There is just no way I could proceed onto the off-season without covering the regular season.
I have a lot to cover and won't waste your time with to much of an intro, I will cover every position, but will leave out the DBs and coaching out since I am saving that for another post, lets begin.
I want to apologize now, because I am going to mention Sam Bradford often throughout this entire post. I am going to steal an excerpt from a previous post I wrote about him
This season is not the one for this nonsense. The guy was playing far too good to deserve this. When Sam went down he was top six in yds, TD's, completions, and rating. With only Peyton Manning having more TD's than him. Peyton "Frickin" Manning. In fact to put that more in perspective for you all, three weeks later with no Bradford, and he is still number 11 in passing TD's. He was that far ahead of numbers 3-10 that it took three weeks for them to pass him. And I went ahead and took the time to personally do the math. In the seven games Sam played in this season, he saw 21 passes dropped. of those 21, five were TD's.
This is where things get interesting. Bradford's season ends with a 60.7% completion rate and 14 TD's. If all five drops that would have been TD's were caught his season ends with 19 TD's and three weeks of no playing he is still in the top five. Also if just half of the drops (we will say eleven since the total number of drops is odd) were caught, he finishes with 64.8% for a completion rate. For passers attempting at least 200 passes, Bradford would be the 6th best in the NFL in completion right now.
Now, of course you don't have to be a genius to know that drops are out of his control. It's like John Madden used to say, "if the ball touches the receiver's hands, it should be caught". And that's what qualifies it as a drop. So none of that bad throw crap, because all five TD drops were on the money.
Now let's take these numbers and what could have happened with just half the amount of drops and average them out over the course of sixteen games.
4123 yds, 43 TDs, 65% completion, 8 int, 99.2 rating (est)
This is what I predicted in my Season Preview "I can see Bradford ending the year with 4000+ yds, 25 td, 9int"
Yes this is all true. Bradford was the man before going down. He was answering all the questions about him. Only having one negative performance on the year in a game where the entire team probably played the worst game they have as a whole in two full seasons.
As for Kellen Clemons, well here’s an interesting stat for you. Only once in his entire life has he completed more than 59% completion. And that was his Sr season at Oregon when Mike Belloti introduced to the team the screen and the playaction with all go routes following a strong run game. YES, Clemons has NEVER not in high school, college or the pros been an accuarte QB. FACT!!!!!!
There’s a saying that goes around in the world of QB gurus and coaches. "You can teach better technique and how to read defenses and steps and progressions, and build arm strength and everything that goes into being a successful QB. But you CANNOT teach accuracy."
So what else did you expect. But, I will say this and I mean it from the bottom of my heart, I appreciate him. He gave it his all every snap for us this year. I can honestly say I don't believe he ever finished a game without leaving it all out there on the field.
All I could do was wonder, what kind of impact would he have had if he had played behind Alabama’s line? Stacy played grown man ball, on a team filled with young men, going against SEC beasts!!!! Week in and week out. Stacy runs violently, but also has sudden and unexpected shiftiness. He has amazing pad level, and good pass protection, as well as vision. He gives maybe the best second effort of any back drafted. He refuses to go down without a fight.
He was all of that and than some. I have been a Stacy fan for quite sometime now, and I am thankful that he did nothing but make me look smart for vouching for him the way I did.
WOW!!!!!! This kid is the truth. He looks like a true gem, and a hell of a steal to go undrafted. I'm not saying he is the next Arian Foster, but he has some serious potential, and it only proves that we have better skill at the RB position than we are getting credit for.
He ran a 40 four days before the draft at a private pro day where only two teams showed up, one being the Rams. He was declared 75% back to his old form (tore his patella tendon) at the time that he ran, and still clocked a 4.51. You can see on film his burst and top speed is closer to a 4.4. I found a few things saying he ran 4.42 and even a 4.38, but none were concrete sources, although I wouldn't doubt the accuracy. But he is more than speed. The guy is a BULL. He is so well built and so fast, he is really hard to bring down.
