After going 7-9 in the toughest division in football (the NFC West), the St Louis Rams come into the new season once again without starting QB Sam Bradford and with little expectation on their shoulders. How will they do?
Key Man: Zac Stacy
Even before the injury to Sam Bradford, the run game was going to be important but now the run game is the start and finish of the offense and second year running back Zac Stacy is the number one running back.
Last season, Stacy carried the Rams offense rushing for 973 yards averaging 3.9 yards per carry. Included in these stats were 4 matches where Stacy rushed for over 100 yards per game. The Rams will be hoping that Stacy can build on this performance in his second year.
The Rams are certainly giving him every chance to do so. In the draft they took tackle Greg Robinson with the seventh overall pick. Robinson's biggest asset is his run blocking which is excellent. If Stacy gets behind Robinson, just watch the rookie tackle clear out that running lane.
Biggest Strength: Defensive Line
The Rams defensive front seven is one of the best in the NFL. Its pass rush is phenomenal and it will inject fear into the hearts of the visiting quarterbacks. Last season the Rams got 53 sacks behind only the Bills and the Panthers. Only the Panthers competed with them last season.
Already before the draft started, the Rams had Robert Quinn, Chris Long, Kendall Langford and Michael Brockers. That's three first round picks and Kendall Langford, a third round pick. The Rams then added to this by taking Aaron Donald with the 13th overall pick of the draft. Donald impressive speed off the snap could make him another sack merchant on the Rams defensive line.
So good is the Rams defensive line that they can cut Michael Sam, a player who was
SEC Co-defensive player of the year in college. If the Rams are going to do anything this season, the defensive line will have to be dominant.
Biggest Weakness: Brian Schottenheimer
Schottenheimer is a terribly unimaginative offensive co-ordinator. He was terrible at the New York Jets where the offense help the franchise back and he has been terrible in his first two seasons at the Rams.
Short of Sam Bradford, the Rams offensive playbook needs to be clever and inventive. It needs to find ways of getting Zac Stacey the ball with lots of space around him. Sadly for Rams fans Schottenheimer is not someone who can design plays to do this.
Schedule Review: A Mixed Bag
The Rams have some very winnable games against teams like the Chiefs, Buccaneers,
Cowboys, and Raiders. They also have some very tough games - not just against the rest of the NFC West - but also against the Broncos, Charges and Eagles. Getting a strong start against in the first three weeks home to the Vikings, on the road in Tampa and home against the Cowboys will be crucial.
If the Rams were to come out of those games 3-0, then they might have enough to get something out of week 4, 5, 6 match-ups against the Eagles, 49ers and Seahawks respectively. Should everything go right in the opening weeks, the Rams could shock some teams.