The St. Louis Rams dealt with disappointment yet again in 2014, as would-be franchise quarterback Sam Bradford suffered his second straight torn ACL and the team crumbled to another playoff miss. Jeff Fisher’s crew fought the good fight all year long, however, as the defense rose to an elite level and both Austin Davis and Shaun Hill played better than many thought they would. It ended with a 6-10 thud, but the Rams were actually highly competitive and stole sweet upset wins over the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks.
Fisher and co. are running out of time to make solid drafts and spirited play translate into real success, though, so the team will be aiming to make some last ditch efforts to get over the hump and back into the playoffs in 2015. With the 49ers vulnerable, now might be the time for them to improve and sneak out of the NFC West for a playoff spot. Of course, there is a lot that needs to be done before they can realize their vision. Let’s break down their top needs on both sides of the ball and see what they might do to take the next step:
Offensive Needs: QB, Offensive Line
Sam Bradford is the easy finger-pointing problem. He’s still under contract and will probably restructure, though, while a healthy Bradford could still be the answer for the Rams. Regardless, another season of (pick a shaky backup QB out of a hat) won’t do, so the Rams have to swing a trade, sign a quality passer or draft a talented quarterback who can give Bradford a run for his money. Ideally Bradford makes it all the way back and ends up actually being the guy they drafted, but they need to do something here to appease fans and give themselves some peace of mind.
The rest of the focus is across the offensive line, as Scott Wells was said to be a nightmare in the middle of the line at center, Jake Long once again went down at left tackle and last year’s rookie tackle Greg Robinson wasn’t great in his absence. Truly, the Rams have some work to do from left to right on the line. Robinson can still operate on the right side or in at guard, but short of Long coming back at full strength, St. Louis needs at least 2-3 new healthy bodies to at least provide quality competition. The line has been an issue for years and drafting Robinson last year got them going in the right direction, but they’re not done yet. Look for them to look at center, guard and tackle throughout the draft.
The o-line and quarterback are such big issues, the Rams might as well stop there. However, Tavon Austin has been a bust, Brian Quick got hurt and Kenny Britt is back on the open market, so the Rams could also think about wide receiver. They might fix that by re-signing Britt and getting Quick back at full strength, but if the right wide receiver falls into their lap in the second or third round, don’t be mad if they take the plunge.
Defensive Needs: OLB, DB Depth
The Rams have a very good defense that is extremely strong up front on the line, but could be better in the middle and could use depth across the secondary. Jo-Lonn Dunbar has been a joke on the outside of the Rams’ 4-3 and he probably needs to be replaced. I’m okay with the other two linebackers, but the Rams may want to just fix this by adding a reliable free agent. Their defense doesn’t have many other glaring holes, but safety Rodney McLeod is a restricted free agent and he could end up getting away. They’ll probably just find a way to hold onto him, and if so they’ll just want to grab a corner and safety for some depth across the defensive backfield. If McLeod gets away somehow, though, they should look to the draft between rounds 2-4 for safety help.