Sam Bradford is probably still smiling—right now—because of the effort made by St. Louis Rams management since the Super Bowl. Les Snead and company shored up his offensive line and got him some new, shiny toys to play with.
He’s the biggest offseason winner.
A couple of his new targets will join him on the winners' list, while the guys they replaced in the pecking order wind up on the other side.
There weren’t a lot of changes at the top of the defensive depth chart; St. Louis will presumably continue to start eight of their 11 base-package starters from 2012.
The other three aren’t in town, so it’s hard for any current Rams defenders to be counted as losers.
Since most of the offseason movement was focused on offense, the winners and losers will be, as well.
Lance Kendricks put in some work at the fullback position in 2012. With the arrival of Jared Cook, he’s likely to continue that role in the future.
Whether or not that means he’ll play reduced snaps remains to be seen—the St. Louis Rams want to spread the offense out—but the No. 1 tight end targets won’t be going to No. 88 this fall.
No. 89’s going to see those.
When Jared Cook signed his five-year, $35-million pact with the St. Louis Rams in March, he projected to be Sam Bradford’s new best friend—the guy who’ll get the most targets, regardless of position—in the passing game.
At worst, he’s got a size-speed combination that Bradford has never worked with before as a professional.
It’s a bit concerning that Cook recorded just 29 catches for 361 yards and a TD with Jeff Fisher as his head coach in 2010, but that was his second year in the league. He was targeted 15 times in 14 games as a rookie.
Cook’s catches per game have elevated in each of his seasons as a pro. In 2012, it was a career-high 3.4. That should be a distant second by the end of 2013.
Rodger Saffold made offseason news with his reaction to losing his starting left tackle position to Jake Long. You can’t blame him for being upset about his uprooting—that may impact his wallet, after all, since left tackles are paid more handsomely than other offensive linemen.
Saffold is entering a contract season.
The NFL knows he’s capable of playing on a quarterback’s blind side, though. Hopefully—for his sake—a year in another role won’t negatively affect their perception of his ability to do it.
Tavon Austin could’ve been drafted by a number of teams in April, but only the St. Louis Rams pulled the trigger to trade up to snatch the playmaker from the waiting arms of the New York Jets at No. 9 overall.
He should probably thank Les Snead for that.
Austin’s also a winner because he’ll inherit a role recently vacated by Danny Amendola, who attracted 101 targets in 11 games in 2012. He was targeted 95 times in the nine games he played when he wasn’t facing the Arizona Cardinals.
That’s significant because he left his first matchup with them due to a scary collarbone injury, and was doubtful leading up to the second with a heel. He played on Nov. 25, but was only targeted once.
Austin has the added dimension of profound rushing ability. He’s going to get the ball a lot.
Some of the NFL’s best running backs enjoyed their career’s most productive statistical season in their second year. Isaiah Pead will look to join the likes of Eric Dickerson (NFL-record 2,105 yards) and Chris Johnson (2,006) in that regard, but only because he’s a rising sophomore.
Pead also stands to lose some touches to incoming rookie Zac Stacy, as Daryl Richardson continues his ascent to the top of St. Louis’ depth chart.
Darian Stewart surrendered starts to Craig Dahl and Quintin Mikell in 2012. They’re now in San Francisco and unsigned, respectively, clearing the way for Stewart to see more playing time in his fourth season.
The St. Louis Rams drafted USC safety T.J. McDonald in the third round and signed former Oakland Raider Matt Giordano.
He started his final 13 games as a sophomore. In his 15 total appearances, Stewart tallied 84 tackles (67 solo), 11 pass deflections, two forced fumbles and a pick-six.
Sam Bradford’s best passer rating came in his third season. He’ll be playing under the same offensive coordinator for the first time as a professional.
In addition to keeping his OC around, the St. Louis Rams added protection and weapons for him. They brought another No. 1 overall pick in at left tackle (Jake Long), an electric slot receiver at No. 8 overall in the draft (Tavon Austin) and a physical matchup problem at tight end through free agency (Jared Cook).
Wide receiver Stedman Bailey and running back Zac Stacy were brought in to contribute. Second-year players Chris Givens, Isaiah Pead, Brian Quick and Daryl Richardson should take steps. Austin Pettis, 25, was even making noise in OTAs.
Bradford doesn’t have any quarterback controversy to worry about, but all eyes are on the 2010 draft’s first selection entering his fourth season. With so much new talent surrounding him, expectations are high.
Even that pressure doesn’t detract from the fact that this offseason has been incredibly kind to St. Louis’ QB.