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St Louis Rams: 5 Players Heading into Make or Break Seasons

Ethan NovakAnalyst IIJune 6, 2011

St Louis Rams: 5 Players Heading into Make or Break Seasons

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    SEATTLE , WA - SEPTEMBER 13:  Donnie Avery #17 of the St. Louis Rams leaps over Josh Wilson #26 of the Seattle Seahawks at Qwest Field on September 13, 2009 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

    Every team shows patience with players.  Some show more than others, but regardless, the patience is there.

    They understand some rookies take longer periods of time to adjust to the NFL.  They understand some veterans will go through the occasional slump here and there.  They understand football players are human.  That being said, in a league where winning and positive results rule all, patience can only last so long.

    The Saint Louis Rams are currently on the brink of breaking through as legitimate contenders.  If they want to make a serious run at the playoffs and possibly the Super Bowl, they need to move forward with as high-quality of a team as possible.  What does this mean for a select few of the Rams' players?

    It means it is time to either go big or go home.  Here are the Rams who may find 2011 to be their final chance to prove themselves. 

5. Mardy Gilyard, WR

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    FOXBORO, MA - AUGUST 26:  Mardy Gilyard #81 of the St. Louis Rams returns a punt in the second half against the New England Patriots on August 26, 2010 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The Rams defeated the Patriots 36-35.  (Photo by Elsa/Ge
    Elsa/Getty Images

    2010 Stats

    6 receptions, 63 yards



    It seems odd to put Gilyard on this list given he is barely entering his second season, but that just speaks volumes to how little confidence Rams fans have in him moving forward. 

    Due to school protocol Gilyard was late in showing up to rookie workouts in 2010 and he never appeared to fully recover from the setback.  He failed to grasp Pat Shurmur's playbook to the very end and because of it, he rarely touched the field, looking nearly lost when he did.


    Why He Could Make It

    Gilyard excelled in college playing receiver in a spread offense.  It sounds asinine, but a switch back to a familiar offense in Josh McDaniels' spread could be the spark Gilyard is in desperate need of.


    Why He Could Break

    Switching playbooks after spending an entire year learning everything about the West Coast offense could further hinder Gilyard's ability to succeed in the NFL.  He needs to give the Rams a reason to keep him around and, outside of his clutch 21-yard catch against the San Diego Chargers, he hasn't given them any so far.  With plenty of young receivers who have shown more potential littering their roster, the Rams would most likely move forward without him should Gilyard not perform.   


    2011 Note

    Gilyard's second season is already out to a bad start.  Rumors that he requested a trade emerged (later denied) and he has already been absent from numerous team workouts. 

4. John Greco, OT

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    SEATTLE - SEPTEMBER 21:  John Greco #79 of the St. Louis Rams looks on before the game against the Seattle Seahawks on September 21, 2008 at Qwest Field in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    2010 Stats

    6 games (0 starts)



    John Greco was part of the gaping hole that was the Rams' right guard position.  While he never started a game, he would occasionally fill in for Adam Goldberg for a couple drives at a time, usually playing far inferior to the rest of the offensive line.  There were times he appeared to be slightly effective in the running game, but for the most part he was overmatched and lacked the athleticism to consistently block NFL linemen. 


    Why He Could Make It

    There is always the argument that if someone receives consistent playing time, they could prove to be far more effective due to the existence of constant repetitions.  Since being drafted in 2008, the most games Greco has started in a season is three, probably not enough time to gather a fair evaluation of an athlete.  He still possesses a strong, well-built frame, and perhaps he'll be one of those players that randomly turns it on. 


    Why He Could Break

    Greco hasn't shown any signs of being a quality lineman in the NFL.  If he is named the Rams' starting right guard, it won't be because he has tremendously improved, but rather because there wasn't a better option on the roster (pray it doesn't come to this).  Should this time come and Greco does gain consistent playing time, there isn't a doubt in my mind it would only further the belief that he can't adequately play in this league.  The Rams did tender his contract, so he'll be around for at least one more year, but if he struggles again, this could be the end for Greco in St. Louis.


    2011 Note

    Like Gilyard, Greco has also been absent from team workouts so far in 2011. 

3. Craig Dahl, SS

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    CLEVELAND - AUGUST 21:  Craig Dahl #43  of the St. Louis Rams celebrates a fumble recovery against the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on August 21, 2010 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
    Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

    2010 Stats

    98 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, 2 interceptions



    On paper, it really seems like Dahl had a pleasant 2010 season.  Anyone that actually watched him play however, knows it was a fairly frightening experience.  He struggled in pass coverage lacking enough athleticism to keep up with NFL receivers, and he struggled to adjust to deep balls.  His tackling skills were wildly inconsistent; at times he would appear to be a reliable wrap-up tackler only to whiff on an easy tackle a few plays later.  Dahl flashed plenty of signs of potential in 2010, but at the same time, any deep balls in the middle of the field caused cardiac arrest amongst several onlookers. 


