It’s hard to believe that some teams in the NFL are already at the halfway point of the season. It seems like we just started and already, eight weeks are in the books. Some teams have exceeded expectations, while others have fell short. Then you have teams, like the St. Louis Rams, that have performed just about where most expected.
The Rams knew coming into the season that they were a rebuilding project. What they didn’t expect was that the AFC West was going to be a lot more competitive than just the 49ers and everyone else, as most experts predicted. Yet, here we are at the halfway point and the division has four tough defensive teams that have the ability to knock off any team on any given Sunday. But let us take a closer look at how the 2012 campaign is playing out for the rebuilding Rams at the halfway mark.
When Sam Bradford was drafted a couple of years back, many thought he was the future of the NFL, and that could still be the case. For every great play Bradford makes, he seems to make an equally poor one. But his ceiling is nowhere even visible at this point. Many blame the lack of a go to wide receiver after Brandon Lloyd skipped town for the Patriots, and that’s a very defensible answer. However, you’d expect a team with a decent running game to be better than 28th overall in the league in total offense.
At just 210 passing yards per game, good for the 8th worst rate in the league, a lot of the offensive workload has fell on the Rams running game, and namely Steven Jackson. Although he has shared carries with Daryl Richardson, it has been somewhat of a down year for Jackson at this point. Together, the duo is averaging 102 rushing yards per game, which isn’t bad on the surface. However, it isn’t enough to balance off the poor passing attack.
As soon as Danny Amendola went down in week 5, the Rams offense has been one of the most anemic in the league. Without a big time target, that’s putting a lot of pressure on the young Bradford to make big plays and he has been unable to at this point. his shows in his 7 interceptions to just 8 touchdowns this year. He’s still young and his best days are ahead of him, but until they get him some weapons on the field with him, he’s going to continue to struggle.
Now here is where Jeff Fisher makes himself one of the most valuable coaches in the league. You look back at some of his best teams in Tennessee and they were all mediocre to decent offensive teams with a stout defense. He doesn’t quite have all the pieces in his first year to replicate that yet, but he’ll get there and this unit has shown flashes already.
Currently sitting at 14th overall in the league, this young group has been the only thing that has kept the team in a winning position for most of their games. When the offense has been unable to move the ball, the D has stepped up. With a huge pass rush developing in the young duo of Chris Long and Robert Quinn, they’ve taken the pressure off the secondary and Cortland Finnegan has made the most of it with 3 interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown.
With 21 sacks on the season already, Fisher seems to be following the same recipe he had in Tennessee; kill the quarterback. With that in place with a reliable corner, the Rams have turned the ball over a stunning 14 times through 8 games. A lot of teams don’t do that in a full season. This is a young group that is only going to get better under the tutelage of Fisher and should make them a force with another strong draft.
As expected, this will still be a rebuilding year that will see the Rams fortunate to finish with a .500 record by season’s end. But the key part of a rebuild is getting your young guys experience and learning how to win a close game.
Three wins, including two in their own tough division, is more than some had them pegged to win all season. But this core is getting more confidence every week and if the offense can find itself, they’ll be dangerous within the next two years.
Filed under: St. Louis Rams
Tagged with: Arizona Cardinals, Chris Long, Cortland Finnegan, Daryl Richardson, Jeff Fisher, NFC, NFC West, Report Card, Robert Quinn, Sam Bradford, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams, Steven Jackson