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Five Questions: St. Louis Rams

San Francisco 49ers v St. Louis Rams Getty Images

In a loaded NFC West, the St. Louis Rams have been quietly going about their business. The Rams have watched their division rivals deal with season-ending injuries (Darnell Dockett, Kendall Hunter), contract disputes (Marshawn Lynch, Alex Boone) and off-field issues (Aldon Smith, Daryl Washington).

Outside of the loss of reserve running back Isaiah Pead, the Rams have been steadily preparing for the start of the season without many bumps in the road.

St. Louis has won seven games in each of the last two seasons under head coach Jeff Fisher. Here are five questions that will determine if the Rams will improve that total this year.

1. Can Sam Bradford finally put it all together?

Sam Bradford is entering his fifth NFL season and last under his rookie contract with the Rams. He’s healthy once again after a knee injury last season. The Rams receiving corps appears to be the most talented group of Bradford’s tenure and the offensive line no longer appears to be a significant liability.

It’s now time to see if Bradford can live up to the lofty expectations of a former No. 1 overall draft pick and guide the Rams to the postseason for the first time since 2004.

Bradford had completed 61 percent of his passes last season with a 14-4 touchdown to interception ratio in seven games before going down with a torn ACL. It was a promising sign that Bradford may still have it in him.

2. Just how good can the Rams front seven be?

Robert Quinn and Chris Long combined for 27.5 sacks last season for St. Louis. Michael Brockers added 5.5 sacks from the defensive tackle position and the team went out and added Aaron Donald with second of two first-round draft picks. With William Hayes, Eugene Sims and Kendall Langford still as rotational players, the Rams defensive line could be one of the league’s most formidable units.

Add in James Laurinaitis and Alec Ogletree at linebacker and the front seven for St. Louis looks like the strength of the team. Is it enough to vault the Rams defense into the conversation of the league’s best? That will rely on the answer to our next question.

3. Will secondary play be St. Louis’ Achilles heel?

As strong as the front seven is for the Rams, the secondary has its question marks. With Cortland Finnegan gone, the Rams are relying on Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson to take hold of the starting jobs at cornerback. At safety, Rodney McLeod and T.J. McDonald were shaky at times last year too.

Rookies Lamarcus Joyner at cornerback and Mo Alexander at safety could help stabilize the back-end of the defense. The dominant pass rush should give the secondary a hand as well by putting repeated pressure on opposing quarterbacks. However, the Rams defense will likely only reach its ceiling if the play from the secondary can be adequate.

4. Do the Rams finally have a competent receiving corps?

The Rams have thrown draft pick, after draft pick, after draft pick at the receiver position in hopes of improving a group that has been perpetually lacking in St. Louis. Five receivers have been selected in the first four rounds in the last three years: Tavon Austin (1st round, 2013), Stedman Bailey (3rd round, 2013) Austin Pettis (3rd round, 2011), Brian Quick (2nd round, 2012) and Chris Givens (4th round, 2012). They also signed former Tennessee first round pick Kenny Britt this offseason.

Finally, the group may be good enough to give Sam Bradford the weapons he needs offensively. Austin caught 40 passes as a rookie to lead the Rams receivers. Britt looks to restart his career after a disappointing season where he fell out of favor in Tennessee. Quick, Givens, Pettis and Bailey give St. Louis capable depth.

A strong year from the receiving corps could help get the Rams over the hump.

5. Can Michael Sam make the roster and can he contribute if he does?

As detailed earlier, the Rams defensive line is loaded with star talent and quality depth. It makes it a difficult task for Michael Sam, a seventh-round pick out of Missouri attempting to become the first openly gay player to make an active NFL roster, to earn his way onto the squad.

Sam has held his own and picked up a sack last week against the Green Bay Packers. The battle for the final roster spot along the defensive line appears to be between Sam, Sammy Brown, Matt Conrath and Ethan Westbrooks. If he doesn’t make the final 53-man roster, the Rams could put Sam on their practice squad to develop.

