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St. Louis Rams: Playing To Their 2014 Strengths...

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Joe Skipper

For the St. Louis Rams, the cuts getting their roster down to 53 players tells an interesting story. This is just my opinion, but it looks like the after effects of Sam Bradford's injury heavily influenced the possible course for the Rams' roster moves....

Let's be clear: Just how much confidence Jeff Fisher has in Shaun Hill to make a serious push for a post season berth could have made the third year head coach dial back his expectation for 2014, and put the Rams in a "continue to build" mode. I'm looking at the offensive players for the most part, and the heavy push toward a running game capable of controlling time of possession. In the passing game, if Rams' fans were hoping to see a receiver hit 1000 yards, they're going to be disappointed. Based on what I see so far, this squad won't have much "slash and gash". It will lean heavily of lessening their own on-field mistakes, physical play in the trenches, and taking advantage of opponent miscues.

What's more, I don't think fans should read too much into Greg Robinson - the team's #2 overall draft pick - being relegated to non-starting status. The very raw, bulldozer of a tackle will take time to learn, and with Bradford out the need to press him into service has dropped. This is more than evident by Fisher having him play a multitude of line positions during the preseason, and not trying to settle him into guard or tackle. He's getting a look at a variety of defensive players; helping him to adjust his footwork, hand placement, and exposure to the entire playbook.

This current roster screams "ball control", not Greatest Show on Turf. Brian Schottenheimer hasn't ever shown much of a tendency to sling the ball around, let alone anything close to what anyone could call creativity. In a way, Bradford's injury may very well have taken some heat off of St. Louis' oft maligned offensive coordinator. "Run the ball, run, the ball, short pass..." is in Schottenheimer's wheelhouse. If Bradford were still playing, the demand to see creative utilization of Tavon Austin would be higher. Given the current situation in St. Louis at quarterback, I can't envision Austin breaking 500 yards in receiving for 2014. The receivers who could suffer the most are new addition Kenny Britt, and Brian Quick, now in his third NFL season. With the size, speed, and build to stress opposing secondaries down the field, the lack of a strong armed quarterback is even more glaring. How long Britt - who has a history of getting banged up - will last catching passes in the 10 to 15 yard range is anyone's guess.

In a disturbing"Ground Hog Day-esk" twist, the Rams continue their trend of being the youngest team in the NFL. In Frank Dobozy's excellent article on the average age of Rams' players, it heightened my concerns for the Rams to play "mistake-free" football. Young players aren't known for their self-control as they fling themselves around a football field with their hair on fire. They make youthful miscues by the boat load, stalling drives, and giving away field positions and scores. The only way I know to minimize things like penalties, is to lean heavily of veterans at key positions. The easing of Greg Robinson into the line would make more sense given this, let alone any other rookie.

The problem the Rams now face with Bradford's absence is a lack of multiple dimensions for an opponent to deal with on Sundays. The former first overall draft pick had the arm strength to make any pass. The same can't be said for Shaun Hill, as he tries to lead an NFL team for an entire season for the first time in his career. So when the Rams' Jeff Fisher and Less Snead made their roster choices, it had to be with a view toward build a 2014 team within the capabilities and potential of who they have at quarterback. Yes it's sad, but invariably true...

In another odd twist, the loss of Bradford may well be an anathema for their division foes. If Fisher plays things close to the vest, and his young charges limit mistakes, the odds are the physical nature of the NFC West race just got dial up a notch or two. Any team facing St. Louis will be battered, pounded, and slammed to the turf on every play. "Smash-mouth" football is the lead resume line for St. Louis, and Injured Reserve lists will be slathered with "...It happened against the Rams". Scores will be low, spectacular plays will be few, and each game should come down to a 3 to 7 point degree of separation. So Rams fans, get ready for every game to come down to the wire...