The NFC West was once considered the laughing stock of the eight NFL divisions, but now it is viewed as the premier division. The most recent Super Bowl champion came out of the West. Some are even saying this past NFC championship game between the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers was the real Super Bowl. The belief is the winner of that game had the right defense to stop Peyton Manning and his potent offense. They were right.
The St. Louis Rams have not seen the playoffs in almost a decade and are currently the team with the fourth longest playoff drought. So how long before this group of Rams make a playoff appearance?
They have come close in the past. In 2010, then rookie quarterback Sam Bradford put the teams on his shoulder and had them one win shy of clinching the division. Heading into that offseason, many believed Bradford was going to be the savior and the Rams had found their coach in Steve Spagnuolo.
Three years later, Spagnuolo is gone, Bradford is coming off ACL surgery, and the St. Louis Rams have missed they playoffs yet again. It is not like this is an organization that is driving itself to the ground. When Stan Kroenke took over as majority owner, he went out brought in a new front office, an experienced head coach and even spent some money acquiring new talent, but why can’t the Rams find the formula to success?
One season the Rams are on the cusp of making the playoffs and the next they are the owners of a top five draft pick. It is a viscous cycle they just cant seem to get out of.
The one good thing that has come out of that pattern is the defensive acquisitions they have made. Gems like Michael Brockers, Robert Quinn, and Janoris Jenkins have laid a solid foundation for the teams future.
Both the Seahawks and 49ers have shown if you want to win in this division you need to build your team around a defense. With players like the ones previously mentioned, the Rams have the potential to be a playoff contending team real soon.
I am in the camp that should the Houston Texans draft someone not named Jadeveon Clowney, the Rams should not hesitate to bring in this player. Heading into last year’s draft he was a player on a lot of scouts radar even though he was not eligible for the draft. The 2013 college football season came and went, Clowney had an off year and he is still being regarded as the best player in the draft.
The Rams have locked in Chris Long for a couple more season and when Quinn will soon demand a big payday, so why take on a third defensive end?
For one the Rams are a team who rotates their ends. It is a reason why their front seven is so effective. Bringing in a guy like Clowney to replace either William Hayes or Kendall Langford will be an enormous upgrade.
The 2007 New York giants showed that a three-man defensive end rotation works when Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora, and Justin Tuck anchored their defense. They showed it once more when the three-headed monster of Tuck, Umenyiora, and Jason Pierre-Paul took down the undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.
Now there are a lot of other factors that contribute to teams making the playoffs, but although the NFL is moving to a pass happy league, the one motto I see proves true time and time again is defense wins championships. The St. Louis Rams defense has already proven it can carry its team to some victories or put them within striking distance. If they add one or two more solid playmakers on defense, the Rams will soon be on of the six teams coming out of the NFC representing it’s conference in the playoffs.