Morning Ram-blings: Cellar-dwellers?

September, 3, 2013
9/03/13
8:00
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In yesterday's edition of Ram-blings, we took a look at our season preview right here on ESPN.com. The consensus amongst myself and our columnists was that the St. Louis Rams would be improved but likely finish third in a difficult NFC West.

Over at Grantland, Bill Barnwell began his preview series with the "cellar-dwellers," also known as the eight teams he thinks will finish in the bottom third of the league. Barnwell has many of the usual suspects on the list, including teams like Jacksonville, Oakland and the Jets. But there were a couple of surprises -- fans in Minnesota are probably not thrilled about the column -- and the presence of the Rams is one of them.

There's been enough buzz not only in St. Louis but also from national types about the Rams being one of the true sleepers in the league, a team capable of making a playoff run for the first time since 2004. Those predictions are a product of the large jump the team made to seven wins in 2012 as well as a young roster stocked with potential.

The Rams' youth is often a hot-button issue for skepticism in regards to how they'll fare this season, but Barnwell actually focuses in a different direction entirely: quarterback Sam Bradford. Here's an excerpt of his explanation for the inclusion of the Rams on the list.

"At this point, Bradford is basically a ruthless checkdown artist; the Rams are the ones paying millions of dollars to put something they don't really understand or have any use for up on their wall right now, and since they've already done it once, they keep doing it."

Barnwell digs into the numbers and makes valid points about Bradford's past tendency to focus on receiver Danny Amendola and inability to scan the field and find other wideouts. He also points out an interesting correlation between yards per attempt and completion percentage. There's plenty to chew on in the piece as Bradford enters an important season.

Elsewhere:

Here at home base, we started the day with a look at the Rams' team preview. ... From there, we broke down the news that Carolina signed former Rams safety Quintin Mikell. ... Then we pondered the breakout potential of mammoth Rams defensive tackle Michael Brockers, who I believe is best suited among the team's young talent to push his game to the next level in 2013. ... The Rams got a little busy on Labor Day, inking backup defensive lineman Eugene Sims to an extension through 2015. It's a move that shows their emphasis on building and maintaining a top-notch defensive line.

There's been plenty of fanfare about the offseason additions of tight end Jared Cook and receiver Tavon Austin -- but left tackle Jake Long is every bit as important, if not more. Long told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he is "the healthiest I’ve felt going into a season in probably three years." That's good news for Bradford, who could probably attribute some of his field-vision issues to problems along the offensive line and lack of comfort that he'll have time to throw.

ESPN.com's David Newton has the news on Mikell's signing with the Panthers.

Nick Wagoner

ESPN St. Louis Rams reporter

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