Friday, August 10, 2012

2012 NFL PREVIEW - St. Louis Rams


2011 Record: 2-14-0 (4th in NFC West) 

HEAD COACH: Jeff Fisher

Key Additions: OL Scott Wells; WR Steve Smith; RB Ovie Mughelli; LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar; CB Cortland Finnegan; DL Kendall Langford

Key Losses: WR Brandon Lloyd; DB Ron Bartell; OL Jacob Brown; DL James Hall; DL Fred Robbins

Offense: The Rams must see improvement in an anemic offense that was 31st in the league a year ago, averaging just 284 yards per game (104 rushing, 180 passing) and only scored 193 points for the entire season.
Quarterback Sam Bradford (2,164 passing yards with six touchdowns and six interceptions) fell off from his rookie season while missing six games with injuries. Kellen Clemens and Tom Brandstater will be the backups.
The running game features veteran Steven Jackson, who put up his usual reliable numbers in 2011, gaining 1,145 yards rushing with five TD and also had 42 receptions for 333 yards and a score. Rookies Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson will spell Jackson. The fullbacks are Brit Miller and Ovie Mughelli.
The leading receiver (Brandon Lloyd) from a year ago is gone and that leaves Bradford with a variety of targets to throw to in 2012, including Danny Amendola, who returns after missing last season with injuries. Amendola caught 85 passes in 2010 before going down for the entire season in last year's opening game.
Also in the mix is Brandon Gibson (36, 431, one TD) and Danario Alexander (26, 431, 16.6 ypc average and two TD), along with rookies Brian Quick and Chris Givens. Steve Smith, who played sparingly for the Eagles in 2011, was signed in the off-season. The tight end is Lance Kendricks, who had 28 receptions for 352 yards last season.
The offensive line consists of Pro Bowl center Scott Wells, a free agent signee who should help up front in pass protection, as the Rams allowed 55 QB sacks last year.
The guards are Bryan Mattison and Harvey Dahl and the tackles are Rodger Saffold and Jason Smith.

Defense:  Using the 4-3 look under new Head Coach Jeff Fisher, the Rams feature pass rusher extraordinaire Chris Long ( 13 QB sacks) at one defensive end spot, along with Robert Quinn.
 The tackles are two newcomers as Kendall Langford comes over from Miami to help against the run, where the Rams struggled a year ago. The other new player will be rookie Michael Brockers (LSU) at the other tackle position.
The linebackers will be James Laurinaitis in the middle with  Justin Cole and free agent Jo-Lonn Dunbar on the outside. Josh Hull and rookie Aaron Brown are available in reserve roles.
The secondary will have a veteran familiar with Fisher from his days as the Tennessee Titans coach in cornerback Cortland Finnegan. The other corner spot may go to rookie Janoris Jenkins, a second round draft pick from North Alabama.
The safeties will be Quintin Mikell and Darian Stewart. Other players in the fold for St. Louis include Josh Gordy, Craig Dahl, Jerome Murphy and rookie Trumaine Johnson.
St. Louis ranked 22nd overall on defense last season, giving up an average of 358 yards per game. The pass defense was decent, allowing just 206 yards. But the run defense was awful, allowing 152 yards per game, which ranked 31st in the NFL.

OUTLOOK: A lot on how much the Rams will improve this season depends on Bradford and his abilities to rebound from the poor 2011 season he had. The pass protection has to be much better than it was last year.
The offense has to be more consistent and should get a shot in the arm with a healthy Bradford and some new blood in the receiving corps to go with the steady running game provided by Jackson.
On defense, they MUST stop the run.
The Rams did get 39 QB sacks a year ago, with All-Pro Chris Long leading the way. If they can mount steady pressure on opposing quarterbacks in 2012, the pass defense should be solid once again, especially with a physical presence like Finnegan at the corner.
Improving from a 2-14 season looks to be in order for St. Louis, but how many more games they win will most likely hinge on the offense scoring more than just 13 points per game.
A 4-12 season would double the team's win total from last season as Jeff Fisher looks to restore the pride in St. Louis.

Week 1- at Detroit
Week 2- vs. Washington
Week 3- at Chicago
Week 4- vs. Seattle
Week 5- vs. Arizona
Week 6- at Miami
Week 7- vs. Green Bay
Week 8- vs. New England
Week 9- BYE
Week 10- at San Francisco
Week 11- vs. NY Jets
Week 12- at Arizona
Week 13- vs. San Francisco
Week 14- at Buffalo
Week 15- vs. Minnesota
Week 16- at Tampa Bay
Week 17- at Seattle

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