St. Louis Rams: 5 Reasons Why Sundays Will Be Better for the Rams in 2012
For St. Louis Rams fans, hope for some better NFL Sunday afternoons is on the increase. At the very least, fans are expectant that the Rams will improve upon the 2-14 campaign of 2011. Indeed, the chances of another train wreck of that magnitude is highly unlikely.
Looking towards the Rams' opening kickoff of 2012, I have pinpointed five reasons why St. Louis fans can and should be optimistic about a much-improved season.
The Rams are not as far away as some may think. Keep in mind that St. Louis went 4-12 in 1998 before going 13-3 in 1999 and winning the Lombardi Trophy in the Super Bowl.
If it absolutely must be said, I am certainly not predicting a repeated Super Bowl run in 2012. That would indeed be most foolish. However, I am asserting that the Rams will improve, perhaps significantly, in the upcoming campaign.
For several reasons, I believe St. Louis can hover somewhere around the .500 mark and at least be in contention for a Wild Card birth heading into December.
For Rams fans, that in and of itself would be something to be excited about. It would equate to hope and change, something St. Louis fans have been starving for during a 15-65 stretch that has left the fan-base bloodied, beaten, bruised, gasping for air, impoverished, famished and downright desperate for a winner.
In 2012, I believe that Jeff Fisher and the Rams will deliver just that, due to the following five reasons.
Let's take a look.
Jeff Fisher Will Get More out of His Team Than Steve Spagnuolo Did
When we later look back in retrospect, the biggest key during this offseason and this just initiated era for the St. Louis Rams will most likely have been the addition of Jeff Fisher at head coach.
He brings playoff experience, a winning tradition, proven leadership and credibility to this organization and this team—all of which was urgently and direly needed.
Spagnuolo went 10-38 and the time for change was ripe. Fisher's worst season at the helm, even in the midst of moving to Memphis and Nashville, was 4-12.
A repeat of that doubles the Rams' win total.
The Rams undoubtedly upgraded from Spagnuolo, a first-time head coach training on the job in the NFL, to a Super Bowl coach who led his team to six playoff appearances with the Houston Oilers and Tennessee Titans.
Simply put, Fisher will get better results than Spagnuolo. Fisher trumps Spagnuolo as a head coach in the same manner that the greatest show on turf trumped most NFL defenses: by a huge margin.
Fisher knows how to get the most out of his players, as alluded by St. Louis legend and CBS NFL broadcaster Dan Dierdorf, via Inside STL.com.
His presence alone should greatly assist the Rams in elevating their status as well as their win total in 2012.
Bradford Will Have a Full Offseason with His New Offensive Coordinator
In 2011, Sam Bradford lost his offensive coordinator (Pat Shurmur went to Cleveland Browns), was stripped of his quarterback coach (Dick Curl retired), played behind an inconsistent and underperforming offensive line and, was again, given subpar weapons to work with in the passing game.
That said, Bradford must find a way to get better in 2012.
The 2010 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year fell off in 2011. Although the above issues should rightfully be pointed out and considered, the bottom line is results, and Bradford must find a way to up his production this year.
Landing offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer should help.
Schottenheimer is a disciple of the Air Coryell offense, and although he ran a ground-and-pound offense under the direction of New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan in 2011, he has often directed an offense with stark similarities to what Bradford excelled at with the Oklahoma Sooners.
The return of a quarterback coach should also help the young Bradford. This will give him an in game confidant—if you will, as he had in 2010—and a shoulder to lean on between each series during games.
Perhaps most importantly, though, Bradford will have a full offseason to implement a new offense this year. Last year, of course, that was not the case due to the lengthy NFL lockout.
Finally, it should also help Bradford that Schottenheimer plans to utilize many of the plays that Bradford and Rams offensive players are already accustomed to, seemingly making the transition even easier, according to STL Today.
A couple of things that Bradford and Schottenheimer will be working on extensively this offseason will be Bradford's read progressions and his pocket presence.
With a full offseason of work and the addition of some new and upgraded weapons, Bradford should be better in 2012, thus making St. Louis a better team, too.
St. Louis Will Likely Add Several Key Contributors Through the 2012 NFL Draft
The St. Louis Rams are in the enviable position of possessing the the No. 2 overall selection in the 2012 NFL Draft.
With at least two franchise quarterbacks in the mix (Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III) coupled with a new team-friendly collective bargaining agreement that makes it more tempting and less risky to move up into the top five, holding the No. 2 overall pick could fetch a fortune via trade.
