So after the Rams were not represented by a single player in the Pro Bowl or Top 100 this season, I've came to the realization that the players wearing blue and gold are going to have to put up big numbers, and the Rams are going to have to make the playoffs for any of them to be seen as elite. It truly is a travesty when the worst team in the league has 5 pro bowlers (and 1 alternate) as well as 5 players in the Top 100 and the Rams who finished 7-8-1 as well as having the best record against there division have zero. But enough bitterness about the 2012 season and onto the brighter looking future in St Louis! Here is my list of players that will earn the recognition of the NFL and there peers, and some players who are borderline.
1. Sam Bradford
It's his time to shine. With his expensive new blocker in front of him and all the shiny new toys he has to play with, there are no more excuses. This truly is his make or break year. (and I hate using that phrase) With Cook and Kendricks he has what I believe will be the new TE tandem tearing up the NFL. Kendricks finally showed that with some more coaching he will be a great all-around TE. And Cook has all the freakish athletic ability to dominate the position on passing downs. Then you look at the WR position and after what seems like an eternity of awful play the Rams may have finally put a dangerous group together at the position. Givens and Austin will take the top off the D, Quick will be the physical red zone reciever using his size and height to get the ball in tight coverage. Aside from the LG spot the Rams are solid across the board on the line. The biggest ? is in the backfield, however with 3 capable players available to man the position I think they'll hold up just fine.
Best Case- The O-Line holds up other than some minor bumps and bruises, and all of Bradfords new "goodies" allow him to throw for 4000+ yards and 30+ TDs. Bradford finally shows St Louis why he was picked #1.
Worst Case- The O-Line succumbs to there injury history and Bradford puts up with another patch work O-Line. Bradfords supposed new weapons show there lack of experience with inconsistent although much improved play. Bradford has another 3500 yard 20 TD season.
2. Jared Cook / Lance Kendricks
I put these 2 together because I do feel like Cook will have the better statistical season but Kendricks will still show why he is so valuable. Cook will obviously be a great new weapon in this offense and will be the primary recieving threat. But Kendricks showed last season that his butterfinger rookie days were behind him and he is ready to be a good recieving TE. The great thing with Kendricks is he is a very good run blocker so while Cook is lined up in the slot Kendricks can be the in-line TE to block or catch.
Best case- Cook and Kendricks become the new Gronkowski / Murderer combo in the NFL. Cook goes for 1000+ and 5 TDs while Kendricks improves on last year with a 650+ 4 TD year.
Worst case- Cook and Bradford don't get on the same page, Cook is a bad locker room presence, Kendricks puts up another above average year.
3. Chris Long
It's crazy that he's still not getting the respect he deserves. He is a top 5 pass rusher in the league over the past 4 years and yet nobody cares. Sure he is an average run defender. But thats not what the Rams need out of there starting DEs. They're paid to get to the QB, and Long knows how to do that. With Brockers, Quinn and Langford next to him this line is destined for big things.
Best Case- Long dominates as opposing offenses can't matchup with all 4of the Rams D-line. Long dominates 1 on 1 matchups and ends up with 18 sacks and improves his run defense to record 50 tkls.
Worst Case- Long is still a nightmare to matchup against and posts 13 sacks with many pressures and hits and as an average run defender posts 35 tkls.
He's probably still a known commodity around the league. But for some reason didn't really get much attention after having another stellar year. Really all you need to know about last season.... 0 TDs given up. Boom.
Best Case- Opposing QBs forget how great he actually was last year and he picks off 6 passes posting 85+ tkls allowing 0 TDs and forces many helpless receivers to lose there cool : )
Worst Case- Opposing QBs remember how great he is and steer clear of throwing to his side of the field. Picks of 2 passes and with the improved LB group post 60 tkls.
JL55 is a beast. He doesn't get credit because he isn't flashy, he doesn't often lay huge hits. He's quiet. And he isn't in the backfield very often. This isn't due to ability but the scheme in which he plays. He is used in coverage more often than not. He does show that he is among the leagues best cover MLBs however. He is a smart instinctual LB that is simply put, a tackle machine. He is the unquestioned leader of the defense now and if the Rams win 9+ games I think people will finally recognize his skills.
