ST. LOUIS RAMS / 2013 TEAM NEEDS
With Brian Schottenheimer returning, QB Sam Bradford, coming off a resurgent 2012 campaign, will have the same coordinator and scheme in consecutive seasons for the first time in his career. What he may not have is RB Steven Jackson, who will test the free-agent market after surpassing the 1,000-yard mark for the eighth consecutive season.
TOP 3 OFFENSIVE NEEDS
OL — The Rams made great strides in protecting Bradford, surrendering 20 fewer sacks (35) in 2012 than they did in 2011 (55). Yet, there is still room for improvement. The left side of the group was in constant flux, with OLT Rodger Saffold missing time and OLG Robert Turner, a free agent, acclimating to a new spot. ORT Barry Richardson is also a free agent, and the Rams could fortify both edges.
WR — Despite drafting a pair of WRs last April, the Rams could be back in the market again. They still lack a consistent playmaker. Rookie Chris Givens showed promise, but Bradford needs a lot more help. Slot receiver Danny Amendola is a free agent, and Brandon Gibson remains enigmatic.
QB — Jeff Fisher is a big believer in Bradford, and the QB bounced back from an injury-riddled 2011 to start 16 games. But Fisher needs greater insurance than journeyman Kellen Clemens. A developmental prospect would make a ton of sense.
The future appears extremely bright for this young, feisty group, which tied for the league lead in sacks in 2012 (52). St. Louis has one of the more talented defensive fronts in football, which — paired with workhorse MLB James Laurinaitis and an aggressive, confident one-two punch at cornerback — gives Jeff Fisher a talent-laden group that shouldn’t be taken lightly in 2013.
TOP 3 DEFENSIVE NEEDS
S — Quintin Mikell was one of the Rams’ most improved players, cutting down on missed tackles and giving the club a fearless blitzer and run defender to fill the alley. However, Mikell, much like starting strong safety Craig Dahl, struggled in coverage. The Rams could use a rangy centerfielder to add to a secondary already packed with playmakers.
OLB — Laurinaitis overcame a slow start to make a big impact in the middle, and free-agent acquisition Jo-Lonn Dunbar was a great find on the weak side. But veterans Rocky McIntosh and Mario Haggan are both free agents who lacked the speed and playmaking ability Fisher prefers.
DT — St. Louis is awfully talented up the middle, where Michael Brockers came on like gangbusters the second half of his rookie season, and Kendall Langford helped collapse the pocket, converting from 3-4 end to 4-3 tackle. Keeping the starters fresh is key, though, and bolstering the depth inside will create a better rotation.
2012 DRAFT REWIND
1st round (14): DT Michael Brockers / LSU (GP/GS: 13/12)
2nd round (33): WR Brian Quick / Appalachian State (GP/GS: 15/1)
2nd round (39): CB Janoris Jenkins / North Alabama (GP/GS: 15/14)
2nd round (50): RB Isaiah Pead / Cincinnati (GP/GS: 15/1)
3rd round (65): CB Trumaine Johnson / Montana (GP/GS: 16/3)
4th round (96): WR Chris Givens / Wake Forest (GP/GS: 15/12)
5th round (150): OG Rokevious Watkins / South Carolina (GP/GS: 2/0)
6th rund (171): PK Greg Zuerlein / Missouri Western (GP/GS: 16/0)
7th round (209): WLB Aaron Brown / Hawaii (GP/GS: 0/0)
7th round (252): RB Daryl Richardson / Abilene Christian (GP/GS: 16/0)
SUMMARY: Essentially zero contributions from Quick, Pead puts slight damper on otherwise outstanding class.