 60 yards, a punter who can boot the ball and throw (although he needs to iron out some things), and finally have a return man who can take any given kickoff or punt to the house.
Ladies and gents, prepare for the bandwagon to grow in the next few months....