St. Louis Rams: 5 Players Poised for Breakout Campaigns in 2014
The St. Louis Rams greatly benefited from Robert Quinn's breakout 2013 season, but Quinn was hardly the only player on the roster ready to pop.
The Rams have a top-notch collection of young, formidable talent thanks to back-to-back years with two first-round selections. Teams around the NFL are envious of the intriguing talents being hoarded in St. Louis.
The Rams have a handful of players ready to burst out and achieve elite status. This slide show will cover the players most likely to reach that next level.
WR Tavon Austin
Tavon Austin—St. Louis' No. 8 overall pick in 2013—was a disappointment for fantasy owners, but Rams fans are generally pleased with his rookie accomplishments.
Austin is a stunning playmaker and an offensive wild card. Despite getting off to a slow start and missing the final three games of 2013, Austin managed to gain over 500 yards from scrimmage and pull in five touchdowns. Austin added another touchdown as a punt returner and also had numerous touchdown returns called back for penalties.
Leading up to his Week 14 injury, Austin was undoubtedly beginning to adapt to the speed of the game. His big plays became more and more consistent as the season progressed, which tells us he could be in for a big year in 2014.
While Austin is not a 1,000-yard receiver, he has the skills to eventually become the most feared all-purpose weapon in the NFL.
At the very least, his numbers will certainly improve this season.
RB Zac Stacy
St. Louis' run game was simply atrocious for the first four weeks of the 2013 season, but the emergence of fifth-round rookie Zac Stacy saved the offense.
Had it not been for Stacy's ability to quickly adapt to the offense during his rookie campaign, the Rams could have easily ended the season with only two or three wins. After Sam Bradford was lost for the season, Stacy became the focal point of the offense and really carried the unit.
Stacy ended the season with 973 rushing yards—the most ever for a fifth-round rookie running back since the 1970 merger—and eight total touchdowns. He managed to produce those promising stats in just under 12 total games (he missed the second half of the Chicago Bears game).
Stacy showed the ability to produce consistently, so it's not unreasonable to predict that the second-year back will exceed 1,200 yards on the ground in 2014. Barring injury, he could very well separate himself as a Pro Bowl candidate.
DT Michael Brockers
If Michael Brockers continues down his promising path, he'll likely be the Quinn of 2014. His physical talents are extraordinary and his progress arrow has pointed nowhere but up since joining the league.
Brockers was not a decorated pass-rusher coming out of LSU in 2012, but a few months of practice under defensive line coach Mike Waufle changed that. Brockers finished with four sacks in 2012, and he upped his numbers to 5.5 in 2013.
Defensive tackles of Brockers' size—6'5", 326 pounds—are often pegged as run-stuffers, but Brockers has gone against the norm by demonstrating an ability to chase down quarterbacks.
And yes, he can stuff the run as well.
Brockers has an incredible combination of athletic abilities, so his eventual arrival to All-Pro status is inevitable.
CB Janoris Jenkins
An argument can certainly be made that cornerback Janoris Jenkins was the best overall player on the team in 2012.
Jenkins had four interceptions and four defensive touchdowns during his 2012 rookie campaign. No player on the team was capable of making the timely game-changing plays we witnessed from Jenkins that year.
With that in mind, it's a bit shocking that Jenkins had a bit of a sophomore slump in 2013. However, considering the Rams fielded a horrendous defensive scheme that left 10-yard cushions between the corners and receivers, Jenkins really didn't have a chance to make the kind of plays he did in 2012.
With Gregg Williams—a very aggressive defensive coordinator—running the show, Jenkins will be able to regain his old form.
Jenkins really improved his coverage skills as the 2013 season progressed. That, combined with the new defense that'll bring back his playmaking opportunities, could send him to elite status in 2014.
QB Sam Bradford
Out of all the players on this list, Bradford is the only one who truly needs a breakout campaign. Anything short of that could spell the end of his career with the Rams.
That said, a healthy Bradford who plays all 16 games could really open some eyes.
Bradford was well on his way to a career year in 2013. He finished with 14 touchdowns and only four picks in just seven games. His per-game averages put him on pace for 32 touchdowns, nine interceptions and 3,856 yards—borderline Pro Bowl numbers and a steep improvement over previous seasons.
St. Louis had a non-existent run game through the first four games, which really hindered his play early on. In fact, Bradford was basically the only offensive player performing at an acceptable level for the first quarter of the season.
If Bradford can sling the football like he did in 2013, with no setbacks from his knee injury, then he'll be just fine in 2014.