St. Louis Rams Roster Preview: QB Garrett Gilbert

Dilip Vishwanat

There were many who thought - maybe hoped - the St. Louis Rams would target a high-profile quarterback in the 2014 NFL Draft. That wasn’t in the team’s plans though. Meet backup QB Garrett Gilbert...

Every fan has - and is entitled to - their opinion on matters regarding their favorite football team; and the players that comprise the team are no exception.  There may be no more "hot button issue" for the Rams than that of current signal-caller Sam Bradford.

Drafted first overall in 2010, Bradford was the guy who fans expected to help pick the team up, dust them off, and help regain the respect they’d earned as the former offensive powerhouse known as the Greatest Show on Turf.  And, to date, fans who prefer proof in their puddin’ await - more so demand - results.  But patience, after four seasons, has worn thin.

And whether right or wrong, the proverbial "fence" has fans firmly planted on their respective sides.

He hasn’t had the weapons ---> He’s had more than enough
He’s a leader ---> When’s the last time you saw him get in an O-lineman’s grill?
His offensive line has stunk ---> They’ve gotten better every year since he’s been there
He’s been injured ---> That O-line may have stunk, but they’ve improved every year he’s been in St. Louis
He just needs consistency w/ coaching ---> He’s in his 3rd year with the same offensive coordinator

Blah, blah, blah.  Long story short, a quarterback was on the Rams’ radar in the 2014 draft - at least for many of the armchair GM’s - but when that pick should’ve been utilized varied greatly.  If you read any of the offseason mock drafts, you saw fans and experts clamoring for Johnny Manziel in the first round, or pouncing on potential second round "steals" like Teddy Bridgewater.

More notable names like A.J. McCarron, Aaron Murray, and Tom Savage all got private visits with the Rams.  Others, like Blake Bortles, Derek Carr, and Tajh Boyd welcomed the Rams during their pro days.

But one QB - who was visited by the Rams’ on his pro day - and ultimately drafted by the team, was the 6’4", 220 lb., 6th round pick [214th overall] out of Southern Methodist, Garrett Gilbert.

Have a look a few highlights from his senior season.  In this video, which clearly won’t display an opportunities/weaknesses, Gilbert displays:

*  Good footwork
*  Good timing
*  Accuracy - both short and long
*  Pocket presence - steps up when needed
*  Mobility - buys time with his feet
*  Sound decision-making when the pocket breaks down

Roster Battle

There really isn’t much of one.  The Rams fully expect Sam Bradford to be a go in Week 1 of the regular season.  That hasn’t changed in a while.  It didn’t change after head coach Jeff Fisher and Les Snead reaffirmed the masses that Bradford was "their guy" heading into the offseason.  It didn’t change when the Rams acquired Shaun Hill in free agency.  And it hasn’t changed since we heard that Bradford was ahead of schedule in his recovery.

It hasn’t changed.  And it won’t change.  Sorry, [some] folks.

But back to Gilbert.  He’s only battling with Hill, and it’s doubtful he earns a spot higher than third on the depth chart at any point during the season.  And not that there’s anything wrong with that.  Shaun Hill has had quite the career in the NFL, and while most of it came in backup fashion, his experience as a veteran will prove beneficial to both Bradford and Gilbert.

Gilbert may show flashes in the off/preseason that gets fans hot and bothered, but if/when it comes time for a Rams’ backup QB to step in during the regular season, make no mistake about it, Shaun Hill is cinching up his chinstrap.

Expectations

Clipboard holding and knowledge sponging.  Look, I can’t predict the future, and I certainly don’t want to prognosticate on a quarterback’s ability to stay healthy in a given season.  The Rams are best served if Bradford stays upright, and the team continues with, what looks to be, a ground-and-pound approach in the 2014 season.

Regardless, I see Hill being the immediate backup for the Rams if Bradford were to need a play [or 500] off.

That’s not to say, though, that Gilbert couldn’t/wouldn’t/shouldn’t see the field this year.  The NFL has changed drastically over the years; from an era where sitting behind a veteran rewarded you with invaluable wisdom, to one which now covets young, athletic QB’s who can hurt opponents in a variety of ways...in Week 1 of their rookie year.  And not to suggest that Gilbert is the next Cam Newton, but he appears to have more mobility than either of the guys that precede him on the depth chart.

Footwork and elusiveness won’t earn him the starting gig on Jeff Fisher’s squad though.  Expect Gilbert to be in the mix in 2014; just don’t expect to see much of him on the playing field.  He’d be best served "growing up" in the NFL under the old school mindset, where he’s learning from QB’s who know - and have done - far more than he.

Will He Make the Team in 2014?

Sure will.  Please don’t mistake much of the aforementioned commenting on Gilbert’s status on the Rams’ depth chart as inability to perform if called upon.  While raw, he’s loaded with talent, and could prove to be a very effective QB in the NFL.  To expect late-round, Tom Brady-like, results though, would be unfair.

Rams’ leadership hasn’t wavered on their stance on who will lead this offense since the arrival of the "new regime" in 2012.  And while Garrett Gilbert may not be a part of their immediate plans to overthrow the toughest division in football, the former Mustang is here to stay in 2014.

If he’s able to soak up some knowledge from the other QB’s currently on the Rams’ roster, the professional career of a 6th round draft pick looks exponentially more promising.  Just don’t expect him - or Hill - to be challenging for the starting job, because...well...Jeff Fisher’s told you who that was for over two years now.

*****

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