As I mentioned last week while touting an ‘over’ play on the Bears, my second-favorite NFL season win total is ‘under’ six for the Rams.
St. Louis is coming off of a dreadful 10-38 stretch during Steve Spagnuolo’s tenure. Going back even further, there was a 2-10 run under interim coach Jim Haslett that was preceded by an 11-25 record under Scott Linehan. By my math, this six-year span of nothing but scrub squads has combined for a pathetic 23-73 record.
That’s painful just to think about.
The good news is that former Titans head coach Jeff Fisher has been hired to right the ship. Fisher’s not Vince Lombardi, but he’s a major upgrade from Spagnuolo and Linehan.
We’ll stick with the few positives for now and I believe that starts with the additions at cornerback. Cortland Finnegan, signed in free agency, is a solid veteran with 14 career interceptions. The former Titan has been to the Pro-Bowl before and is familiar with Fisher’s system.
The Rams got great value in the second round when they drafted Janoris Jenkins, who became the first Florida Gator to start at CB from day one as a true freshman since the late/great Jarvis Williams did so in the 1980s. Jenkins was an integral part of UF’s national-championship team in 2008.
Jenkins is a mid-first-round talent, but his dismissal from Florida raised red flags. He was arrested twice for possession of misdemeanor amounts of weed in Gainesville during the off-season after Urban Meyer resigned and Will Muschamp became head coach.
With excellent talent at the cover-corner spots, you would think life will become easier for one of the league’s best pass rushers who is still getting better. I’m talking about Chris Long, who had 13 sacks last season.
There’s also optimism at two other d-line spots. Robert Quinn had five sacks as a rookie after missing all of 2010 while suspended at North Carolina. The Rams spent their first-round pick on LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers, who is expected to start immediately.
Fisher will also like his middle linebacker, James Laurinaitis, who had a team-high 142 tackles, nine tackles for losses, three sacks, seven passes broken up and a pair of interceptions last year.
The previous few paragraphs will just about do it for half-glass-full opinions.
The organization believes it has its franchise quarterback in third-year signal caller Sam Bradford. I won’t say anything to derail that notion, but there are concerns.
For starters, regardless of how good a player is in any sport, at some point you have to enjoy success to keep your confidence. Going back to Bradford’s senior year at Oklahoma when he got hurt in the opener against BYU and then went out again early in a game against Texas, Bradford’s last three seasons have been rough.
He barely touched the field in a frustrating 2009 in Norman. Then as a rookie in 2010, Bradford had an 18/15 touchdown-to-interception ratio. In 2011, Bradford struggled with injuries to his ankle and elbow, often playing at far less than 100-percent health-wise. He completed only 53.5 percent of his throws with a 6/6 TD-INT ratio.
I don’t point out those numbers to bash Bradford. I think he’s been playing behind a garbage offensive line with mediocre receivers. I believe he’s an extremely accurate passer when he gets time and has targets that are open, but how often will that be the case in 2012?
The Rams did take a WR in the second round, but I have to plead ignorance on this one. I have no clue if Brian Quick from out of Appalachian St. was worthy of being the 33rd selection in the NFL Draft or not. Only time will tell.
I know Danny Amendola is a quality NFL wideout, but is he talented enough to be your No. 1 target? Will he be the same after suffering that grotesque elbow injury last year?
Stephen Jackson has been a stud RB for a long time, but how much does he have left in the tank? There are a lot of miles on those legs. And, once again, he’ll be operating behind a terrible offensive line.
When suggesting an ‘under’ on a season win total, I like to look at the schedule and figure a best-case scenario. In this instance, I think the Rams’ ceiling is 6-10 IF everything falls right.
That would entail Bradford staying healthy for 16 games, Quick emerging as an outstanding rookie WR, Amendola playing extremely well, rookie RB Isiah Pead developing as a nice compliment to Jackson and major improvement from the offensive line.
Then on the other side of the ball, you need a career year from Long. You need Jenkins and Brockers producing at a high level as rookies, while Quinn enjoys a breakout campaign in his second season.
Are all those things going to materialize? Of course not!
There are three road games that are guaranteed losses – at Detroit, at Chicago and at San Francisco. There are two more road games that are unlikely victories and also fall into difficult spots because of the weather conditions – at Miami in mid-October (when it feels like mid-August everywhere else) and at Buffalo on Dec. 9 when snow and ice could be a factor for an indoor team like St. Louis.
The Rams will almost certainly be underdogs in their three other road games – at Arizona, at Tampa Bay and at Seattle. How many road wins will they get? Let’s be generous and give them one and it’ll come either at Arizona or at Tampa Bay.
St. Louis was a double-digit home underdog twice last year and I see two more similar situations this season when Green Bay and New England come to the Edward Jones Dome in back-to-back weeks. Although we should note that the Rams drilled the Saints as 13-point home ‘dogs last year, we’ll confidently mark them with L’s for the visits from the Packers and Patriots.
Another healthy home ‘dog spot will be on Dec. 2 when the 49ers come to town.
We’re left with five home games: vs. Washington, vs. Seattle, vs. Arizona, vs. the Jets and vs. Minnesota. The Rams will certainly have a decent shot in four of those contests, but I think the Jets win at St. Louis.
I’ll give them three wins at home against the Seahawks (being generous here – again), Cardinals and Vikings. (I think RG3 and the ‘Skins beat the Rams.)
So there you have it. The Rams will go 4-12 and the ‘under’ will be a winner.
Brian Edwards can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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