If he does make the roster, Sam will likely be a deep reserve option only at the outset unless he can find his way onto the field in a special teams role.

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27 Responses to “Five Questions: St. Louis Rams”
  1. beardinals says: Aug 20, 2014 6:24 PM

    1 – 5. Can Sam Bradford finally put it all together?

  2. aceakking says: Aug 20, 2014 6:28 PM

    Why do people keep saying the NFC West is loaded. You are only loaded if you are unbeatable. Only unbeatable team in NFL is Bill Leavy and his Steelers.

  3. schmitty2 says: Aug 20, 2014 6:33 PM

    #6- Can Brian Schottenheimer quit being the most conservative play caller in the league? If so then the answer to #1 is YES.

  4. chawkup says: Aug 20, 2014 6:33 PM

    Rams are going to sneak into the playoffs this year.

  5. mrpickelz says: Aug 20, 2014 6:33 PM

    6 can fishers mustache be a distraction

  6. succulentnipples says: Aug 20, 2014 6:38 PM

    Johnathon Football.

  7. succulentnipples says: Aug 20, 2014 6:39 PM

    The Johnathon Football.

  8. mutantman87 says: Aug 20, 2014 6:45 PM

    I think #1 incorrectly asserts that Bradford is in a contract year. I believe he signed a 6-year deal in 2010 under the old CBA, so he is technically still under contract for 2015. But he won’t be if he doesn’t get the job done next year. But I can definitely see the talking heads in February or March before Bradford’s 6th season talking about whether the Rams are doing enough to help Bradford.

    Look at Russell Wilson- 2nd most pressured QB in the league last year after a ton of OL injuries on an average unit that’s better at run than pass blocking, great RB, average WRs, and a dominant defense. Why couldn’t that be Bradford if he were all a #1 overall pick is supposed to be.

  9. vincentsr21 says: Aug 20, 2014 6:48 PM

    Sam Bradford can and will put it together..Coach Fischer needs a offensive Coach.who can call plays to complement Bradford’s skill set..DB’s still a concern,D line best in NFL.They dont need Sams..they need DB’s and more DB’s…Rams could be factor in their division..depends what team shows up..The 7-9 or the 9-7 team…

  10. rmfp1978 says: Aug 20, 2014 6:52 PM

    Definitely going to get the wild card if not better but it absolutely falls on 1 & 6. Can Bradford step up, stay healthy. Dudes a great pocket passer but has zero mobility. People can say what they want, he’s had a hard way to go. I wonder how he would be if the rams would of stayed w pat shurmer. Terrible management, terrible drafting, and terrible coaches. Which leads me to number 6. Can shotty come up with a game plan where Bradford don’t have to check down the whole game. This is the year RAMSNATION

  11. osiris33 says: Aug 20, 2014 7:04 PM

    8-8 at best. Bradford, the OL, WR’s, and RB’s are all average. Secondary is way below average.

    Overall, average.

  12. rmfp1978 says: Aug 20, 2014 7:05 PM

    Uh because Bradford isn’t mobile, so when you don’t have time for receivers to get open. So he had an o line that didn’t do the best then he had to work with receivers who haven’t took it to the next level yet. Trust me I know excuses I’m sick of hearing them too. If he doesn’t do something this year I’m done given em. Only Stat that matters is wins

  13. computojon says: Aug 20, 2014 7:06 PM

    The only real questions are #1, 3, and 4. Bradford has looked very good so far in preseason, and with an improved offensive line, I think his performance and stats will improve over last year’s 90.9 QB rating. As for the WR corps, I see significant improvement. Tavon Austin is in his second year, and Brian Quick will have a breakout year. The biggest question in my mind, by far, is #3, the defensive secondary.

