Thursday, January 2, 2014
St. Louis Rams season wrap-up
By Nick Wagoner
Arrow indicates direction team is trending.
Final Power Ranking: 20
Preseason Power Ranking: 15
Biggest surprise: The offseason departure of running back Steven Jackson to Atlanta left many wondering who would take the torch to be the team's next centerpiece running back. After a failed four-game audition from Daryl Richardson, the Rams handed the keys to fifth-round rookie Zac Stacy. Stacy took over in Week 5 against Jacksonville and never looked back. For years, the Rams have watched as other teams found late-round gems and developed them into starters, but now they appear to have found one of their own. After becoming the starter, Stacy was one of the league's most productive back and finished with 973 yards and eight total touchdowns in just 12 games in the lead role.
Biggest disappointment: There are a few options here but the knee injury to quarterback Sam Bradford is the winner for what it meant to the 2013 season and the long-term future of the franchise. In his fourth NFL season, this was supposed to be the year when the Rams could truly have a handle on Bradford's viability as the team's quarterback long-term. Likewise, Bradford hoped to use this year to post his best numbers and possibly earn a lucrative contract extension. Instead, Bradford suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament on Oct. 20 and missed the season's final nine games. Before the injury, the Rams seemed to be finding an offensive rhythm with a run-first approach opening things up for Bradford in the passing game. All signs point to the Rams staying committed to Bradford as their quarterback in 2014, but the lost chance to do so with a bigger body of work was the year's biggest letdown.
Biggest need: The Rams enter the offseason with serious needs along the offensive line and in the secondary, but the single biggest need remains a true No. 1 receiver. The franchise has insisted that it wants to emulate a team like the New Orleans Saints, who have many options in the passing game. Problem is, two of those options are No. 1 quality pass catchers. Teams that don't have one say they can get by without a true No. 1. It's almost impossible to find a legitimate No. 1 in free agency because teams rarely let them go. The Rams have used four picks, including the No. 8 overall choice last year, on receivers the past two years, but that's no reason to stop searching for the type of wideout who can go deep, go up and win jump balls, run after the catch, go over the middle and all the things that the league's best receivers do. Put simply, the Rams need to be a more dynamic offense even if they remain committed to running the ball first. Landing a top wideout, even if it means using a high draft pick again this year, is the biggest need.
Team MVP: There's little doubt that defensive end Robert Quinn was both the team's best player and it's most valuable. He was the most dominant pass-rushing force in the league and set the tone for big wins against the likes of Indianapolis, Chicago and New Orleans. In addition, Quinn improved greatly as a run defender and did most of his damage with teams double- and triple-teaming him. He's the team's MVP and it says here he should be the NFL's defensive MVP as well.