After adding weight once he got to the Rams, Cunningham eventually weighed in at a ROCKED up 217 lbs, but still displayed plenty of burst. Listen, because you are hearing it here now, he will be a key piece to the future success of this young Rams team. He has the best skill set of all our backs because he is all of them rolled into one. Though, not the natural runner that Stacy is, he will not overtake the top spot, but they will develop into one of the leagues most violent one two punch combo's in recent memory.
Daryl Richardson proved he is what he is. What we saw in 2012 is all you will get from him. He is a perimeter runner. Basically nothing more than a third down change of pace back. He should never have more than 115 total touches (running and receiving) in a season. He is probably better suited for an offense like the Broncos or Saints. While Isaiah Pead is shaping up to be the biggest bust at RB for us since Trung Candidate.
I want to clarify somethings in this section. First things first, Chris Givens. I don't believe he really regressed this year. Now before I continue let me just let it be known that I had this to say when explaining why I didn't believe we would have 1000 yard receiver
...how many of us can honestly say they see Givens as a true No. 1? I don't believe he ever becomes that. I would compare him to the player he was compared to the most coming out of college, Jeremy Maclin. I believe they both are the ideal number two. That's not to say neither can ever have 1000 yards, if not for injuries, Maclin may have done it twice, but they have the "go to guy" tag in them, it just is not their make-up. I believe our most natural No.1 WR's are Brian Quick and Stedman Bailey. But I am not sold on either player entering that role "this year". I also don't see Jared Cook ever reaching 50 rec or 800 yds, and I think his ceiling for td's is 7. He is sort of a one trick pony.
With all that being said, it is easier for me to say I don't think he regressed. I never thought he would be much more than his rookie season. I believe his career high will be 900, with the possibility of sneaking a 1000 yard season in there. But let's look at all the facts here. Givens tried to become a complete receiver for the first time in his life. He was a RB in high school and in college caught a ton of screens. This was the first time ever for him from beginning to end he was running a full route tree. Surely there are to be some growing pains. Also with the lack of another receiver threatening underneath in the mode of a Reggie Wayne (not saying they have to be that good, but just a consistent route runner with good hands and moves the chains), there was nothing stopping defense from playing over the top of Givens all season, while also putting their number one corner on him. I guess in a sense this is a sign of respect which should tell all fans what the league thinks of him.
Really quick, I don't mean to get off topic but that is a major problem. Everyone is always caught up on what they heard someone on ESPN or NFL network say about a player and how they are this good or that bad, but no one ever wants to do the research to see what the people who's opinions really matter think.
Givens has earned the respect of the LEAGUE, who cares what some suit behind a desk has to say. But lets remember, 51% of his total yards on the year came in 7 games. The same 7 games Bradford played in. In fact all of the yards were on throws Bradford made. 295 yards to be exact. At that rate he was on pace for 674 yards. He had 698 as a rookie. For some reason that 24 yards less looks a lot better than that 129 yards less. One can only wonder what he would have done with Bradford still under center.
Tavon Austin started slow. I was one of the first to point out Brian Schottenheimer's role in that. But let's also be fair, he had his share of drops as I pointed out in my Tavon Austin post in week 6. He had 7 drops through the first six games which lead the league and he also had a drop rate that was "a ridiculous 17.1%. Now lets be fair again, I also pointed out it had more to do with too much thinking than lack of catching ability.
Any person that has ever played the game of football and was not in the trenches (sorry big boys, nothing but love for you though), knows there are only two reasons for drops. That's it! Either you simply can't catch, or you're thinking too much causing you to lose focus when trying to reel the ball in.There's multiple factors to losing focus. You might not know what the hell you're doing (routes, reading defense, etc). You could be a wimp and scared of contact, causing you to look for the defenders and taking your eyes off the ball. Or you simply could be so eager to make a play that you are trying to run without the ball. The latter seems to be Austin's problem.
But once he got more comfortable with everything he was being asked to do, we suddenly saw him catch the ball without any problems. In fact starting the next game after I wrote that post he never dropped another ball, starting the first 6 games with 7 drops and finishing the next 7 with zero. Catching 16 of 18 over the same 7 game span.
Austin Pettin made me a happy man. I was on his band wagon pretty hard especially when I answered DC's 5 questions with questions.
