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2015 St. Louis Rams: Roster Analysis, Unit Grades & Season Projections

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The Rams looked awfully good in last Sunday's victory over the Seattle Seahawks. Can they carry that momentum forward, reach their full potential as a team and challenge for a playoff berth?

Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The Rams are coming off a big season-opening victory against arch divisional rival the Seattle Seahawks. The Rams overcame three fumbles, a 31-24 4th quarter deficit and the absence of RB's Todd Gurley and Tre Mason to secure the upset. It's only one game, but could that one game be a harbinger of good things to come? The Rams looked awfully good in last Sunday's victory over the Seahawks. Can they carry that momentum forward, reach their full potential as a team and challenge for a playoff berth?

How do the Rams' positional units stack up against the the rest of the NFL's? By grading and ranking the Rams' roster by unit, we can then project what the Rams' regular season record might look like come December. The second grade/ranking for each unit deals with "potential". How good could each of the units become if they reach their full potential? What could the Rams' record look like in December if the team reaches its ceiling?

Grading System

The accompanying chart presents my grading system, matching up letter grades with NFL rankings from 1 to 32. As an example, if the Rams' linebacker unit is assigned a B+ grade, it means the unit ranks 11th to 13th best in the NFL (relative to other teams' linebacker units). The same rationale holds true for overall team grades. "Unit Grades" are determined by an evaluation of the units at the beginning of the regular season. "Potential Grades" reflect each units' ceiling and their potential for improvement throughout the regular season.

NFL Rank Unit Grade NFL Rank Unit Grade
1 A+ 17 B
2 A+ 18 B-
3 A+ 19 B-
4 A 20 B-
5 A 21 C+
6 A 22 C+
7 A 23 C+
8 A- 24 C
9 A- 25 C
10 A- 26 C
11 B+ 27 C
12 B+ 28 C-
13 B+ 29 C-
14 B 30 C-
15 B 31 D
16 B 32 D

Unit Grades

Quarterback

Starter - Nick Foles

Reserves - Case Keenum, Sean Mannion

The Rams pulled off a big trade in the offseason, sending Sam Bradford to the Eagles for Nick Foles and draft choices. If Foles replicates his 2013 performance, this units' final grade will soar. If Foles' performance this year resembles his mediocre, injury-riddled 2014 season, the final grade will be substantially lower. Foles will be asked to protect the football, remain healthy and throw the deep ball. Case Keenum provides decent insurance in case of an injury to Foles. This is essentially a redshirt/developmental season for 2015 3rd round selection Sean Mannion.

Unit Grade - B- (18th)

Potential Unit Grade - B+ (12th)

Running Back

Starter - Todd Gurley

Reserves - Tre Mason, Benny Cunningham, Isaiah Pead, Chase Reynolds

This unit will likely get off to a slower start than anticipated. Todd Gurley will be out until at least Week 3. Tre Mason has suffered throughout the summer from a hamstring injury and will be out for at least the season-opening contest against Seattle. Expect both Gurley and Mason to be high impact players as the season progresses. Cunningham excels in pass catching, pass protection and on kick returns. Isaiah Pead has finally shown flashes of his abundant talent and could be a valuable contributor (notwithstanding his performance against Seattle). Chase Reynolds is a key special teams standout. Trey Watts is serving a 4-game suspension. Pead should be looking over his shoulder.

Unit Grade - C+ (21st)

Potential Unit Grade - B (14th)

Wide Receiver

Starters - Kenny Britt, Brian Quick

Reserves - Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, Chris Givens, Bradley Marquez

The Rams played their last 25 regular season games (2013-14) with backup QB's as starters. The offense as a whole has suffered from mediocre offensive line play and an inconsistent rushing attack. All of these issues make it very difficult to evaluate the performance of this unit over the last couple of seasons. The issues with the offense clearly hindered the development of Brian Quick, Tavon Austin, Chris Givens and Stedman Bailey.

Givens had himself an outstanding preseason. Givens and Britt are the Rams' best deep-ball threats and will be counted on to stretch defenses. Before his season-ending injury in the seventh game last year, Quick was enjoying a breakthrough season. He's recovered from the injury and may be the Rams' top pass-catcher. Of all the Rams receivers, Bailey is the most fundamentally sound and has the best hands. Hopefully Tavon Austin will be better utilized by new offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti. He's a unique, explosive weapon, as demonstrated in the home opener against Seattle.

Unit Grade - C+ (22nd)

Potential Unit Grade - B+ (13th)

Tight End

Starter - Jared Cook

Reserves - Lance Kendricks, Cory Harkey

All three tight ends will see plenty of action on the field. Cory Harkey and Lance Kendricks bring positional versatility, while Jared Cook could be Nick Foles' primary red zone target. Cook and Kendricks both carry big contracts. Will this be the year their production matches their lofty salary cap hits...and their potential?

Unit Grade - B- (18th)

Potential Unit Grade - B (14th)

Offensive Line

Starters - C - Tim Barnes, RG - Rodger Saffold, LG - Jamon Brown, RT - Rob Havenstein, LT - Greg Robinson

Reserves - Demetrius Rhaney, Garrett Reynolds, Cody Wichmann, Andrew Donnal, Darrell Williams

In with the new...out with the old. The offensive line underwent massive turnover during the offseason. Veterans Jake Long, Joe Barksdale, Davin Joseph and Scott Wells were released/not re-signed. Barrett Jones was released in the final cut down to 53. In their place, the Rams brought in 7 players new to the 53-man roster: 4 through the 2015 NFL Draft, one Free Agent signing (Reynolds), one UDFA (Williams) and a 2014 draftee who spent the entire 2014 season on Injured Reserve (Rhaney).

