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Week 15: Rams-Cardinals Players to Watch

The Rams recent success has been due to their young players continued improvement.

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in the 2014 season, the St. Louis Rams won back-to-back games. Even more noteworthy, both of the wins came in the form of shutouts.

All seems to be moving full steam ahead. The defense is finally dominating has anticipated. The offense is performing efficiently; not turning the ball over and putting up touchdowns when given the opportunity. Just in time to face off against the division-leading Arizona Cardinals.

Players to Watch

Tavon Austin

It may have taken three-fourths of the season, but Tavon Austin finally showed how much of a threat he is with the ball in his hands. Versus Washington, Austin had 5 carries for 46 yards and added two catches for 14 yards. His true ability shined through when he returned a punt for a 78-yard touchdown.

It is nice that Tavon was finally able to take a return to the house this season. We saw him get pretty damn close against San Diego, but that one – like so many other TD and long returns – was nullified by penalties.

Tavon's special skill set  on special team adds another threat. Opposing teams may not fear him on offense yet – until we get a new offensive coordinator – but his speed and shiftiness on returns sure has the punt teams shook.

Stedman Bailey

His number was only called twice against Washington, but Stedman Bailey made the most of it. At the end of the day, he had two catches for 47 yards.

There is not much to not like about Bailey. He has proven that he can make plays. He can make a seven-yard slant go for 15-20 yards. He may not be the home run threat a Calvin Johnson or a DeSean Jackson is, but he is surely an exceptional weapon.

T.J. McDonald

T.J. McDonald has really came into his own this season. Not only is McDonald able to lay down a thunderous blow, but his ability in coverage has improved immensely. This season, T.J. has seven passes defended along with the interception he had last week. When his receiver makes a catch, he meets them immediately to tackle the shit out of 'em or cause an incomplete pass.

Looking towards the future, T.J.'s increased coverage ability means he and Mark Barron will be able to coexist more favorably in the secondary. Both are able to bust heads. Players going into their area must beware.

Alec Ogletree

Just like McDonald, Alec Ogletree is becoming one of the stars on this uberly talented defense. Ogletree already supplanted James Laurinaitis as the leading tackler in his rookie season. He is set to lead the Rams again this year with 88 tackles so far this season (Laurinaitis has 85 tackles). Tackles aside, Alec has the special knack of creating turnovers. He has three forced fumbles this season, along with two interceptions.

Alec also has cut down on the costly mistakes that plagued him early on. Limiting those mistakes, along with refined technique, has led Ogletree to become key in the defense's success.

Robert Quinn

Even with all the talk of improving young defensive playmakers, we have to remember Robert Quinn is still one of those improving young defenders. Quinn is still 24 years old. There is no word to explain how scary good a 'in his prime' Robert Quinn will be. He is already one of the best pass rushers in the league, if not the best. His 10.5 sacks have him in the top ten, despite his slow start. His run defense has exceedingly improved over the last two season.