St. Louis Rams: Full Position Breakdown and Depth Chart Analysis at Quarterback
The St. Louis Rams have acquired a comfortable level of talent at basically every position on the roster, but the one spot that will truly make or break the season is the quarterback position.
Sam Bradford was on his way to a career year in 2013, but his season ended prematurely with a knee injury in Week 7. If he can play a full 16-game season in 2014 and regain his form, then the Rams have as good an argument as anyone for the NFC West crown.
If Bradford suffers another injury or struggles to produce, someone else will need to step in and carry the offense.
As Bernie Miklasz of STLtoday.com reiterated, Year 3 is an important season for the Jeff Fisher regime. NFL organizations frequently follow the three-year plan—meaning the team must make the postseason in the third year, or the coach is officially on the hot seat.
If Bradford begins to weigh down the offense, putting the three-year plan in jeopardy, the coaching staff will undoubtedly replace him in the lineup, as desperate times call for desperate roster moves.
If Bradford does disappointment, is there another passer on the roster capable of carrying the Rams to victory?
Kellen Clemens—the No. 2 quarterback last season—stepped in for Bradford following his injury and played beyond expectations, finishing with a 4-5 record as a starter. Clemens is now with the San Diego Chargers, so he's off the table. The Rams will have to rely on one of the newcomers instead.
This article will breakdown all four quarterbacks on St. Louis' roster. If Bradford goes down with another injury, this article will give you an idea of what the backups are capable of doing.
Bradford certainly had his struggles during the 2013 season.
He was sacked five times on national television against the San Francisco 49ers. He finished that game with an interception as well as an atrocious 46.3 percent completion rate.
For the most part, though, he was putting together a phenomenal season. In seven starts, he had four multiple-touchdown games, averaged 241 passing yards a game and completed over 60 percent of his passes. He also threw just two picks in his final five games.
Not bad, considering St. Louis' run game averaged just 49.5 yards per contest during the first four games of the season, before the emergence of Zac Stacy.
In fact, before Stacy came along, it was clear Bradford was the only offensive player on the team performing up to standards.
If the rest of the offense can play at a reasonable level in 2014, it's not outrageous to assume that Bradford will have the best season of his career and finish among the top NFC quarterbacks in all major statistical categories.
When Bradford is on the field with a decent supporting cast, he can win games. He knows how to find the end zone, he can convert third downs, and he has a knack for fourth-quarter comebacks.
Those are his strengths.
What Bradford cannot do, on the other hand, is carry the entire offense. He's not Peyton Manning (there's unfortunately only one). Much like Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco and Eli Manning, he needs proper support. Provide Bradford with help, and he'll provide you with a dangerous offense.
Bradford's other glaring weakness, besides his need for support, is his health. He has missed 15 starts in four seasons, and that's not even including his season-ending shoulder injury with Oklahoma in 2009.
The injuries are becoming a major concern, hence the acquisitions on the offensive line (Greg Robinson, Davin Joseph, re-signing Rodger Saffold).
And that's the catch. Bradford is more than capable of winning games and leading the Rams to the playoffs, but he needs help, and he cannot take too many hits in the process.
Bradford is a former No. 1 overall draft selection, so it's understandable that a portion of the fans are disappointed with his play. They want a perennial Pro Bowl player who can revitalize "The Greatest Show on Turf" and consistently carry the team to the playoffs.
That's fine and all, but it's hardly necessary. The Rams are a defensive team, and defensive powerhouses have won Super Bowl rings fielding quarterbacks with half of Bradford's overall talent.
Protect Bradford and get the offense to perform up to par, and wins will follow.
The Rams inked veteran Shaun Hill to a one-year deal this offseason, and it's assumed that Hill, thanks to his experience, has the No. 2 job locked down.
Hill is not only a viable replacement for Clemens, but also possibly the most underrated signing of the offseason. He gives St. Louis an incredible amount of security.
