A Progress Report For the St. Louis Rams 2013 Season

Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE

The St. Louis Rams just finished their second season under Head Coach Jeff Fisher. Progress can’t be found in the team’s 7-9 record, but certain facets of the team are headed in the right direction.

The St. Louis Rams have just concluded their second season under head coach Jeff Fisher, and General Manager, Les Snead. The team followed up a 7-8-1 campaign in 2012 with a 7-9 season this year. Clearly, that was not the desired result. But progress was [and is] the minimum expectation. And though it may not show in the win/loss column, the Rams - in some facets of the game - were much better than in Fisher’s first year.

* The "Progress" box will be checked based on the statistical figure, not ranking.

Offense


Stat
2013
2012
Progress?
Points Per Game
21.8 [21st]
18.7 [25th]
Yards Per Game
304.8 [30th]
329.0 [23rd]

Pass YPG
195.3 [27th]
221.9 [17th]

Rush YPG
109.5 [19th]
107.1 [19th]

Penalties
123 [31st]
130 [32nd]
3rd Down Pct.
34% [28th]
32% [29th]
Turnover Differential
+8 [9th]
-1 [17th]


A lot changed for the Rams’ offense between 2012 and 2013. For starters, legendary running back - Steven Jackson - no longer lines up in the Rams’ backfield. At the beginning of the year, the team relied heavily on 2012’s 7th round draft pick, Daryl Richardson. By season’s end, that job belonged to rookie Zac Stacy. It’s fair to assume that the Rams would’ve ranked at the bottom of the league had they not turned to Stacy; who nearly ran for 1,000 yards in twelve games.

The Rams also lost starting quarterback, Sam Bradford, for over half of the season. At the conclusion of their Week 7 matchup against the Panthers, Bradford injured his knee while running out of bounds. Backup Kellen Clemens played every snap thereafter. It should be noted that Sam - using averages from his first seven games - was on pace for a career year; 3,856 yards and 32 TD’s. Not having him on the field for nine of the team’s games certainly affected the statistics/results, but to what degree is hard to gauge. Regardless, the year-end numbers for the offense -for the second year in a row - aren’t stellar.

Defense


Stat
2013
2012
Progress?
Points Per Game
22.8 [13th]
21.8 [14th]

Yards Per Game
345.0 [15th]
342.6 [14th]

Pass Yds Allowed
242.1 [19th]
225.1 [18th]

Rush Yds Allowed
102.9 [9th]
117.5 [18th]
Penalties
105 [22nd]
90 [8th]

Sacks
53 [3rd]
52 [1st]
Interceptions
14 [20th]
17 [11th]

Forced Fumbles
24 [1st]
14 [21st]
Fumbles Recovered
15 [1st]
4 [31st]
Defensive TD’s
5
5


Lead by defensive end, Robert Quinn, the Rams were quietly able to surpass their 2012 league-leading sack figure. The pass rush has been the strength of the defense over the past two years, and the 105 sacks they’ve tallied since 2012 is a league best. Just as impressive is the Rams’ progression in the run game. The gelling of the defensive line, and the addition of rookie LB Alec Ogletree aided the Rams in becoming a Top 10 team in defending the run. A huge win for the Rams in 2013 was their ability to snag fumbled footballs. While they struggled to recover fumbles last year [only 4], the Rams forced 24 fumbles this season, and scooped up 15 loose balls…both of which lead the NFL.

The Rams’ biggest disappointment this season was in their secondary. Fewer interceptions aside, the secondary played brutally at times. Cortland Finnegan, who had a solid first year in St. Louis, struggled mightily in 2013. The safeties, except for Matt Giordano, are inexperienced…and it showed. This was Tim Walton’s first year as defensive coordinator, and his first year with the Rams’ organization. His resumé would suggest he can bolster strong secondary units. We’ll see if the Rams are able to address some of the issues in the offseason…Walton included.

Special Teams


Stat
2013
2012
Progress?
Avg. Kickoff Return
22.6 [20th]
21.0 [26th]
Long
32 [31st]
48 [23rd]

Kickoff Return TD’s
0
0

Avg. Punt Return
8.8 [18th]
6.6 [31st]
Long
98 [1st]
23 [31st]
Punt Return TD’s
1
0
Field Goal Pct.
92.9 [5th]
74.2 [31st]
50+
1 of 2 [25th]
7 of 13 [2nd]

Punt Avg.
46.3 [10th]
45.8 [19th]
Net
45.3 [1st]
40.9 [19th]
Return Yds Allowed
79 [1st]
402 [23rd]
Avg. Punt Return
2.6 [1st]
9.8 [17th]

The third phase of the game is probably where the Rams made their biggest strides. Early season penalties on both kick and punt units were extremely frustrating, but subsided in the later portion of the year. The kick/punt return units were both improved in average returns in 2013, and those numbers should continue to rise with Tavon Austin on the team. Rookie RB Benny Cunningham also performed admirably on kickoff returns.


Aside from Robert Quinn, there was probably no player on the Rams’ team more impressive than Johnny Hekker. In his sophomore year in the league, he bested himself in every statistical category, and went from being ranked in the bottom half of the league, to being the best punter in the NFL. He set a NFL record for Net returns [45.3], and is heading to his first Pro Bowl in late January.

***

You Can Follow Brandon Bate on Twitter at

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