St. Louis Rams' Biggest Preseason Disappointments so Far
New Kansas City Chiefs guard Rokevious Watkins’ summer hasn’t gone so well.
The second-year offensive lineman, and now former St. Louis Ram, was supposed to challenge for a 2013 starting spot, but instead attracted a one-game suspension and ultimately got cut before the preseason started.
His tumultuous July was marked by a second consecutive offseason of showing up to camp overweight before the Rams released him. It’s fair to say the fifth-rounder was a disappointment.
But he’s not the only one.
Jo-Lonn Dunbar’s best statistical season prior to heading to the Gateway City was his contract year with the New Orleans Saints: 79 total tackles, one sack, three stuffs, two forced fumbles and six deflected passes in 2011.
In his first year under Jeff Fisher with the Rams, his production experienced an uptick in nearly every category: 115 total tackles, 4.5 sacks, 13 stuffs, two forced fumbles, four deflected passes and his first two career interceptions.
The likelihood that performance-enhancing substances influenced Dunbar’s ability to secure his first couple of picks is absolutely minimal. He also played 16 games for the second consecutive season (after missing 11 in the three prior years, including seven in his sophomore campaign, when he started just three games).
That feel-good story is erased now that Dunbar has been handed a four-game ban for his violation of the NFL’s PED policy, which doesn’t help a promising young defense that will feature a first-round rookie opposite his vacant position in Alec Ogletree. Maybe the Rams were made aware of his suspension before it actually came down, as they signed Will Witherspoon—who will start in Dunbar’s stead for the first quarter of 2013—prior to training camp.
They needed a veteran anyway, but Witherspoon’s value increased greatly for the Rams with the Dunbar news, since he has spent time under Fisher’s tutelage before.
The final member of the St. Louis Suspension Triplets was billed as the heir apparent to Steven Jackson, but appears to be slipping farther from that position by the week: second-year running back Isaiah Pead.
Which player has been most disappointing this offseason/preseason?
I wasn’t a fan of the Pead selection—at No. 50 overall, acquired by leaving the perch of their third second-round pick at No. 45—in the 2012 draft. Bobby Wagner went two spots after the pick (No. 47) that the Rams bailed on, Lavonte David went 13 later (No. 58) and LaMichael James fell in at 61.
The compensation that St. Louis received for moving down those five spots? A fifth-rounder. No. 150 overall. A guy by the name of Rok Watkins.
The shoulda-coulda-woulda linebackers are viewed as young studs at their respective positions, helped anchor strong run defenses as rookies and came at a cheaper price than Ogletree (No. 30 overall) did this year.
Hypotheticals aside, spending an early pick on a running back when the Rams already had elite talent behind Sam Bradford was one of the few Les Snead-era moves with which I personally disagreed with at the time. It has less to do with Pead—who has contributed some nice collegiate highlights to the YouTube sector of the Internet—and more to do with his position.
Plenty of running backs come in and do damage as pros in their first year. Daryl Richardson—No. 252 overall in the same 2012 draft class—did.
The Rams could have waited another year to throw a rookie rusher into the fire. They did draft Vanderbilt’s Zac Stacy with this year’s fifth-round selection, and Richardson has of course been a revelation.
As skilled as Pead is, he has been unfortunately stuck below the sea level on St. Louis’ depth chart. The answer—with respect to his own situation, since Richardson is out there balling on a weekly basis—truly comes down to one thing: ball security.
Basically, it’s not there.
He fumbled on his first 2013 preseason carry, which doesn’t exactly make you feel better about his one fumble in 18 regular-season offensive touches as a rookie. Through two weeks this preseason, he’s averaging 2.6 yards per carry, including 1.7 on 11 carries against the Green Bay Packers.
The San Francisco 49ers recently swapped former first-round picks with Kansas City, sending A.J. Jenkins to return Jon Baldwin. Inspired by that rare player-for-player deal, perhaps another NFL team can recognize Pead’s talent and, somehow, enable him to take better care of the football.
A fresh start may be in order for him, but he’ll be sitting out Week 1 regardless of which uniform he’s wearing.
Jamal Collier graduated from Washington University in St. Louis and is now a law student who covers the St. Louis Rams in his spare time. His work also appears on Yahoo!. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @StatManJ
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