  14. vikesr4reel says: Aug 20, 2014 7:08 PM

    I have more than five for this pathetic team

  15. misterseahawk says: Aug 20, 2014 7:12 PM

    Only question that matters: Are you or will you ever be able to beat the Seahawks and the 12s? NO! Fall in line behind Scottsdale & Santa Clara – NO ONE is beating the Hawks anytime soon!

    GO HAWKS!

  16. couldntthinkofaname says: Aug 20, 2014 7:33 PM

    6. Can St. Louis draw more than 10,000 to any home game this season?

  17. rayjay9393 says: Aug 20, 2014 7:35 PM

    can they stop the run?

  18. jdrewsy says: Aug 20, 2014 7:35 PM

    2. Just how good can the Rams front seven be?

    You talk of the starting front four and back ups.

    Second paragraph you mention James Laurinaitis and Alec Ogletree at linebacker.

    I’m not an accountant but 4 + 2 = 6

    Are they only playing with six or is the other linebacker that bad?

    Go Hawks!

  19. ceehawkfan says: Aug 20, 2014 8:50 PM

    I’m not sleeping on the Rams nor should you, they got potential.

  20. jayovalentine says: Aug 20, 2014 9:07 PM

    Bradford is garbage. Clemens was even worse. But as the PedHawks did last year, win with a strong D & run game with a slightly above average QB, its not impossible for the Rams.

  21. dalcow4 says: Aug 20, 2014 9:23 PM

    Can’t see Jeff Fisher lead this team to his usual 7-9 standard. They have so little and they play in the best division. We’re looking at 4-12 folks.

  22. banky74 says: Aug 20, 2014 9:26 PM

    Could be a scary team to play but as many have already mentioned, it comes down to Bradford developing into a solid starting QB.

    The secondary is average or possibly below average but the front seven is scary good. They’ll struggle against teams with great offensive lines but there’s not too many elite O-Lines out there these days.

    Could easily see this team going 12-4 but I could just as easily see them going 6-10 if Bradford doesn’t start reaching his potential.

    Going to be a serious test when my team plays them this year.

  23. pftisfulloftrolls says: Aug 20, 2014 9:46 PM

    1.No
    2.Extremely
    3.Maybe,but that front seven should help.
    4.Only if Bradford is good
    5.No

  24. bannedfromchoirpractice says: Aug 20, 2014 10:40 PM

    Looks like a recipe for Marty Ball, more or less.

  25. mydogsnameisvick says: Aug 20, 2014 11:59 PM

    Jeff Fisher is a mediocre coach who has gotten a reputation off of three (out of nineteen) good seasons of coaching.

  26. deweyaxewound says: Aug 21, 2014 2:58 PM

    Re: #5: Everyone knows the Packers GAVE that sack up to Michael Sam, because they enjoy being the power bottom in those kinds of relationships.

  27. zachebers says: Aug 22, 2014 9:58 AM

    For all you Rams haters out there, I will honestly say as a Rams fan and season ticket holder for 19 years, we have our work cut out for us with this schedule and in this division. There are concerns the secondary, receivers and the infamous Sam Bradford…

    With that said, Bradford does not worry me or concern me at all. He’s a good quarterback, plenty good to win with.

    Our secondary was addressed with a bulk of cost efficient youth. This is how you develop and build. This takes time, maybe another year or two before you can call them “good”.

    Speaking of development, Brian Quick, Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin look like they are ready to make a statement this year. Tavon and Brian are freak athletes that needed time to get up to speed. If you think that this is a bull s**t excuse, then look at Vincent Jackson’s career numbers.
    As for Stedman, this kid has looked great every chance he gets, no concerns there.
    Also, Kenny Britt, who some may not realize is only 25, can play ball.

    I guess my point is, the great franchises are patient and build over time.
    For those of you who do not see the Rams as currently a franchise on the rise that needs to be taken very seriously then you are either:
    A. Not paying attention to the Rams and criticizing blindly due to their past reputation.
    or
    B. Dumb (not a football person)

    Go Rams!

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