2015 NFL Preview: St. Louis Rams

2015 NFL Preview: St. Louis Rams

For the third consecutive year, the St. Louis Rams are being hailed as a trendy playoff sleeper. Considering the franchise hasn’t posted a winning record since 2003, the support behind them continues to build. Head coach Jeff Fisher has a solid pedigree, and a young, fast, and supremely talented defense is on the cusp of becoming special. However, an offense with a new starting quarterback, questionable line, and thin receiving corps will have to overachieve to meet the lofty expectations. In a crowded NFC field of contenders, the Rams can ill afford to slip too far in the standings in a division that boasts the Seahawks and Cardinals. Here’s a preview of the 2015 St. Louis Rams.

Outlook: How good is the Rams’ front four? Nick Fairley and William Hayes, who have combined for 28.5 sacks since 2012, are backups. Robert Quinn is a two-time Pro Bowler and he might not even be their best player. The linebackers aren’t slouches, either. Alec Ogletree is a tackling machine, and James Laurinaitis has started every game since 2009. The secondary lost promising corner E.J. Gaines to Lisfranc surgery, but their is quality depth available to fill the void. If the offense can lean on the ground game and get consistent production from Kenny Britt and Tavon Austin, the Rams will challenge for a playoff berth.

Later, dude: Former number one overall pick Sam Bradford was shipped to Philly in exchange for Nick Foles and draft picks. Bradford’s lengthy injury history is now Chip Kelly’s problem. Former starting tailback Zac Stacy was deemed expendable and traded to the Jets for a 7th-round pick. The rebuilt offensive line waved goodbye to veterans Jake Long, Scott Wells, and Davin Joseph. Handing the reins to a pair of rookies and an untested reserve is a bold move that could prove disastrous in a hurry. Defensive end Kendall Langford is a capable rotational pass rusher, but there simply isn’t room for him to contribute; he’s now a starter in Indy. Tackle Joe Barksdale was fairly awful in 2014, so his exit to San Diego isn’t inciting panic.

Welcome aboard: Who is the real Nick Foles? The guy in 2013 who tossed 27 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, or the guy in 2014 who held the ball an eternity when he wasn’t turning it over and getting hurt? Time will tell. Linebacker Akeem Ayers has been MIA since 2012, but he should provide decent depth at linebacker. The aforementioned Nick Fairley wore out his welcome in Detroit, but he is a skilled pass rusher who won’t be counted on to start. Rookie running back Todd Gurley is brimming with potential, but recovery from last year’s ACL surgery has him sidelined indefinitely. Second-round pick Rob Havenstein and third-round pick Jamon Brown are penciled in to start on the offensive line; Foles isn’t exactly fleet of foot, so the kids better be sharp from the jump. Guard/tackle Garret Reynolds was signed as insurance should one of the rooks flop.

Over/Under wins – 8: Seattle, Pittsburgh, Arizona, and Green Bay in the first five weeks? Good luck with that. Nine wins is doable, but it’s asking a lot for the defense to dominate every single week.

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