Before Bradford went down -his biggest supporter and keeps him in the lineup- he was on pace for 573 yards and 8 tds. That's everything you want from your Possesion/ChainMover/RedZone receiver. No one will ever mistake him for the next Larry Fitzgerald, but his consistency and dependable hands make him a QB's best friend in the time of need (third down/redzone).
Stedman Bailey was pretty much everything we all expected. Well almost all of us. There were a few that looked at him and had issues with his size when others would mention him being a possible #1. For now we will ignore them and focus on his positives. His catch radius is better than a lot of 6'3" receivers. He is a more athletic version of Austin Pettis. And quite possibly -and this says a lot because Pettis has amazing hands- has the best hands on the entire team. Bailey DOES have what it takes to be the teams NUMBER ONE receiver. I expect big things from him next year.
Brian Quick didn't show much to SOME of you. I have always been one of his biggest critics. But he shut me up this year. Ignore the stat line because its deceiving since he was never a starter or a top priorty sub until we went run heavy because of his blocking. But he improved immensely this season. I saw better catching - still had some drops including two TDs- as well as better knowledge of the playbook. The number of wrong routes ran weren't even close to last year, and it actually left me wondering why he did not receive a significant bump in snaps like Bailey did. Bailey took snaps from Pettis and Austin. I would have liked to see Quick steal some from Givens. Normally I would say this suggests maybe the player is not as far along as we would like him to be, but seeing as how Schotty knows nothing about the passing game of football, well will blame it on being used poorly.
This is how much Jared Cook has changed my mind about him, SIKE!!! Still not a fan. I don't even want to write this part. I would rather just skip it. I took so much slack for criticizing this guy the way I did when we signed him. Everyone wants to talk about who we should get rid of, ummmmm HELLO!!!. True, there is nothing we can do this year because of what I call the dumbest move of the Fisher tenure, but as soon as we can dump him expect a post from yours truly. He is just not that good. I have tried to see it the way others do but I just can't stoop to his level. He SUCKS. He is athletic, yea. But so is 700 other NFL players. He has no heart, and his hands have never been that great. Like I said before, there is a reason he has never been the main guy. He has Jimmy Graham measurable's and athletic ability but none of his skill. It's that simple. You can force feed him the ball all you want, won't change anything. The only person that can help Cook is Cookie himself. But sad to say he has no interest in doing that. Jared Cook will never break out. He will be 27 this April, he is suppose to be in the middle of the prime of his career. But instead he still looks the same entering year six as he did entering year two, the only difference is the ball is being thrown his way more, 85 targets this year, 14 more than any other. Everyone wants to talk about Bradford not being worth his $70 million contract, how about Cook not being worth his $35 million contract (HALF), which happens to be third highest for a TE. Bradford's contract does not even crack the top 7 QB's. A TE making $35 million is equivalent to a QB making $80 million. So in THEORY he is better paid than Bradford.
Lance Kendricks continued to play well and be a decent redzone threat even though he played second fiddle to one of the leagues most grossly over-paid players. He delivered solid production from multiple positions on the field. He is someone you would like to see receive something closer to 70 targets rather than his meager 46.
Cory Harkey was one the teams most pleasant surprises. He is listed as a TE but has played the VAST majority of his snaps at FB. He thrived in this role. He proved that his reputation in college as a dominate blocker was no fluke accident. This guy stuck his nose in every LB and DE's business and smiled while he did it. He developed into a decent checked down guy, but nothing special in the pass game. Any time you are strictly a check down guy you should not have any drops. He had to many and needs to refine that part of his game. But he opened holes and cleared the way for Stacy and Co, and deserves recognition.
As this group played more and more together they really shined. Ultimately grading out as one of the best units in the entire league. Jake Long proved that when healthy he is still a pro bowl talent, and an anchor. Remove the Cowboys game from your memory as well his ACL tear and you are watching an All Pro worthy year.
Roger Saffold lost his job twice in less than a year. First Jake Long took the LT spot, than Joe Barksdale took the RT spot (whether you want to hear it or not, Barksdale will prevent the team from drafting a new RT). But Shockingly this was not bad news. How can a man lose his job twice for two positions in 8 months and still come out a winner? Well that is exactly what Saffold did. If resigned by the Rams there is a strong chance he will be the highest paid guard in the league. Yes Guard!!! Oh and it gets better, he will always be viewed as the number 2 for both tackle spots, and he will be a favorite to land a spot on the All Pro team as a first team RG. ONLY if he can stay healthy for a full 16 games. He has earned the label injury proned. Say what you want about Bradford and getting hurt, but these two were drafted the same year and Bradford has managed to play in more games than Saffold. Should tell you all you need to know.
