St. Louis Rams: Shiny and New, Jeff Fisher's Ready

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

The St. Louis Rams' Jeff Fisher has to be a happy man. I'm talking about the kind of happy that's just shy of the giddiness a person feels after taking a once vaunted car from the junkyard, and pours his sweat and dreams into. Despite losing a meaningless preseason game to the Denver Broncos Saturday night, the veteran NFL coach turned the key on his rebuilt ride. Yes, it sputtered as it came to life, and the freshly cast gears didn't mesh at times. Satisfied with his team's first glimpse at what's possible; ignition off, Fisher slides the keys into his pocket before he and his coaching staff push this about-to-shine beast back into the garage. Some fine tuning is needed, like the "penalty" rocker arms have a hint of clatter, and the "blocking" cams aren't right just yet. "But they will be," he says to himself. The smile appears again under his now famous mustache...

If you're a student of the NFL game, it's hard not to be impressed with the St. Louis Rams' progress. Talented young players are scattered across their roster. There's new life in Sam Bradford, after years of stunted development. The team's defense hasn't shown itself this preseason by design, and you can almost feel this young group of Berzerkers straining to be unleashed. It occurred to me, as I watch the Rams and Broncos play, Fisher had an almost cruel purpose in the defensive scheme for his team. Facing one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, he rarely blitzed. His incredibly talented front four defensive linemen stunted on rare occasions. Is it just me who thinks Fisher wanted to see what his defensive secondary could do against someone like Peyton Manning? The Broncos obliged too. Manning threw 34 times - IN THE FIRST HALF. The group of defensive backs for the Rams were scalded for 234 yards by the future first ballot Hall of Fame-er. Yet, with safety concerns high on Jeff Fisher's list, is there a better way to evaluate where his secondary's potential is than this kind of total immersion, or trial by fire?

On offense, the player who stood out Saturday night was tight end/wide receiver Jared Cook. If Fisher's plan was to not show his hand during the preseason, he may have inadvertently failed. Cook is hard to hide, and Bradford showed his "kid-in-a-candy-store" weakness by targeting the former South Carolina star, who Steve Spurrier once called "...another Calvin Johnson". I think the cat's out of the bag on who opposing teams will need to account for when they play the Rams, don't you?

Mildly concerned before this week #3 contest, I was glad to see rookie, and first round draft pick, Alec Ogletree have a break-out game. During the broadcast, Dan Dierdorf quoted Jeff Fisher as saying the former Georgia phenom was "their (the Rams) young Patrick Willis". While San Francisco 49ers fans may be shaking their collective heads, 30 other NFL teams suddenly got dry mouth as they gulped at the prospect of Ogletree's potential in an already top notch defense. Veteran linebacker Will Witherspoon came to life, after two weeks of showing age more than capability, and rookie safety-turned-outside linebacker Ray Ray Armstrong is showing the depth of his talent.. Based on what I've seen thus far - when Jo Lon Dunbar returns from his suspension in week #5 of the regular season - the St. Louis Rams may very well have one of the best linebacker corps in the NFL. They may want to work on accounting for running backs in pass coverage though? I'm just sayin'...

While some Rams' fans may be starting to worry about the team's running back situation, I think it's premature. Second year running back Daryl Richardson has TOUCHED the ball a grand total of 13 times through three preseason games (both rushing and receiving). It's a bit early to doubt this driven young man, who I think will have a phenomenal year. I see 1400 combined yards (rushing and receiving) in Richardson's 2013 future - you heard it here first! OK, maybe not first, but it's my article...

The Baltimore Ravens game in week #4 of the NFL preseason is going to be interesting. While the Rams are currently 0-3 in the "it doesn't matter" win/loss standings, Jeff Fisher has made it known he's about to unleash his shiny, revamped muscle car on the NFL world. He doesn't like the idea of the two week break between the end of the preseason, and the start of the 17 week marathon ahead. I think his hands will gingerly grasp the car cover and slide it slowly off the bright and shiny paint job beneath it. His hands may even shake - just a little - as he grips the steering wheel, and hesitate ever so slightly as he turns the ignition key. But he'll smile... God yes, he'll smile...

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