The St. Louis Rams are a young talented team that for some reason cannot seem to string together wins. They have a potent defensive line, an underrated linebacking corps, and a very raw but talented secondary. The old saying goes “defense wins championships,” but the Rams are nowhere near a championship contending team.
So where does the problem lie?
For a couple years many expert said quarterback Sam Bradford doesn’t have a line to protect him. So the Rams went out and built him the best line he could have. The next excuse was how he has never had the same offensive coordinator. This is his second year under offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and Bradford was having his best season yet. I believe he is a capable starting quarterback, I do not think he is the problem.
Is it the running game? Prior to this season, the Rams had former Pro Bowler Steven Jackson line up behind the quarterback. I believe he had a few consecutive seasons of running for over 1,000 yards, or maybe that was someone else? This season they found gems in rookies Zac Stacy and Benny Cunningham. Although they are young, they seem to be effective.
That leaves the wide receivers. In his four years as quarterback, Bradford has not had a consistent reliable target and not since 2007 did the Rams have a threat at wide receiver. Since that last 1,000-yard player in 2007, the St. Louis Rams have drafted ten wide receivers. It does not include any free agents signees, trades, or tight ends. The closest any player has gotten to reaching that 1,000-yard mark was the same player who reached that plateau: Torry Holt, when in 2008 he caught 64 passes for 796 yards.
Holt was also the last player to lead the team in receiving yards for consecutive years. Since then a different player has led the team each year and none have surpassed the 700-yard mark. The St. Louis Rams have also started a new trend with receivers; they do not last on the roster for more than 3 years. This year’s most experienced receiver was 3rd year player Austin Pettis and he is slowly sliding down the depth chart.
It is not like the front office is not trying to surround Bradford with weapons, as they traded up to get Tavon Austin, the issue is they keep drafting players that need to be developed. They gambled in last year’s draft when they took Brian Quick out of Appalachian State. This year Quick has made 16 catches for 286 yards, not a whole lot of production out of a high second round pick. Rookie receiver Tavon Austin has also gotten off to a slow start this year, but within the last few games he has picked up his production. Although he is starting to produce late in the season, Austin has not been the speedy threat everyone expected him to be.
What the Rams need to do to help move the ball through the air is bring in proven veteran wideouts. Back in 2010, then rookie quarterback Bradford was starting to develop a rapport with veteran receiver Mark Clayton until he got hurt. In the five games he did play, Clayton was averaging 61.2 yards per game.
In 2011, the Rams traded for Brandon Lloyd and Bradford was having success with him as well. Lloyd only played in 13 games, but he was also averaging 62.1 yards per game. In fact he finished the season as the Rams leading receiver.
Both of these proven receivers came in during the middle of the season, without a Rams training camp, and yet were able to be effective with Bradford. The St. Louis Rams’ front office needs to make a move if they want to start contending for the NFC West. There doesn’t seem to be any really big names floating around in next year’s free agent pool so the move will need to be through a trade.
The Rams have a lot of nice pieces floating around, but will general manager Les Snead be willing to part with one of his players in order to bring in a proven play maker? We will have to wait and find out till the offseason to see if the Rams address this issue.
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