Finally, it's time for the NFL regular season to begin. The St. Louis Rams will begin their quest for the NFC West crown this Sunday when they host the Arizona Cardinals.
Although the team showed flashes of its potential on the field, there are still questions. Plenty of questions. How can you not have questions about the youngest team in the league?
1. Can Sam Bradford continue his strong preseason play?
In three preseason games Sam Bradford completed 61 percent of his passes, threw for 368 yards, 2 touchdowns and no interceptions. Obviously these are preseason stats so they don't mean anything. However, Bradford looked comfortable for the first time in his NFL career. The issues surrounding Bradford are mostly gone. It appears as though he has a good offensive line blocking for him and receivers that can win matchups against opposing defenses. These are things he hasn't had on a consistent basis since he's been a Ram.
There are still questions around Bradford. How will he play with pressure? Will he be able to lead the team when the going get's tough? There are so many questions surrounding Bradford and the offense that you could write a book. This season should shed more light on the type of quarterback that the Rams drafted in 2010. This may not be a make or break season for him. If he puts together a solid season, there's a good chance that we won't hear about his make or break seasons anymore.
2. How will the running back committee work?
Daryl Richardson ran away with the starting running back job, needing less than 10 carries during the preseason to show the fans and the coaches that he should be the starter week one. The main question with Richardson is how many carries a game can he handle before he begins to wear down. That will be answered during the season.
But what about the rest of this committee approach? Will the Rams trust Isaiah Pead to be the backup running back after his one-game suspension ends? Will Zac Stacy take the number 2 spot, or is he just the short yardage back?Could Benny Cunningham get some snaps at running back, or is he on the roster just in case of injury? Will this even be a committee? Or will it just be Richardson leaving the game to catch his breath? This will be interesting to see.
3. What happened to the hurry up offense?
Remember this summer when different players and coaches and media types alluded to the Rams running a hurry-up style offense? Then the preseason came and went with barely a hint of it.
Either the Rams decided that adding a hurry up element to the offense would take too much time to perfect with this young team, or the team is saving it for the regular season like the Washington Redskins did last year with the read option.
Since the hurry-up offense would give the Rams an advantage over opponents, it wouldn't be a surprise if the Rams are saving it for when the games count.
4. Will the Rams defense have a better season?
Last season, the Rams surprised everyone with a top 15 defense. The Rams also led the league with 52 sacks. Both of these accomplishments happened without a defensive coordinator after " he who must not be named" was suspended for the season over "Bounty Gate".
There are high expectations for this unit's follow up season. But there are some concerns. The Rams lost veterans this offseason, and will be looking towards rookies and new starters to replace them without become liabilities. The defensive line hasn't shown much in the way of producing pressure in the preseason, so that's a concern as well.
Lot's of questions for the defense, but veterans James Laurinaitis, Cortland Finnegan, and the rest of the talented defense should be able to have another successful season. If not, the team is in for a long year.
5. Are the rookies ready for the big league?
The Rams have plenty of veteran talent, but the roster will also have to rely on rookies if they hope to take the next step forward. There are three rookies that figure to feature heavily into the Rams plans this season are receiver Tavon Austin, outside linebacker Alec Ogletree, and safety T.J. Mcdonald.
Also don't forget about the other rookies: West Virginia receiver Stedman Bailey, running back Zac Stacy, center Barrett Jones, and corner Brandon McGee. These players aren't starting but they should make their appearances throughout the season and should be part of team long-term.