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Can the Rams youth movement have a successful adolescence in 2011?

Sam Bradford leads a group of talented young offensive players that the St. Louis Rams will be counting on to progress in 2011.
Sam Bradford leads a group of talented young offensive players that the St. Louis Rams will be counting on to progress in 2011.

It should be fairly obvious to anyone paying attention that the St. Louis Rams are firmly committed to building their team through the draft. GM Billy Devaney has said as much over and over again, and that sentiment has been echoed by the head coach and even the owner. Building through the draft requires some patience. Not every player drafted can be like Rodger Saffold of James Laurinaitis, instant difference makers.

Players need time to develop, to reach their ceilings while showing growth along the way. That development will be a big part of the Rams plans for 2011. In February, we looked at some of those young players on defense that need to take a leap forward this year. Today, let's turn our attention to the offensive side of the ball and take a look at the young players the Rams will be counting on for success this season.

Jason Smith, RT - Having missed the bulk of his rookie season, Smith got a mulligan in 2010. For the most part, he fared pretty well. Smith's showed the athleticism that made him the second overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. At times, he looked really good run blocking and in pass protection, other times, not so much. Not surprisingly, consistency is the big issue for Smith this year, reaching an expected level of week-to-week performances. That's a pretty typical issue for even the best rookies.

Rodger Saffold, LT - It's hard to find much fault with Saffold's rookie season. Like Smith, the key for him going forward is consistency. 

John Greco, OG - I still want to see this guy get more snaps. If he does, he needs to show the Rams that he can be the run blocker they lacked in the middle last year. 

Renardo Foster, OT - Can he be an adequate backup offensive tackle? The Rams really need one. 

Sam Bradford, QB - Yes, even the great ones can be better. Hopefully Bradford finally has an offense under new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels that allows him to use the whole-field accuracy that helped make him such a solid first overall pick. He'll need some weapons to do make that happen as well (more in a minute). Like all rookies, King Sam needs to become a more consistent presence. One positive he showed last year was his ability to prevent total collapse when he lacked his Mojo, going so far as chasing after fumbles at great personal risk.

Keith Toston, RB - It's notable that the Rams opted to keep Toston over Kenneth Darby. He's a sure bet to contribute on special teams, but can he become more?

We've talked about the receivers ad nauseum, so there's not point dwelling on it again here. Setting aside the most obvious question of health, 2011 represents the last best chance for some of these guys to prove they can be contributors at the NFL level.

For Donnie Avery and Brandon Gibson, it's now or never. Danario Alexander and Mardy Gilyard have to prove they can be something more than filler on the depth chart.