The Rams will have the youngest offensive line in the NFL, and the most inexperienced. Of the five starters, only right guard Rodger Saffold has more than a dozen NFL starts. The veteran unit that took the field to open the 2014 season had a combined 366 games of NFL starting experience. The five starters that opened this season against Seattle had only 76 games of NFL starting experience. The line will have growing pains and it will take time for the unit to gel. The offensive line could very well hold the key as to how this season will unfold for the Rams.

Unit Grade - D (31st)

Potential Unit Grade - C+ (22nd)

Defensive Line

Starters- DE - Chris Long, DE - Robert Quinn, DT - Aaron Donald, DT - Michael Brockers

Reserves - Ethan Westbrooks, William Hayes, Eugene Sims, Nick Fairley

Easily the best unit on the team, the defensive line will contend for the title of "best in the league" in 2015. Chris Long is healthy (after missing a substantial part of the 2014 season). Nick Fairley is an intriguing Free Agent addition. The sky is the limit for 2014 Defensive Rookie Of The Year Aaron Donald. The unsung Brockers helps make the rest of the line look good. William Hayes and Eugene Sims would be starters for many teams.

Unit Grade - A+ (2nd)

Potential Unit Grade - A+ (1st)

Linebacker

Starters - MLB - James Laurinaitis, OLB - Akeem Ayers, OLB - Alec Ogletree

Reserves - Cameron Lynch, Daren Bates, Bryce Hager

The Rams upgraded one of their OLB positions with the release of Jo-Lonn Dunbar and the addition of Akeem Ayers via Free Agency. James Laurinaitis is a better than average MLB, He is a valued team leader and provides a strong veteran presence for the youthful Rams. Alec Ogletree is an ultra-talented player entering his third season with the Rams. The Rams' leading tackler in 2014, Ogletree has All-Pro potential if he can can cut down on mistakes, missed tackles and mental lapses. Depth is a concern. The three reserves (two of them rookies) should all excel on special teams. None of the three has started a game in the NFL.

Unit Grade - B- (18th)

Potential Unit Grade - B+ (13th)

Cornerback

Starters - Trumaine Johnson, Janoris Jenkins

Reserves - Lamarcus Joyner, Marcus Roberson

This grade would be higher if not for the season-ending injury to projected starter E.J. Gaines. The unit is a bit thin heading into the season and can't afford many more injuries. Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson are in their contract years. The Rams are counting on more consistent play from both of them. Marcus Roberson and Lamarcus Joyner provide young, quality depth and should continue to develop in their second NFL seasons.

Unit Grade - C+ (21st)

Potential Unit Grade - B (15th)

Safety

Starters - Rodney McLeod, T.J. McDonald

Reserves - Mark Barron, Cody Davis, Maurice Alexander

T.J. McDonald played at an All-Pro level during the last half of the 2014 regular season. Rodney McLeod has shown improvement in each of his three seasons with the Rams. Mark Barron will see plenty of time on the field in big nickel sub-packages and now has a full offseason with the Rams - and Gregg Williams' defense - under his belt. Cody Davis and Mo Alexander showed a lot of promise in the preseason and are key special teams contributors.

Unit Grade - B- (19th)

Potential Unit Grade - B+ (13th)

Specialists

PK - Greg Zuerlein

P - John Hekker

LS - Jake McQuaide

Hekker and McQuaide are among the best at their positions in the entire league. The only thing holding down this units grade is Zuerlein's inconsistency. In 2014, the Rams had the NFC’s leading kickoff returner in Benny Cunningham and its second-leading punt returner (yards per return) in Tavon Austin. The coverage units were exemplary in 2014 and should continue their high performance level in 2015.

Unit Grade - B- (18th)

Potential Unit Grade - B+ (12th)

Team Grades

Overall Team Grade - B-
NFL Team Ranking - 19th
Regular Season Record - 8-8

The Rams begin the season with a stout, talented, top-ten defense and an offense with more question marks than The Riddler. Can the offensive line quickly mature and gel into a cohesive unit as the season progresses? Can the Rams establish the power running game so dear to Jeff Fisher's heart? Will Nick Foles produce a season reminiscent of his Pro Bowl performance in 2013, or one closer to his injury-riddled, mediocre 2014 campaign? Will the pass catchers finally turn enormous potential into results on the field? Until those questions are answered with resounding "yesses", the Rams will be hard pressed to finish with better than a .500 record.

Potential Overall Team Grade - B+
Potential NFL Team Ranking - 11th
Potential Regular Season Record - 11-5

As the win in the season opener demonstrated, the Rams have the talent to compete with the best teams in the NFL. For the fourth consecutive year, the Rams are the youngest team in the league (and the youngest Jeff Fisher has coached in his tenure with the Rams). Notwithstanding the youthfulness, the team now has a large contingent of players with two or more years of experience. The combination of youth, talent and experience could propel the Rams to heights not seen in many a year in St. Louis. Minimizing turnovers and penalties, establishing the running game, making astute half-time adjustments and getting off to a fast start to the season are all keys as to how the season will unfold.

The season-opening win against the Seattle Seahawks marked the first step in the Rams' quest to reach the playoffs in 2015. Potential realized. At least for one game. Let's hope the question Turf Show Times' Joe McAtee posed will be answered with a resounding "YES".

"Bear in mind, the Rams have beaten the Seahawks in three of the last four seasons. This game, in and of itself, hasn't been the back breaker for the Rams. The two 7-win seasons and a 6-win season of the last three years featured wins like today where the team seemed to have turned a corner."

"The question is if they can extend the performance and rack up a couple more in a row than they've been able to in years past."