Scouts Inc. founder Gary Horton has passed along observations for NFC West teams.
I’ll share them on a team-by-team basis and offer a few thoughts to get the conversation going.
Horton's notes: They have a lot of complimentary receivers, but where is a clear cut No. 1 go-to guy even though they have really worked to improve the position? Sam Bradford is running a more wide-open offense under Josh McDaniels, with multi-receiver formations, empty backfields, etc., and he even has the freedom to make pass-protection calls and audiblize at the line of scrimmage, all things he did at Oklahoma. It won’t be the "small ball" approach that it was a year ago, but does he have enough competent targets besides Danny Amendola in the slot? Steven Jackson handles 72 percent of the team's carries, more than any other back in the NFL, and they would like to lighten his workload as a lot of his carries are physical runs between the tackles. Almost 50 percent of Bradford’s passes were five yards or less, but when he did throw deep, he was more mistake prone. But they will air it out more this year.
We know that this is a blitz heavy-defense (a la New York Giants), but they were surprisingly good a year ago vs. the run and they are more sound than you might initially think. They only gave up seven rushing TDs a year ago. This is a fun defense that the players love and they are getting better. Depth at cornerback is not great.
My thoughts: The Rams have quietly put together a strong defense even while Bradford commands the most attention for obvious reasons. They already had the best pass-rush in the division even before using the 14th overall selection for defensive end Robert Quinn. And with James Hall coming off a 10.5-sack season, there's no pressure on Quinn to make an immediate impact. That is a good situation for the Rams.
McDaniels and Bradford have consistently said the talent at receiver is more than sufficient. It's certainly better than it was at the end of last season. No team in the division would trade its wide receivers for the Rams' group, however. Jackson expects to find more of his running lanes outside. He also expects to catch more passes out of the backfield. That could help him avoid some of the punishment runners absorb up the middle.