2013 ST. LOUIS RAMS PREVIEW
June 27, 2013INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
2013 ST. LOUIS RAMS FOOTBALL PREVIEW
LAST YEAR: 7-8-1, 3RD IN THE NFC WEST
HEAD COACH: JEFF FISHER, 2ND SEASON
The Rams went 4-1-1 within the division in 2012 and Coach Jeff Fisher is making enough moves to make St. Louis even more dangerous, not just in the division, but overall in the NFL. In his two seasons with the Rams, Fisher has done some great things to improve one of the worst teams in the league to a team that has become very respectable. But before we put the Rams in the playoffs, they must find a way to survive without RB Steven Jackson. Jackson wasn’t willing to hang around for the Rams to officially turn the corner and he bolted for Atlanta.
QB Sam Bradford may not have Jackson but he has a new LT in Jake Long who signed as a free agent from Miami. Long will give Bradford the kind of protection he hasn’t had since joining the Rams. Bradford will also have a new TE in Jared Cook (Tennessee), WR Tavon Austin out of West Virginia and his college teammate Stedman Bailey. Austin was perhaps the top playmaker in this year’s NFL draft and he can score every time he touches the football. Bailey and Austin combined for almost 3,000 yards receiving in 2012. So we know the Rams can throw the football but who will run the ball? The names Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead will get the call. Both were drafted in the 2012 NFL draft.
Coach Fisher spent a tremendous amount of time in his first two seasons trying to rebuild the Rams defense, specifically the pass defense. They improved to 15th in the NFL last season and should be better in 2013. Veterans Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins will be joined by third round selection T.J. McDonald out of USC. McDonald struggled last season at Southern Cal and that’s why he slid into the third round. Jenkins had plenty of off-the-field issues a year ago, but matured under Fisher in 2012. LB Alec Ogletree was taken in the first round out of Georgia and fills a need at inside linebacker. Ogletree is has a lot of natural talent and could be a game impact player. The Rams defense is led by DE Chris Long and LB James Laurinatis.
Fisher is making all the right moves to put the Rams in a position to make a move in the NFC West. The problem is, San Francisco and Seattle are also in that division. Yes, the Rams played well in the division, but can they repeat their success in 2013?
2012 IN REVIEW:
TOTAL OFFENSE: 329.0 (23RD)
RUN OFFENSE: 107.1 (19TH)
PASS OFFENSE: 221.9 (18TH)
TOTAL DEFENSE: 342.6 (14TH)
RUN DEFENSE: 117.5 (15TH)
PASS DEFENSE: 225.1 (15TH)
2013 RAMS DRAFT:
No. 8 - Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
Of all the picks this year, none had the kind of pre-draft build up that Austin did. The Rams loved what they saw from Austin, and he's the kind of playmaker this offense hasn't seen in almost a decade, with the exception of Steven Jackson.
Austin is the first wide receiver drafted in the first round by the Rams since 1999 when the team picked Torry Holt. He is only the fifth receiver drafted in the first round in the history of the franchise.
No. 30 - Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
He isn't the hardest hitter in the draft at his position, but he might just be the most exciting. As soon as the commissioner announced his name, Ogletree became the most athletic linebacker on the roster. He rounds out a tough front seven.
No. 71 - T.J. McDonald, S, USC
Some felt like McDonald was not the best safety available at the time. However, this front office and coaching staff has earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to defensive backs. He's a big guy at 6'2 219 pounds. He also happens to be a pretty hard hitter. We'll get to know more about his role through spring workouts and camp, but it looks like he'll be a starter from Week 1 this year.
No. 92 - Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia
Tavon's teammate from a Dana Holgosen's dynamic Air Raid offense. He's only 5'11, but everyone says he catches like a guy who stands 6'3 based on his ability to go up and get balls with his hands. He also happens to run routes well. If he can get up to speed quickly, he could turn into the possession receiver this offense needs.
No. 113 - Barrett Jones, C, Alabama
Outside of Austin, this might be my favorite pick of the entire draft. Jones is part of that other-worldly Alabama offensive line, and one of Nick Saban's favorite players. He's nasty in the trenches. Tenacious doesn't describe do his play justice. He was an All-American and All-SEC center last year, which was his first season at the position. Oh, he has played all five positions on the line. With the Rams, he looks set for the middle, and could be competing for a starting guard spot this year. With Harvey Dahl and center Scott Wells both dealing with injuries, he could wind up at any one of three spots in the middle.
No. 149 - Brandon McGee, CB, Miami
Classic Fisher corner here ... less than 6'0 tall and physical as hell on the field. He's compared to Jason McCourty, who Fisher drafted in the sixth round of the 2009 NFL Draft during his days with the Titans. He'll be the fourth corner on the depth chart, but could see some playing time as a slot guy.
No. 160 - Zac Stacy, RB, Vanderbilt
Fisher's "big back" measures 5'9 216 pounds and packs quite a wallop. He did 27 reps on the bench press, while running a respectable 4.53 40. He was a top performer among running backs on the bench and three-cone drill at the Combine. He finishes his runs well and hits his hole, which should be perfect for a time-sharing guy to work between the tackles.
"Zac is a very explosive runner," Snead said. "He averaged, I think, over six yards per carry in that conference, which is something to be said. He's an outstanding young man. He's smart. He's good out of the backfield. He's a pass protector. He's a complete back. He's a strong inside power runner that kind of gives us a change of pace. You can't have too many of these guys."
Seven players. It's not a major haul as far as the number of picks are concerned. What's interesting about it is that all seven players take immediately project to make the roster in 2013. That's a huge difference from past drafts, especially those conducted by front offices we'd prefer not to talk about.
Fisher put this draft class into the bigger picture, starting with trading the second pick last year right up through free agency this year.
"Les and his staff did a great job, just getting started and then we got the coaches involved," Fisher said. "From top to bottom, it couldn't have gone better for us. We certainly took advantage of what we started last year with, with the Washington trade. Obviously, we're looking forward to continuing again that next year. We feel like, not only through free agency, but also through the last three days that we've improved this football team with players that have played positions that create problems and help us to get better."
2013 RAMS SCHEDULE
Sep. 8 vs. Arizona Cardinals 4:25 p.m.
2013 RAMS ROSTER