    Why He Could Make It

    As ridiculous as it sounds, and with all due respect to James Butler, Dahl may enter the season as the Rams most reliable safety.  Regardless of what you do in life, experience is critical.  With Dahl having a whole season as a starting safety under his belt he may just become more relaxed and more effective at the position.


    Why He Could Break

    Similar to what I discussed with Greco, an increase in playing time could only further prove that Dahl isn't capable of being a starter in the NFL.


    Writer's Note

    I just want to point that Dahl isn't like the rest of the list in one way.  'Breaking' for him would be the loss of the starter spot and being demoted to a fill-in role.  I believe Dahl will be with the team going forward, just not as a starter unless we see an improvement in production. 

2. David Vobora, OLB

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    SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 13:  David Vobora #58 of the St. Louis Rams moves on the field during the game against the Seattle Seahawks on September 13, 2009 at Qwest Field in Seattle, Washington. The Seahawks defeated the Rams 28-0. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    2010 Stats

    36 tackles, 2 sacks


    2010 Season (and prior)

    To completely understand where I'm coming from with Vobora, you have to look at his career as a whole.  Vobora was the last overall selection in 2008, earning him the title Mr. Irrelevant.  Typically seventh-round picks are long shots to make the active roster, so when Vobora managed to make it, we were all shocked.  When he started a game at outside linebacker his rookie season we were even more shocked.  And when he was named the starting outside linebacker to open 2009?  The streets of St. Louis were shut down.  To this day I'm still not sure if his starting spot was more of a result of Vobora's work ethic or the Rams' complete lack of quality at the position.  It's most likely a mix of the two, but regardless, Vobora wouldn't likely find significant playing time anywhere else in the NFL. 

    Just when we all began to assume Vobora had sold his soul in order to go from Mr. Irrelevant to starting outside linebacker, he received a fairly significant setback: a violation of the league's substance abuse policy and a four-game suspension.  Vobora defended himself the way all football players do, stating that he wasn't aware there were illegal substances in the product he was taking.  Whether you believe him or not, his production fell and playing time fell off immediately after returning from suspension. 

    In 2010 he played in 14 games, but started only five and ended with a mere 36 tackles.  Despite the lack of depth at the position in St. Louis, Vobora appears to be as dispensable as ever.


    Why He Could Make It

    Before the suspension, Vobora was really starting to show some potential as a starting linebacker.  He wasn't by any means dominating, nor does he have the tools to be intimidating, but he did all the little things properly.  He was adequate in coverage and possessed sound tackling skills.  He didn't seem to allow himself to be caught out of position and at times he would make a play that made you think "wow, where did that come from?" 

    If he can recapture that magic and find his form once again, he could be a serviceable player in Steve Spagnuolo's 4-3 defense. 


    Why He Could Break

    I'm not saying that whatever he was taking was increasing his performance, but he hasn't been the same since returning from suspension.  Last year he appeared lost at times and whiffed on plenty of easy tackles.  He looked slower regardless of who he was covering and he was a complete liability at times.  Since he isn't that good of a special teams player, if he can't prove himself on defense, the Rams would probably decide to move on without him.

1. Donnie Avery, WR

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    FOXBORO, MA - AUGUST 26:  Donnie Avery #17 of the St. Louis Rams is carted off the field in the second quarter against the New England Patriots on August 26, 2010 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
    Elsa/Getty Images

    2010 Stats

    No Stats Collected - Season-ending injury in preseason


    Avery's Predicament

    About two weeks ago, I wrote an article on Avery (found here) highlighting his career as a Ram and how he fit in going forward.  To sum it all up: the Rams are going to give Avery every opportunity to succeed this season.  According to Avery himself, he is almost completely recovered from a knee injury that ended his 2010 season and he is looking forward to proving himself in 2011.


    Why He Could Make It

    Avery is an absolute burner who possesses the constant threat of scoring a touchdown every time he touches the ball.  He has good hands and is a very precise route runner.  Heading into 2011, I would still consider Avery to have the most potential of all the Rams' receivers. 

    The great thing about him is he understands he has underachieved, all whilst knowing he is capable of accomplishing so much more.  This is a man who is confident enough to know he has what it takes to make it in the NFL, but humble enough to know he has plenty of work to do in order to reach his full potential. 

    With the coaching staff prepared to give him plenty of opportunity to succeed, the addition of Sam Bradford, and the addition of Josh McDaniels, there is so much to be optimistic about.


    Why He Could Break

    Freak injuries or other outrageously unforeseen events are all that could really prevent him from succeeding in 2011.  The stars really do appear to be aligning for him, but there are so many variables that can go into a player's performance and season that you can't make too many promises. 

    Should Avery struggle in 2011 and once again underperform, the Rams may decide to not bring back the speedster with a new contract.

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