I for one like Tim Barnes. I think he played extremely well when he had his shot at the end of the season. He actually had pretty decent grades over the final three games. He at the very least has proven to me to be a perfect stop gap center for a year. He played very well against Gerald McCoy and Red Bryant, two of the most feared and dangerous interior linemen in the NFL.
This group is bursting with talent all because Paul Boudreau is arguably the best Oline coach in the league. I have no problem with the team passing on a 1st rd lineman so as long as we have him coaching whoever comes in. I won't mention Barrett Jones in this section, simply because I don't want to ruin another upcoming post.
The Late Great Deacon Jones would have been a proud man this year. Because these guys...
held the fort down. Especially one in particular.
I know a lot was made about Chris Long and his slow start, but as I mentioned, he was dealing with a hip injury. But as his health started to kick in we started to see the guy we all know and love. He spent the first month of the season on the injury report with a hip injury. Any person that has ever seen him play SHOULD have been able to tell he was not 100%, but I find it quite odd that in week five -when his name was absent from the injury report for the first time- that he begin wrecking havoc. Eight of his 8.5 sacks came after week four. Moreso after recording only five run stops (at the LOS or sooner) in the first 4 games, he finished with 26 over the next 12 games. ENOUGH SAID!!!!
Michael Brockers was quietly dominate. The light really came on for him in the Houston game in front of his hometown in week 6, and it never really went off after that. His story can't be told by just stats -which weren't bad with 46 tkls, 5.5 scks (one stolen from him in Bears game), and 13 TFL. But he really controlled the interior line. He did not receive the hype he got as a rookie, but believe it, Brockers was even better in year two. He really improved in every way. Future All Pro right here!
Kendall Langford had a hell of a season. He started off a bit slow, but actually finished playing the best football on defense only behind Robert Quinn and James Laurinaitis over the final 6 games. He was amazing. He earned his check this year.
Our depth is amazing at the end positions. WIliam Hayes chose to stay here for less money when he was offered some starting positions. We have a starter as a back up. That made me smile saying that out loud. It is obvious that he is good enough to start as over the last two season's he has been a force in both run and pass defense. Eugene Sims has also developed into a complete DE. He has developed a nice repertoire of moves combined with a good motor, and redefined understanding of the of the run game.
And then there was Quinn. Robert Quinn was arguably the best PLAYER in the NFL this season. He Impacted every game in a way that I have never seen a DE do before. Now I am a student of the game and have been watching and studying this game for as long as I can remember, and I have never seen any DE dominate the way he did. I saw Michael Strahan's dominate season. I saw "The Freak" Jevon Kearse dominate OTs. I saw Warren Sapp redefine the DT (3 tech) position. I have seen quite a bit in my 25 years (yes 25, 26 in April), but never have I ever seen a man do what I saw Quinn do this year. He literally dictated the offense's game. He was so good as a rusher that refs began to allow him to get held at times because it was the only way to make it semi fair. He was literally the most held player in the league this year. How are you the most held, only played with the lead for 41% of the snaps you were on the field, getting doubled and at times tripled teamed, and still finish with 19 sacks. It has never happened. NOT EVER. Maybe with Deacon, but I am not going to make comparisons like that because as Jeff Fisher said, it's really not fair to Rob. But I really want everyone to realize how special of a season we have just witnessed. This is on the same level as the 99 and 01 seasons. It really is. In my Season Preview, I predicted this stat line for Quinn 14 sck, 4 ff, 72 tck. When asked why I thought that he would have so many tackles I simply said
I studied all of his sacks from 2012, he improved from yr on in only a way that a man who worked harder than everyone else during the off-season could improve. If he works half as hard this off-season on defending the run, it will be a special year.