With that established, I fully expect the Rams to ultimately trade that pick, as I will detail on Monday. In return, I expect the Rams to pick up at least three picks, two of which will be of premium quality.
If the Rams indeed trade out of the No. 2 overall slot, expect them to acquire either two first-round picks this year or at least an additional second and fourth-round selection.
Either way, the added picks will give them more chances at landing starting level players.
If the first scenario I mentioned comes to fruition and the Rams attain an extra first-round pick, that would give them four selections through the second pick of Round 3 and three of the first 34 selections overall.
I am confident that the Rams' general manager, with the heavy assistance and valuable insight of Fisher, will make good use of those picks and have a quality draft, helping St. Louis field a much-improved product in the upcoming season.
The Rams Defense Should Be Better
In 2000, the Tennessee Titans led the NFL in total defense.
Fortunately for St. Louis, the tandem that led that defense—Jeff Fisher and new Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, most recently of the New Orleans Saints—are now teaming up in St. Louis.
Williams in known for an aggressive scheme. Although his Saints defense struggled at times in 2011, he has consistently produced solid defenses that love to attack the quarterback.
With pass-rushers Chris Long and Robert Quinn in the fold, his propensity to rush the quarterback should make for a sweet combination.
Not only will the additions of Fisher and Williams likely aid in producing a better defense in 2012, but the likely return of a slew of cornerbacks should help as well. The 2011 season saw the Rams lose 10 corners for the year. That is absurd and is devastating defensively.
St. Louis saw its' top three defensive backs (Ron Bartell, Bradley Fletcher and Jerome Murphy) fall to injury within the first month of the season. Bartell is said to be on track to be ready for the opener, as is Murphy, according to USA Today.
Fletcher, who has now suffered two season-ending injuries to the same knee since his rookie year of 2009, is a bit of a question mark. It will be several months before his potential impact on the coming season can be assessed.
Even if Fletcher is unable to return or return full strength this year, adding Bartell and Murphy (the would-be starting corners in 2011) could dramatically help the defense, both in regard to run/pass schemes as well as production levels.
Obviously, the return of multiple quality corners should help in pass coverage. However, it could help the run defense, too.
If the Rams have added confidence in their cornerbacks in one-on-one situations in pass coverage, they can more often bring a safety into or near the box for run support. Furthermore, linebackers could more often key on the run game as well, rather than dropping back as frequently in zone pass support.
Additionally, expect the Rams to shore up both the interior of the defensive line and the outside linebacker position through the draft and/or free agency period.
All in all, it looks to be a better defensive year in 2012, and that too will assist St. Louis in attaining more wins and a shot at playoff contention in the approaching campaign.
If a Positive Lease Resolution Is Reached the Dome Field Advantage Will Improve
St. Louis fans were generally hyped over the Jeff Fisher hire.
However, the rapidly approaching lease negotiations and the revelation of the three-year London excursion have served as a wet blanket, dousing the flames of excitement that burn within the hearts of Rams fans.
This "lease cloud" has been hanging over the city for several years, dampening the enthusiasm of a fanbase already beleaguered by a consistently awful team.
It has been eight years since the Rams produced a single winning season. The Rams have won three or fewer games four times in the last five years, going an NFL worst ever 15-65 over that stretch. Try that in some other NFL cities and see what happens. The fanbase here, all things considered, has held up outrageously well and deserves better.
If the Rams and the Convention and Visitors Commission can strike a long-term agreement ensuring the Rams of a lengthy stay in the Gateway City by the start of the season, St. Louis fans will be relieved and ecstatic and will share that excitement passionately on Sundays in the Edward Jones Dome—with or without much improvement on the field.
However, a louder, more intimidating Edward Jones Dome can only help the chances of attaining wins there, thus, a pro St. Louis resolution will make a significant impact on the approaching season both on and off the field.
A satisfactory lease agreement, of all things in 2012, would be the biggest win of all. It would also help the Rams excel on the field—a rocking dome equates to a tremendous home-field advantage, as was evidenced during the greatest show era.
The Edward Jones Dome was once known as one of if not the loudest venues in the entirety of the NFL. If and when the lease situation is positively ratified, expect the volume, energy and atmosphere to trend upwards in 2012, giving St. Louis more of that always desirable 12th-man advantage.
In short, an enhanced home-field advantage lends itself strongly to a better season in the won loss column.