NFL’s Future is counting down the 2012 season opener with it’s preseason Power Rankings. We provide in-depth team previews and schedule analysis as the NFL season draws near.
29. St. Louis Rams
The St. Louis Rams begin another season with more changes atop the organization. Jeff Fisher will be the third head coach in the last six years. Likewise, and maybe more importantly, Sam Bradford embarks upon his third NFL season under his third offensive coordinator. It’s a recipe for disaster but the Rams are banking on Fisher bringing stability to this organization.
Sam Bradford had the look of an elite quarterback after earning Offensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2010. 2011 brought a new OC and some nagging injuries causing a backslide in production for Bradford and the Rams offense. There are no doubts that if this team wants to be competitive in 2012 it will rely heavily on Bradford’s advancement as an NFL quarterback.
Bradford wasn’t helped out much from a protection standpoint. The Rams offensive line was flat out abysmal in 2011 and will need to show marked improvement in 2012. The Rams only addition to the offensive front was Green Bay center Scott Wells who is a major upgrade at the pivot. Jason Smith has yet to live up to his draft billing and could be looking at his final season as a Ram if he plays poorly.
The Rams sole weapon is running back Steven Jackson who should be helped out by the addition of Isaiah Pead. Pead is a change of pace back that could see significant carries in spelling Jackson. The Rams lacked a major threat the receiver position which hamstrung Bradford in 2011. Gone is Brandon Lloyd, who was Bradford’s best target in 2011. The Rams opted to go young and draft a project atop round two in Brian Quick. Quick is a massive target that has the physical tools to be a good one. They added speed to the outside in Chris Givens and picked up free agent Steve Smith. Smith has been hampered by injuries the last two seasons but could be just what the doctor ordered if healthy.
The defense will look very different from 2011 and that’s a good thing. The Rams looked to infuse this defense with youth in the offseason as they picked up DT Kendall Langford, CB Cortland Finnegan, and drafted DT Michael Brockers, CB’s Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson.
The Rams front seven returns two starters in Chris Long and James Laurinaitis. Laurinaitis will be flanked by free agent pick up Jo-Lonn Dunbar and veteran Mario Haggan.
The defensive line is young and athletic. With Chris Long spearheading this group, they could emerge from a dismal 2011 season. Long will be joined by Langford, Brockers, and 2011 first round pick Robert Quinn. The development of Brockers and Quinn will be key for this defense and if they can pick things up quickly, this group has a shot at being one of the tops in the league.
The secondary was an eyesore in 2011 but looks to be much improved this season. The addition of Fisher’s former shutdown corner, Cortland Finnegan is a major upgrade. Finnegan will most likely be joined by rookie CB Janoris Jenkins. Jenkins slid in the draft due to off-the-field concerns but has looked ready to play in camp.
No doubt the Rams are behind the eight ball with the schedule but they catch a break in the last four games of the season. The middle of the schedule is brutal including flying to London to take on the Pats. If they can get to the bye week with three wins, they would have to feel great about their chances to finish strong in 2012.
Sept. 9 – at Detroit Lions
Sept. 16 – Washington Redskins
Sept. 23 – at Chicago Bears
Sept. 30 – Seattle Seahawks
Oct. 4 – Arizona Cardinals
Oct. 14 – at Miami Dolphins
Oct. 21 – Green Bay Packers
Oct. 28 – New England Patriots (London)
Nov. 4 – BYE
Nov. 11 – at San Francisco 49ers
Nov. 18. – NY Jets
Nov. 25 – at Arizona Cardinals
Dec. 2 – San Francisco 49ers
Dec. 9 – at Buffalo Bills
Dec. 16 – Minnesota Vikings
Dec. 23 – at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Dec. 30 – at Seattle Seahawks
For this team to be successful in 2012 they will rely on the maturation of a young quarterback and defense. The Rams went from one of the oldest teams in 2011 to one of the youngest in 2012. Jeff Fisher will have his work cut out for him but he also has some talent to work with.