Best Case- 55 continues his dominance in the middle and with the new addition of Ogletree next to him as a fellow cover LB he is able to get after the QB more. JL55 posts a career high 5 sacks, picks of 2 passes and records 140 tkls. He leads the defense to new heights and St Louis turns into one of the top 10 defenses in the NFL.
Worst Case- Ogletree has major growing pains and Laurinaitis has to continue to be the only viable coverage option in the group. Posts a still great 145 tkls, 3 ints, but no sacks and 4 TFLs.
Welcome to St Louis buddy! Holy cow did this guy ever explode onto the scene in his first season with the Rams! Posting career highs across the board Dunbar was a force. It's a shame he didn't get the recognition he deserved because he truly did put up Pro Bowl caliber numbers at his position. Chad Greenway gets alot of recognition as an outside LB in a 4-3 D but aside from total tackles Dunbar had him beat in every category. Dunbar brought a fierce attitude that had the Rams D along with Finnegan and Jenkins, labled as one of the "Dirtiest" in the NFL. Out of the 3 LBs the Rams now have to start, he will be the enforcer, laying the lumber against any poor reciever that enters his zone with the ball and harassing QBs when asked. Was it a fluke season? My eyes tell me this guy is for real.
Best Case- 125 tkls, 6.5 sacks, 2 Ints, 4 FF. Yes, that kind of a season. This guy was just plain mean last year and with another year in this scheme, he should only get better.
Worst Case- Dunbar proves that last season was a fluke. Showing flashes from last year but never regaining his form. 80 tkls, 1 Int, 1.5 sacks.
Now for a list of players on the brink, but may need another year or 2 to develop.
It's not that I think that none of these guys will make an impact, but I don't see any of them bursting onto the seen. These 3 will form an adequate rushing attack with the departure of SJ39 but as the off season moves have showed us, this team is transitioning into a more pass happy attack.
The Rams O-Line
This is boom or bust, no in between. If they all stay healthy it will be a fantastic year and the Rams will have one of the best lines in the NFL. If not...... Sam Bradford better ask for some super-soft turf because he's gonna spend alot of time on his back. Not to mention the inexperienced RBs suffering.
I like the kid, I think he has the tools to become a great WR. With him, Quick, and Austin, if 2 of these guys pan out we could see another great St Louis WR tandem. To me however he seemed very inconsistent last season. Yes he was a rookie, but WR is a tough position to acclimate to at the NFL level.
Almost non-existent at times last year. It's hard to really say he's going to breakout this year. He has all the physical tool necessary but you have to think coming out of a small college that he will still be pretty raw in his 2nd year. I do believe he will be a factor every game, the Rams will use him much more, we'll see what he can do with the opportunity.
He has everything you need to be the rookie of the year, playmaker from all over the field. He also has all the hype needed to be one of the biggest draft busts in recent memory. Lets hope for the Rookie of the Year and that all the hype wasn't for nothing.
Brockers started off slow but finished very strong. The main reason I don't have him as a sure breakout is because in the back of my head I just keep thinking sophomore slump. Out of all these players him and Quinn have the best shot due to the massive amount of talent they will have next to them every single play in each other and Long.
Same as Long, Quinn is a pass rusher, plain and simple. My thought for him at this point is; as Long goes, Quinn goes. If Long continues to be a dominant force, then Quinn will have continued opportunities to succeed. And with another year under his belt as well as Brockers, look for that sack total to continue to rise.
He's a rookie, but some saw him as the best LB in the draft, falling due to his "red flags". Fisher can handle the off field concerns, I'm more concerned with his lack of size and strength. He weighs in at 242 pounds but if you look at him he looks like a safety, as was his former position. I think he will help a great deal in coverage from the LB spot, and will help greatly in containing the new run happy QBs in the division, but I'm worried about how effective he will be against the run, a trait the Rams really need out of him.
If he keeps his nose clean, and learns from his mistakes last season (getting burned countless times) Finnegan and him will give opposing QBs nightmares all season long. Pick your poison. But the fact remains that although he made some huge plays last season, and showed that he will be a special talent, he also got burned many times and looked lost at times. Can only get better with another year right? Lets hope so.
There ya have it guys. Any players you think should be held in higher regard? Any that you feel are overrated? Let me know what you think!