Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 6/24/13
2012 Record: 7-8-12012 DownfallDifficulty Finishing DrivesAll things considered, Sam Bradford had himself a pretty good 2012 season.The former top pick cleared 3,700 yards for the first time, and posted his best passer rating: an 82.6.While his numbers looked much more presentable, it's not the prettiest possible picture.The Rams had the fifth worst yards-to-points ratio in the NFL, a metric Cold Hard Football Facts calls "Scoreability." The Rams were tenth lowest in offensive yards (5,264), and scored just 299 points (eighth worst). They score one point for just every 17.61 yards gained (the best in this category, New England, scores a point every 12.29 yards).It also hurts when rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein misses eight field goals. Then again, six of them were from over 50 yards (he'd attempted 13 beyond 50 yards), so the offense surely struggled getting him close enough.Third Down PercentageGoing hand in hand with the poor "Scoreability" measurable is the Rams' difficulty in driving down the field. Maybe the knowledge of having "Greg the Leg" on the sideline took pressure off of the offense, but this stat still undercuts an otherwise resurrected team.The Rams had the fourth worst third down percentage in football, a paltry 31.6 success rate. The only three teams that finished with a far worse average were vastly inferior to the Rams as a whole: Cleveland, Jacksonville, and Arizona.Part of this comes from an offensive line shaky in pass protection. Bradford was sacked 35 times behind a group that included the likes of battered Roger Safford, a perpetually-cut Quinn Oijinnaka, a hobbled Scott Wells, and overmatched Barry Richardson.2013 Projected Wins: 8Top 3 Rookies-Tavon Austin, WR (1/8): Joystick-centric athlete ran a 4.38 forty, makes defenders miss with rarefied speed; also applicable to St. Louis' average special teams.-Alec Ogletree, LB (1/30): Undersized linebacker still adds pop to any pass defense, both chasing down quarterbacks, and batting down passes with his long arms.-TJ McDonald, S (3/71): Demonstrates versatility in blitzing, covering the slot, and playing centerfield zone, but can be a liability in deep man coverage.Other MovesFor the most part, the Rams have kept a low profile during the free agent process. Between the releasings of Quintin Mikell and money owed to Jason Smith (traded prior to last season to the Jets), both players are owed a combined $10.02M.But since the Rams needed offensive line help, they broke open the piggy bank for Jake Long on a four-year deal. Long's missed six games over the past two seasons, but is better than anything protecting Bradford now. Roger Saffold will move to right tackle.To bolster offensive play-making, St. Louis also acquired tight end Jared Cook. Only twice in franchise history has a tight end had 600+ receiving yards for the Rams, and not since 1988 (Pete Holohan, 640). Cook had 759 in 2011 with the Titans.Potential Starting LineupQB - Sam BradfordRB - Daryl RichardsonFB - Lance KendricksWR - Tavon AustinWR - Brian QuickTE - Jared CookLT - Jake LongLG - Shelley SmithC - Scott WellsRG - Harvey DahlRT - Rodger SaffoldDE - Chris LongDT - Kendall LangfordDT - Michael BrockersDE - Robert QuinnOLB - Jo-Lonn DunbarMLB - James LaurinaitisOLB - Alec OgletreeCB - Cortland FinneganCB - Janoris JenkinsFS - TJ McDonaldSS - Darian StewartK - Greg ZuerleinP - Johnny HekkerLS - Jake McQuaide2013 at a GlanceIt's a coulda-woulda-shoulda world.If the Rams hold off Detroit's late touchdown drive in Week 1, if Greg Zuerlein makes the kick vs. the Dolphins, and if the team wasn't screwed in overtime vs. the 49ers, guess what? This team could have been 10-6.Then again, they still would have missed the playoffs on a wild card tiebreaker, as a result of losing to the Vikings in Week 15.Jeff Fisher has always been an excellent defensive mind, and the improvements on the D should have been expected last season. But what's surprising is that the Rams called defensive plays by committee.This came to be after incoming coordinator Gregg Williams was dunce-capped by Roger Goodell for his purported role in "Bountygate".For 2013, former Lions assistant Tim Walton takes the reins of the D. Walton's familiarity with Fisher's style (having worked with Fisher disciple Jim Schwartz) made him an attractive hire.Walton also has extensive college experience as well, and has experience in busting the read-option play of Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson. He definitely has the athletic personnel on D to make his ideas work.Word out of OTAs is that Cook is being integrated into the offense briskly. Fisher's years in Tennessee saw three tight ends, Frank Wycheck, Ben Troupe, and Bo Scaife, get used extensively to expand the offense.For frame of reference, the most yards a tight end has had with St. Louis in the Bradford Era: 519, from Lance Kendricks last season. That's the only time a tight end has topped 400.Meanwhile, the competition to replace the departed Steven Jackson as franchise back is heating up. While seventh-round pick Daryl Richardson performed admirably last season, many feel Isaiah Pead will leapfrog him by summer's end.With the expanses in the offense (a vertical threat in Austin, two reliable tight ends), it makes sense that a zippy speedster like Pead get used to spread the field and wear defenders out.Pead will, however, be forced to miss the opening game of 2013 after a violation of the league's substance abuse policy.The offensive line may be the most talented its been since the Orlando Pace/Adam Timmerman days, but it comes with many health risks.Long, Wells, Dahl, and Saffold missed a combined 21 games last season. Second-year man Rokevious Watkins, like Pead, is also suspended for the season opener.VerdictIf you're assembling your fantasy football wishlist, be sure to include the Rams' defense. The team with 51 sacks and 14 picks last year looks even stronger now, with Ogletree adding varied layers of danger, and Austin coming in to return kicks and punts.While the Rams' defense will be hard to score on, the offense needs to do their part. If the line is healthy, this could be a highly productive year for Bradford and company. But it has to come from Bradford, who needs to finally prove worthy of being a top overall pick.Prediction: 8-8
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