St. Louis Rams will make jump in 2014
It’s never too early to talk about football.
Looking at the upcoming 2014 NFL season, the toughest division in the sport will again be the NFC West. The Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, the San Francisco 49ers and the Arizona Cardinals each finished above .500 last season. The 49ers joined the Seahawks in the NFC championship game, while the Cardinals were the best team in the NFL not to make the playoffs (finished the year 10-6). With all of the strength these three teams possess, by the end of the 2014-15 regular season each will be looking up in the standings to the NFC West’s forgotten team: the St. Louis Rams.
Rams fans will enjoy watching a much improved offensive attack in 2014. Coach Jeff Fisher has stated quarterback Sam Bradford has recovered from his ACL tear and will be ready for week one. With Bradford back at full strength, the issue becomes whether or not he has the players around him to move the ball down the field. For the first time in Bradford’s career, the former Sooner will actually have weapons.
Tight end Jared Cook has matured into one of the best pass catchers in football. Young receivers Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, Brian Quick and Chris Givens gained another season of experience, but the acquisition of Kenny Britt may pay the most dividends in the long run. Britt is a number one receiver when he’s healthy and he controls his off the field behavior. Fisher has plenty of experience dealing with troubled individuals (Pac Man Jones, Janoris Jenkins), and will have no problem keeping Britt on the straight and narrow.
Sprinkle in a tank of a running back in the form of Trey Mason, the continuing emergence of rusher Zac Stacy and the talent of rookie offensive lineman Greg Robinson, and there is reason to believe the Rams have improved offensively in every possible category.
St. Louis already owned one of the best defensive lines in football, but that wasn’t enough. Fisher and his colleagues decided to draft Aaron Donald, the highest rated interior defensive lineman in the entire draft. Filled with exceptional promise and brimming with confidence, Donald will join Robert Quinn, Chris Long and Michael Brockers to form what may be the best set of pass rushers in the NFL. If last season’s Super Bowl taught us anything, we now know a superior defensive line trumps a stout offensive attack. St. Louis is just as strong in the middle and in the backfield, thus the Rams will most certainly be dangerous.
A few obscure facts will be working in the Rams’ favor as well. No team has repeated as Super Bowl champions since 2004-05, when the New England Patriots won two in a row. Seattle likely will not win again. On top of that, the Madden video game cover curse will be working against Richard Sherman. Obviously don’t count the Seahawks out, but keep those things in mind.
The Super Bowl will be played at Arizona’s home stadium this year. No team has ever played at their home stadium in the Super Bowl. As for the 49ers, the potential loss of Aldon Smith, the questionable health of Navarro Bowman and Jim Harbaugh’s hazy relationship with the San Francisco brass could derail their winning ways for one season.
Each of these teams has gone to the Super Bowl in recent years, and all three of them were NFC West champions when they made the trip. It’s time for the Rams to start dreaming big and start believing 2014 is their year.
This column was written by Allyus Fritz, who is the Fairfield Ledger sports editor.