We've crossed the threshold from the waiting dead into training camp. Football is back. Rejoice and be glad.
As such, it's worth checking the barometer that is power rankings, especially when it comes from an outlet as reputable as Sports Illustrated. So it was that SI's Chris Burke offered his rankings up on Wednesday...and certainly didn't give the 2013 Rams much credit ahead of proving it on the field, slotting them at 19.
The Rams were 7-8-1 in 2012, with a 2-1-1 mark against San Francisco and Seattle. Did anyone notice? Sam Bradford's in a make-or-break year, flanked by new arrivals Jared Cook, Tavon Austin and Zac Stacy. The defense is counting on rookies Alec Ogletree and T.J. McDonald - possibly too much for this team to be considered a true threat before 2014.
I can't get too upset. The Rams don't register for many who canvass the league nationally. Mike Tanier, whose work I respect and enjoy greatly having been with Football Outsiders for nearly a decade with work being dropped at Fox Sports, the New York Times and most recently Sports on Earth, ranked the Rams second to last in Training Camp interest.
So when Burke asks if people "noticed" the Rams last year, the answer for most is likely "no." I relish that overlooked status.
That being said, there's a Sam Bradford Make or Break Year (MOBY) reference. I'm in agreement, though I can easily sympathize with the arguments against it.
Personally, I think it's a bit presumptuous to suggest the Rams are "counting" on Ogletree and McDonald. This was a team that succeeded (if I can use that term) on the back of its defense in 2012. So why would they be counting on two players who didn't contribute to that success? I'm of the opinion that it's certainly possible the Rams lean on a James Laurinaitis/Jo-Lonn Dunbar nickel base package early on in the year. It didn't bite them in the tuccus (sp?) too hard last year. As for McDonald, he might be the most naturally talented safety on the roster. But having performed with Craig Dahl and Quintin Mikell holding the safety spots, what would they be counting on McDonald for?
Perhaps I'm grasping here. But it sounds like Burke, in asking if anybody noticed the Rams, answered a "no" for himself.
I'd bet that won't be the case by year's end.