Hill is one of the better passers to hold down St. Louis' No. 2 job in quite some time. In his last 16 games, he has averaged an impressive 8.3 yards per attempt—putting him comfortably above the 2013 league average of 7.2 (among the top 32 quarterbacks) and far ahead of Bradford's career average of 6.3 yards per attempt.
Hill has 41 career touchdowns against 23 interceptions, which is close to a 2-1 ratio. Considering Clemens entered the 2013 with seven touchdowns and 13 career picks (nearly a 1-2 ratio), it's fair to say Hill has his predecessor beat when it comes to efficiency.
Hill also has Clemens beat when it comes to accuracy. In his last 16 games, Hill has completed 60.2 percent of his passes, trumping Clemens' career rate (54.5 percent) and even beating out Bradford's last 16 starts (59.9 percent).
What Hill lacks, on the other hand, is the swagger of a true playmaker. Hill is simply a game manager with mediocre arm strength, and he has a mere 6-10 record since 2009. He can win a handful of games in a pinch, but he's not a guy who can be depended on for a full season.
Additionally, Hill is 34 years old and hasn't started a game since the 2010 season. His past accomplishments are admirable, but there's no guarantee he'll perform at that same level if called upon.
However, he's still a great pickup. With Hill as the No. 2, the Rams can afford to lose Bradford for a game or two without missing a beat.
However, if the Rams once again lose Bradford for an entire season, Hill is hardly a savior.
At 6'4" and 221 pounds, rookie sixth-round pick Garrett Gilbert has the physical makeup of a true NFL quarterback, but it's highly doubtful he'll be ready to contribute in 2014.
Gilbert spent the first 24 games of his college career with the Texas Longhorns, but his production was dreadful. He coughed up 23 picks with only 13 touchdowns while completing just 50.9 percent of his passes.
He clearly had the physical tools of a true quarterback, but he was unable to put it together.
Gilbert transferred to Southern Methodist in 2012, but his first season hardly showed any signs of redemption. He had 15 interceptions with just 15 touchdowns and completed only 53 percent of his passes.
In 2013, however, it all came together for Gilbert. He passed for 21 scores with just seven picks, completed 66.5 percent of his throws and finished with a career-high 3,528 passing yards.
If Gilbert's entire college career were filled with as much promise as his final season, he would have easily been drafted high due to his impressive physical tools. Unfortunately for Gilbert, that's not how it turned out. NFL teams have just a single season of positive tape on Gilbert, which resulted in a draft-day plummet.
Gilbert did not start producing until his fifth season in college. Since the NFL learning curve is far more drastic, it's reasonable to assume that it'll be at least three years before Gilbert is ready for NFL action.
Gilbert has the body of a true pocket passer. He's familiar with the dink-and-dunk offense utilized in St. Louis, making him an ideal fit.
In time, it's perfectly possible that Gilbert will develop into a valuable commodity. For now, however, he basically has nothing to offer the Rams in 2014.
Austin Davis was meant to be St. Louis' true No. 2 quarterback in 2013 and beyond, but he failed to impress in training camp and lost the job to Clemens.
Although, what's to say Davis won't show significant improvement this year and regenerate the hype?
During the 2012 preseason, Davis summoned his inner Brett Favre and turned some heads. He completed 64.7 percent of his passes and showed an uncanny ability to extend plays with his legs. For a minute, it appeared as though the Rams had found a gem.
Rams fan waited an entire year for the next preseason to arrive, but Davis failed to live up to the fond memories. He had three touchdown passes throughout the preseason, but mobility was nowhere to be found. His moxie vanished entirely.
It's easy to assume that Davis will continue his slump and eventually lose his job. That's certainly the likely scenario. But it's not outrageous to believe he can return to his old form.
Davis has had to live with his disappointing preseason performance for over a year now. Perhaps he used those failures as motivation this offseason and is now ready to take the next step.
Gilbert is not ready for NFL action, and Hill hasn't started a game since 2010. At the very least, Davis is the dark horse of the Rams' quarterbacks.
Steven Gerwel is the longest-tenured Rams Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report and serves as the Rams' game-day correspondent. You can find more of Gerwel's work by visiting his writer profile or by following him on Twitter.