St. Louis Rams: 5 Rams Who Could Be Pro Bowl-Bound in 2011

Steven GerwelContributor IIIAugust 6, 2011

St. Louis Rams: 5 Rams Who Could Be Pro Bowl-Bound in 2011

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    In recent years, running back Steven Jackson has basically been the only representation the Rams have had at the Pro Bowl.

    In fact, the last time the Rams had a player other than Jackson representing the team was following the 2007 season, when Torry Holt represented the team in Hawaii after completing what would be the final 1,000-yard season of his career.

    This trend is disturbing to some Rams fans and meaningless to others, but either way, given the upward trend the Rams are displaying, they will likely find themselves with a little more representation after the 2011 season.

    So which Rams players are locks for the Pro Bowl? Which of them at least have a shot?

Steven Jackson (Running Back)

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    Status: LOCK

    After singlehandedly carrying the offense in recent seasons, it looks as though running back Steven Jackson will finally have some support in 2011.

    The passing attack will certainly take some pressure off Jackson—quarterback Sam Bradford will have a more vital role in his second year, and weapons such as Danny Amendola, Brandon Gibson, Mike Sims-Walker and Lance Kendricks will make his job a lot easier.

    But it's not just the passing game. The Rams recently signed running backs Jerious Norwood and Cadillac Williams.

    Williams and Norwood will each take a handful of carries each game, which will allow Jackson to stay fresh and well rested.

    Also, he will be running behind what is arguably the best Rams offensive line since they were Super Bowl contenders during the Greatest Show on Turf era.

    Some claim that the 27-year-old Jackson has lost some of his burst, but with the reinforcements on offense, he could be looking at a very big season, possibly even a career year.

James Laurinaitis (Middle Linebacker)

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    Status: LOCK

    If you voted on the 2011 Pro Bowl rosters last season on NFL.com, perhaps you noticed there was a photo of James Laurinaitis in the background of the main page for voting.

    Maybe the photo was meaningless, or maybe it's a true indicator of how Laurinaitis is viewed by the league.

    Laurinaitis has been a star for the Rams defense ever since joining the team as a rookie in 2009.

    The Rams were able to find help at outside linebacker this offseason (Zac Diles, Brady Poppinga), as well as defensive tackle (Dan Muir, Justin Bannan) and safety (Quintin Mikell).

    With the new weapons on defense, as well as the players returning from 2010, Laurinaitis will have the supporting cast required for him to post huge numbers.

    Expect Laurinaitis to make his first Pro Bowl in 2011, which will be the first of many in his young career.

Sam Bradford (Quarterback)

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    Status: Alternate Injury Replacement

    After an impressive rookie year for Sam Bradford that brought him 3,512 passing yards and 18 touchdowns, as well as Rookie of the Year honors, he will look to continue his success in 2011.

    Some players who excel as rookies go through a "sophomore slump," but Bradford works too hard and is too talented to experience anything like that.

    Besides, the Rams just bought him a boatload of new weapons to utilize, such as Mike Sims-Walker, Austin Pettis, Lance Kendricks, Greg Salas, Cadillac Williams and Jerious Norwood.

    He will also have some key weapons returning from last year, such as Danny Amendola, Danario Alexander and Brandon Gibson (who is having by far the best training camp among receivers).

    Bradford might not be ready to post elite quarterback numbers, but there's always a good possibility that an original candidate will avoid the game due to an injury.

    Also, since the Pro Bowl game is now played before the Super Bowl, any Pro Bowl quarterback who is Super Bowl-bound will opt out of the game, which would give Bradford another chance at making the roster.

Chris Long (Defensive End)

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    Status: BORDERLINE

    There is no doubt that defensive end Chris Long has been absolutely vital for the Rams defense.

    After being nothing but solid or above average his first two seasons, Long broke out in 2010 and was a force to be reckoned with for opposing offensive lines.

    He was constantly in the backfield making plays, and the opposing quarterback was always feeling pressure from Long's side due to his nonstop motor.

    Unfortunately for Long, the fans are infatuated with the quarterback sack, so typically the only defensive ends who make the Pro Bowl have double-digit sack totals.

    Long was closer than he's ever been in 2010 with 8.5 total sacks (a half sack more than Julius Peppers, who made the Pro Bowl), but he needs to get more sacks if he wants fans from other teams to vote for him.

    Luckily, that should not be a problem this year, since the Rams found him some help on the line in rookie Robert Quinn, as well as defensive tackles Dan Muir and Justin Bannan.

    Also, with the signing of Quintin Mikell, the secondary is improved; if the secondary can lock down the receivers a little longer, it will give Long that extra second needed to get to the quarterback.

Quintin Mikell (Safety)

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    Status: BORDERLINE

    Quintin Mikell will certainly have a shot at making the Pro Bowl with the Rams, especially since he was a Pro Bowler in 2009, as well as a second-team All-Pro in 2008 and 2010.

    He is one of the best safeties in the NFC, so if he can continue to play at the same level for St. Louis, then there should be no reason why he can't return to the Pro Bowl.

    The primary thing working against him is the team he now plays for.

    In Philadelphia he had the luxury of playing for an East Coast team, so between the media bias and the larger fanbase flooding the polls with votes, he certainly had an advantage as a member of the Eagles.

    If he has a good season, and if the fans of his former team continue to show him support, then he has a shot.

Other Possibilities

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    - Mike Sims-Walker (wide receiver)

    - Rodger Saffold (left tackle)

    - Danny Amendola (wide receiver/kick returner)

    - Jason Brown (center)

    - James Hall (defensive end)

    - Fred Robbins (defensive tackle)