Now, while I downplayed his sack total and overplayed his tackle total, but in many ways I was not that far off. While those that questioned me laughed when I said he could be a good run defender, none thought that he could get more than 40 tackles. Truth is he actually outperformed what I had in mind in regards to defending the run. As for the pass rush in my Roster Analysis post,
I simply pointed to this video as to why I believed he would dominate as a rusher
And I had this to say explaining why this video was all you needed to know about Quinns potential as a pass rusher
Quinn made massive strides last year. His rookie season he did what rookies do and played strictly off of skill, but last year his technique improved immensely. It looked like he had been working his butt off all of last off-season. If that was the case and he does that again this year, I expect even better pass rush ability, and more importantly a better run defense. One thing I LOVE about Quinn is his motor, and unappreciated speed. The video I'm about to show you will bring back bad memories but when it happened I think I am the only one that saw something positive from a Rams point of view. Robert Quinn was determined to chase down Adrian Peterson, a guy who ran a 4.38, look who stays within 5 yards the entire time of a long run. That type of speed off of the edge mixed with increasingly better technique and fundamentals, is a recipe for success.
And here is what makes him so scary, he can still get a WHOOOOOOOLE lot better. His athletic ability mixed with his work ethic and motor, makes him the scariest DE over the last 30+ yrs in my opinion. I honestly can't find one with this type of ability. Jon Gruden even said "Robet Quinn is the BEST pass rusher I have EVER seen on film". I know we all like him but I really hope we can ALL truly appreciate what we are witnessing. Remind you he is only 23, he has not even come close to sniffing his prime yet. What we are watching is a once in a lifetime talent.
There is a reason that James Laurinaitis made my top five preview countdown for those who I thought could have the biggest impacts on the Rams season for better or worse. He is literally everything to this defense. We finished in the top ten rankings for run defense. And over the last 6 games we had the best ypc ave allowed. Even the pass defense saw a bump in productivity. Now you all saw the praise I just gave Quinn, but get this, even Quinn is not more valuable than JL55. That high praise does not go unwarranted though
Laurinaitis enters his fifth season as one of the most productive linebackers in the NFL since entering the league. If the team can live up to any of these expectations this season, Laurinaitis will finally get the national recognition he deserves, and everyone else will get to find out what we already know. James Laurinaitis is one of the best "defensive" players in all of football. And with this defense growing and another year in this system, he could easily be staring at a 160 TT, 10 TFL, 2 SACK, 3 INT season, and it will happen in the season when the Rams will have their most Primetime exposure in about seven years.
Laurinaitis is what makes the whole thing go. He is the quarterback of this whole thing on defense. I know Quinn is literally playing like he is not of this earth but look at it like this, JL55 is Marshall Faulk and Quinn is Kurt Warner. No one will ever deny Kurt anything, but without Faulk the GSOT never exists. Even Kurt Warner and Tory Holt have said as much. That is what Laurinaitis means to this defense.
As for Alec Ogletree -does anyone else always want to follow his first name up with Baldwin when you say it?- he might have been the best on the team at improving on a week to week basis. Every week he was a little better in some area. As some of you may remember I was a bit iffy on the drafting of him. And while I found common ground and jumped on board I openly admitted to being "nervous" still. Well he took my foot himself and put it squarely in my mouth, then forced me to wiggle my toes. I loved watching him week in and week out perform better and better. I hope he continues to stick by Laurinaitis' side this off-season and continue to grow and develop a better understanding because he has future All Pro written all over him as well.
We have been fortunate enough to get a young team flooded with talent. I believe on our current roster we have at least 5 future All Pro players. Whether or not they ever become that is up to them and the coaches, but mostly them. I saw more good in this season than I did bad. From the very beginning I said I don't see this team being more than a 7-9--9-7 club. I expected plenty of growing pains. But it is actually the 2014 season that I have expected what most expected this year. Next year for me should be the tell all. Year three is always the year that shows you all you need to know. Do we have some question marks? Yea, but what team doesn't? All 31 other teams have major questions. Some, that will be picking in the final 4 spots of the first round, actually have bigger questions than us. Look for the positives and stay positive. Let's back our team to the fullest, because THIS my friends, THIS is the year. We go from the cellar to rooftop, and start our quest to take back what is ours.
Thank you all for reading and I leave with this.....