When you go 2-14, and you're coming off of the worst five-year run in the history of the NFL, it would stand to reason that there is a lot of room for improvement. As the St. Louis Rams get ready to kick off their 2012 NFL training camp, there are a lot of candidates who could end up being the most improved player on this year's team.
Here are five players that I think could end up being the most improved Ram in 2012:
5) Jason Smith. He enters the perfect storm if you're looking for a guy to have a breakout season. He is in a contract year, and is also playing for a new head coach and a new GM. This regime did not draft Jason Smith, and they won't hesitate to cut him loose.
Smith managed to play in only six games last season. I'm rooting for him to stay healthy and play the best football of his career in 2012. If he doesn't, it will be the end of Jason Smith's time as a St. Louis Ram.
4) Rodger Saffold. He enters his third season as a player that has already shown great potential. Saffold had a great rookie season, but then struggled last year. He played poorly—perhaps because of the lockout and the lack of a true offseason—but the bottom line is he didn't play well.
To add insult to injury—literally—Saffold tore a pectoral muscle lifting weights and missed the final seven games of the season.
This is a young player that looks like he could protect Sam Bradford's blind side for the next decade. I think he will solidify the Rams' O Line in 2012.
3) Lance Kendricks. He only caught 28 passes as a rookie, and at times, it felt like he dropped almost that many passes.
I'm exaggerating, but only by a little bit.
Kendricks is an elite athlete, and he should greatly benefit from the run-heavy offense that Jeff Fisher will use. Kendricks should be able to have a field day as a play-action target. It would not shock me to see Kendricks catch 70 or more passes and establish himself as Sam Bradford's security blanket in 2012.
2) Robert Quinn. Aside from the latest news of his DWI arrest, Quinn has been a model citizen for the Rams. His talent is undeniable, and now that he will be the full-time starter at right defensive end, expect Quinn to rack up double-digit sacks in 2012.
With Chris Long playing the other defensive-end spot, the Rams have perhaps the best pair of young pass-rushing defensive ends in the NFL.
1) Sam Bradford. If the O Line plays better, Sam Bradford will be the Rams' most improved player in 2012.
Bradford has elite talent, but unlike other talented young QBs around the NFL (Stafford, Freeman, Sanchez, Newton), Bradford has played with arguably the worst receivers in the NFL, and the Rams allowed a league-high 55 sacks last year. Bradford missed six games due to injury, and has been sacked a whopping 70 times over his first 26 professional games.
If the Rams protect Bradford, he will elevate this team into contention for a wild-card playoff spot. He's that good.