Between the draft and free agency, the St. Louis Rams have made multiple upgrades and changes to the roster in 2013.
This article will cover these changes and tell you, the fan, what to expect from this team in 2013.
The average Rams fan is already aware of the personnel changes the team made this offseason (Jake Long, Jared Cook, Tavon Austin), so rather than being bland and stating the obvious, this piece will tell you what to expect as far as game plans and entertainment value.
So take a look at these slides and use the comment section to tell me what you think will be different for St. Louis in 2013.
There were times in 2012 when it appeared the Rams offense was playing against a brick wall.
In certain games, it felt as though reaching midfield was a major accomplishment for the offense.
Luckily, the Rams had a stiff defense that kept the games close. Not only did the defense prevent the other team from scoring, but it added the occasional defensive touchdown to keep the Rams in the game.
In fact, Janoris Jenkins had four defensive touchdowns—tied for second-most touchdowns on the team behind only Brandon Gibson, who scored five touchdowns.
For now, there’s no need to have Janoris pull a Champ Bailey and take a few reps at receiver each game. Fortunately, the Rams added Cook and Austin in the offseason, so they finally have enough firepower to produce at a reasonable level.
I would not expect the Rams to lead the league in any major offensive category, but they’ll certainly be entertaining to watch.
At the very least, the offense should be able to hold its own without requiring a defensive score every other game.
Which brings me to the next slide...
It's not that the 2012 offense was a complete snooze, but it was a very hit-or-miss unit—the players weren't always clicking or operating on the same page, which made things boring at times.
That won't be a problem in 2013.
Even if the offense has some struggles in the upcoming season, it will be nearly impossible to take your eyes off of Austin and Cook.
The group has talent, and it's a very unique collection of players. There's a mixed bag of receivers with a variety of skill sets, an up-and-coming quarterback, a talented line and speed in the backfield.
Even if the group is having an off-day, it'll be hard to look away.
One thing that held the Rams back in 2012 was a lack of confidence.
The team was coming off of a two-win 2011 season, so it took time before the players developed the killer instincts required to put games away.
The season opener at Detroit came down to the wire, and it turns out that was a very winnable game based on Detroit’s 4-12 record in 2012. The result would have been different had the game been played later in the season, but the team had trouble clicking on the road during that first game of the year.
There were other games throughout the season, such as the games against Miami and New York, that were very winnable for the Rams, but they just couldn’t pull it off.
Those losses resulted from a lack of experience rather than a lack of talent. In Jeff Fisher’s second year, we’ll see a hungrier team with better instincts when it comes to sealing wins.
The Rams will no longer lose to inept teams in 2013.
This issue also has to do with confidence, which we discussed in the previous slide, but game-planning will play a part as well.
The majority of St. Louis' 2012 victories came down to the wire. The Rams never ran over an opponent and put the game away in the first half.
There won't be a lot of that in 2013 either, but there'll likely be a game or two in the upcoming season where everything clicks for the Rams in the first half, sending them into halftime with a lopsided lead.
The primary reason for this is that they're an improved team and will likely encounter a few bottom feeders throughout the season, but it also has to do with the offense.
The Rams will go airborne quite often this season as a result of their questionable run game. When teams play air ball, it opens up the opportunity for numerous scores in a short period of time.
At least once or twice this season, the Rams will take care of business in the first half and allow fans to relax in the second half and enjoy a comfortable lead.
It's certainly a step up from last season, when the Rams sent half of St. Louis into cardiac arrest by the fourth quarter.
The Rams’ 2012 revival has resulted in quite the buzz around the city of St. Louis.
Unless the Rams get caught up in old habits and open the 2013 season with a four-game losing streak, it’s safe to say that the Edward Jones Dome will be a pretty happening place on Sundays.
St. Louis proved during the Greatest Show on Turf era that the dome can be one of the more dreaded venues for away teams, as long as the fans are energized and excited about the team.
This is a very underestimated advantage for the Rams this season and could have a bigger effect on the team’s home record than people think.
The Rams open the season at home against the division foe Arizona Cardinals, so that'll give us an early indication of what to expect from St. Louis' home games this season.
Unfortunately, the Rams suffered several blowout losses in 2012, such as the Green Bay and New England games, but that's a difficult habit to break after a decade of substandard play.
Luckily, the Rams organization no longer finds it necessary to fly the team halfway around the world to play a "home" game in London against the New England Patriots, so there'll be no more 45-point poundings in Europe. That's Jacksonville's problem now.
Come to think of it, it's doubtful that the Rams will experience any blowout losses this season.
They might let one game slip away and get out of control, but overall, the Rams should pretty much be competitive on a weekly basis.
The Rams were in the playoff hunt late in the 2012 season, but at no point did fans view the Rams as a bona fide playoff contender. They were instead viewed as a team "on the verge."
That's no longer the case in 2013—the Rams will be associated with the NFC playoff picture for the entire season.
The element of surprise is gone. Opposing teams know the Rams are legitimate, and so do the fans. The Rams will no longer receive kudos for a seven-win effort.
For St. Louis fans, it's exciting to have a team worth talking about. For the players, it's a lot of pressure, and failure will be met with harsh criticism and deep disappointment.
Either the Rams step up and find their way into the playoffs, or they fall short again.
Regardless, the Rams are generating chatter all over the league, and fans are expecting big things from the team in 2013.