We are only a couple days into the new league season and it appears that the majority of the St. Louis Rams roster is taking shape.
With the moves the St. Louis Rams made on March 10th, they have solidified a position that has had many questions surrounding it to this point, quarterback.
By now we have all heard that the Rams have traded the Eagles for Nick Foles and have sent Sam Bradford to Pennsylvania. That move, understandably, overshadowed another move that the Rams made on the opening day of free agency; the Rams traded a 2016 seventh round pick to the Houston Texans to acquire QB Case Keenum. You may remember that Keenum spent some time on the Rams roster in 2014.
This makes the depth chart at QB look like it could be just about finalized. With 2014 8-game starter Shaun Hill signing with the Minnesota Vikings, it would appear now that Nick Foles will be the starting QB for the Rams followed by Keenum and rounded out with Austin Davis who remains on the roster. Don’t let yourself get too out of control if/when the Rams draft a QB at some point in the 2015 NFL Draft. This could happen to give the position some much needed competition. After all, Rams fans know exactly how important it is to have a viable backup QB on the team.
The Rams are also set at the tight end position after bringing Lance Kendricks back. Jared Cook remains a Ram, but it is worth noting that Kendricks’ contract is slightly larger than anyone would want to give a second string player. With Cook making his fair share of money, the Rams could be looking to open up even more cap room.
One interesting thing to note is that all 11 starters will be back on the defensive side of the ball. That’s something that not a lot of teams can say. There were definitely some weak spots of the defense in 2014, but with another season under Gregg Williams, that could go away fairly easily. The Rams could move on from LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar and S Rodney McLeod and be just fine. With Mark Barron on the roster and his size and speed, he could play at either position. When Barron was on the field for the Rams, most of his time was spent in the box or up close to the line of scrimmage. It’s hard to believe that Gregg Williams isn’t somewhere drooling right now at the thought of having all of his starting players returning next season.
I wish I could tell you that the Rams were also set on the offensive line, but I wouldn’t lie to you. The Rams currently have 6 offensive linemen on the roster after making the move to cut Jake Long and Scott Wells. To some, these moves seemed to be negative. Just to put your little head at ease, Jake Long was making A LOT of money, and had just finished his second season in a row on IR. Scott Wells is just an older player who never found his groove in St. Louis. When Wells was injured, Tim Barnes and Barrett Jones filled in nicely. Jones is still learning the NFL game, but does keep improving while Barnes has played strong in his playing time. Still, a new starting center would be a welcome addition in 2015. Joe Barksdale is still on the open market after manning the RT spot in all 16 games for the Rams in 2014.
I’m going to level with you, the only two offensive line positions that seem to have a starter are LT with Greg Robinson and LG with Roger Saffold. Saffold can play all over the line. In fact, the only offensive line position he hasn’t started a game at for the Rams is center. He has started at least one game at every other position.
With our shiny new toy, Nick Foles, we will need to protect him. The subject has not changed, just the person we need to protect.
Good news has also recently come to light as Michael Silver tweeted that he expects Kenny Britt to sign a deal with the Rams soon. This is not set in stone, but would be a great move for the Rams. Kenny Britt was having one of his best seasons in his career. Add him with Brian Quick, who easily had the best season of his career even though he missed games near the end of the year due to a torn rotator cuff; Tavon Austin, who figures to be a bigger part of the offense with a new offensive coordinator in Frank Cignetti; Stedman Bailey, who might have the best hands on the team; and Chris Givens, who is still a deep threat, we might be looking at a very talented, very young group of players that could be around for a while.
With Kenny Britt potentially back, it is a little difficult to find a glaring need for the Rams aside from the offensive line.
Quarterback, defense, wide receiver, and tight end all appear to be ok like I have mentioned. The Rams also don’t need any running backs. Tre Mason, Zac Stacy, and Bennie Cunningham are more than capable of handling the job.
While we’re talking about positions that seem to be ok, the Rams have two special teams players that don’t appear to be going anywhere soon. Johnny Hekker might be the best punter in the NFL. It would be hard to argue that he isn’t the best in the NFC, but Pat McAfee makes his case in the AFC. And kicking field goals the Rams have Greg Zuerlein. Zuerlein has had recent consistency issues, but with his monster leg it would be difficult to let him go anywhere. This is a guy who in his rookie season lined up for a 66-yard field goal at sea level in Miami and had the distance, but was just a little bit to the left. That was a kick that would have easily beat the NFL record which is currently held by Matt Prater who did it in the mile high air of Denver, Colorado.
Here we are Rams fans, on the verge of a huge break out. The NFC West is a difficult division to play in. One might say that for the last few yeas the Rams have been forged in the fire. The Rams know what it takes to compete with the very best.
Here’s a fun statistic that I will leave you with. The Rams finished 6-10 in 2014. Of those 6 wins, 3 of them were against teams who played in the Super Bowls the previous two season (Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers). Another two of those wins were consecutive shut outs where the Rams out scored their opponents 76-0. The other win was a thrilling finish in Tampa Bay that ended when Rams safety TJ McDonald hit rookie receiver Mike Evans so hard after making a catch that clearly put the Buccaneers into field goal range down by two, that the game ended because the Buccaneers were out of time outs. Yes I know that a win over the team who ended the season with the worst record in the league isn’t that impressive, but that finish is always worth mentioning.
The Rams are quietly becoming a dominant force in the NFL. So here’s to you, Rams fans.
“Strive for perfection knowing it’ll never be reached, but in the process excellence will be achieved.”
-Gregg Williams, St. Louis Rams Defensive Coordinator
Follow Joe Branham on Twitter (@jtbranham)