Examining St. Louis Rams' Offseason and Key Preseason Positional Battles

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Examining St. Louis Rams' Offseason and Key Preseason Positional Battles
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In order to keep pace with the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West, St. Louis Rams general manager Les Snead had to make sure he made all the right moves this offseason.

A 7-8-1 campaign led to a third-place division finish last season, and Snead knew he had to make a splash on the free-agent market. As the 49ers and Seahawks (and Arizona Cardinals, to an extent) continued loading up, the Rams faced a must-win scenario.

Fortunately, Snead got a couple wins in the additions of former Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Jake Long and former Tennessee Titans tight end Jared Cook, both of whom can be game-changers when healthy.    

Long fell from grace after a tremendous start to his career in Miami, but the 28-year-old still has plenty of gas left in the tank. Provided he remains healthy and can prepare for another NFL season with a new team, Long will give the Rams a quality set of bookends to protect Sam Bradford.

Bradford, now 25 and with plenty of experience under his belt, put together a solid season in 2012 (3,702 yards, 21 touchdowns), but he hasn't lived up to his full potential as a former No. 1 pick just yet. Injuries and an inconsistent receiver corps have slowed his progress, but the latter factor shouldn’t be as much of an issue this year.

Snead added Cook to augment St. Louis’ tight end group and give Bradford an athletic middle-of-the-field option to stretch opposing defenses. He also made a couple terrific moves in the draft, adding a pair of talented wideouts to the team’s receiver corps.

Having already lost Danny Amendola to free agency, the GM needed to make some big changes. The Rams’ receivers are still very young, but that inexperience showed in 2012.

To replace Amendola and Brandon Gibson (now with the Miami Dolphins) and also give Bradford a couple more explosive offensive weapons, Snead drafted a pair of West Virginia wide receivers in Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.

Snead moved up to No. 8 to acquire Austin, who was arguably the most explosive playmaker in the entire 2013 draft class, and he’ll go a long way toward replacing the void left by Amendola in the slot. With an electric speedster capable of taking the ball to the house on every touch, St. Louis’ entire offense will take on a new look in 2013.

We’ll discuss Bailey and the rest of the Rams’ draft class in the following slideshow.

Snead didn’t address every team need this offseason, however. A couple positions on the defensive side of the ball will still be major question marks entering the 2013 season.

Safeties Craig Dahl and Quintin Mikell both departed for free agency this offseason, and the Rams didn’t have much depth to start with at either position. Without bringing in much proven talent to fill the void, the back end of St. Louis’ secondary has a lot to prove this year.

We’ll take a closer look at the team’s secondary and a couple other positions worth watching this offseason, as well as the Rams’ 2013 schedule and season outlook. Read on.

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