St. Louis Rams: Winners and Losers at the Season's Quarter Mark

Alex JosephAnalyst IOctober 5, 2011

St. Louis Rams: Winners and Losers at the Season's Quarter Mark

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    Now that the Yankees have tied their ALDS series against the Tigers with a timely win on Tuesday night, both clubs will put their No. 2 starters on the mound for the deciding Game 5.

    Ivan Nova, the Yankees rookie, has been a pleasant and dominating surprise for the Bronx Bombers all season long.  And despite the strong statistics posted by Doug Fister after being traded to Detroit from Seattle mid-season, he has not been the pitcher this season – and this postseason – that Nova has been.

LOSER: The Remaining Schedule

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    Sometimes it's hard to find the silver lining when your team starts out 0-4. In this case, it's really hard.

    The Rams have a bye this week that will hopefully allow them to take a step back and regroup from their disappointing start. However, the next three weeks for the Rams don't look too promising: at Green Bay, at Dallas and home against New Orleans.

    There's a really good chance that the Rams could be sitting at 0-7 when they head in to the less challenging portion of their schedule.

    Assuming this is what happens, the Rams would have to win their next nine games to even have a chance at making the playoffs. Luckily, they play in the weakest division in the NFL, and it seems like their biggest competition is going to be the San Francisco 49ers.

    The Rams need to get on-track following the bye week, but they could be in for a long season if they can't salvage a win in the next three weeks.

WINNER: Cadillac Williams: Running Back

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    There really haven't been too many "winners" on the Rams roster so far this season, but backup running back Cadillac Williams certainly has one of the best cases for the "winner" title.

    After six years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Williams signed with the Rams with hopes of kick-starting his career. With injury-prone Steven Jackson sitting ahead of him on the depth chart, it was just a matter of time before Williams got his chance to shine.

    Jackson, who was injured in the Rams' season-opener after just two carries, was back in the lineup last week against the Washington Redskins. However, Williams definitely proved that he can still be relied on in the three games he played in.

    Williams has already carried the ball 50 times for 202 yards and has nine receptions for 57 yards. His nine receptions are good enough for third on the team, only behind receivers Brandon Gibson (13) and Mike Sims-Walker (11).

    Williams gets a "winner" tag for showing that he can still be relevant after a few disappointing seasons in Tampa Bay. With Jackson fully healthy, Williams likely won't be getting as many opportunities. However, another injury for Jackson is likely just around the corner.

Loser: Entire Offensive Line

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    I couldn't single out just one offensive lineman to pick on. The entire St. Louis offensive line has been horrendous this season.

    Just ask QB Sam Bradford, he'll be the first one to confirm this. Through four games, the Rams do have two categories they can claim to be the best in: sacks and QB hits allowed.

    The Rams have allowed 19 sacks so far this season, an average of almost five per game. When Bradford isn't getting sacked, he's normally getting hit.

    The Rams offensive line have allowed Bradford to get hit 41 times. With Bradford being a pocket-passer, these hits can't even be blamed on Bradford scrambling.

    Bradford has been on the ground more than any other QB in the league, and for a second-year starter, there is no way Bradford's development can be progressing.

WINNER: James Laurinaitis: Linebacker

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    Linebacker James Laurinaitis gets the obligatory "winner" nod for leading the Rams in tackles with 31. He also is tied for the team lead in interceptions with one.

    Yep, just one. Laurinaitis also has two pass deflections and one fumble recovery through four games. These aren't exciting numbers by any means, but they have to be when you're doing something right on an 0-4 team.

    One thing is true, Laurinaitis definitely knows how to find the ball. He has seven more tackles than the second leading tackler on the Rams, cornerback Justin King, and he has been the only linebacker to perform on a consistent basis.

    He has definitely been a bright spot on a defense that has seen there fair share of disappointments.

LOSER: Sam Bradford: Quarterback

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    I already covered how many times Bradford has been sacked or hit in my slide about the horrid offensive line. So, what else makes Bradford a "loser" only a quarter into the season?

    Because Bradford is getting absolutely no time in the pocket, he is on pace to throw for less yards and touchdowns than in his rookie season.

    Through four games, Bradford has thrown for 849 yards (212.3 yards per game) and just three touchdowns. What really stands out though is the his completion percentage: 49.7 percent.

    This is down 10 percent from his rookie season completion percentage (60) and is very uncharacteristic from such an accurate passer like Bradford. This alone should prove the stress that his linemen have put him under.

    Remarkably, Bradford has only thrown one interception this season. If he keeps getting the same pressure put on him throughout the season, though, that tally is sure to go up.

    That is, if he is able to remain healthy.

Winner: Chris Long: Defensive End

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    Chris Long gets a "winner" award despite only having eight tackles in four games. Why, you ask?

    Three of Long's eight tackles happen to be sacks, and he is the only St. Louis defender who has been able to get to the opposing quarterback more than once.

    Long is a part of a defensive line that has been equally as disappointing as the Rams' offensive line. The Rams rank dead last in the NFL when it comes to giving up opponent rushing yards: 179.8 yards per game.

    The Rams have faced good running backs this year, including the league's best running quarterback in Michael Vick, but that doesn't excuse allowing almost 180 rushing yards per game.

    If you want to stop the run, it all starts with a good defensive line. Because Long is the only lineman that has been getting into the backfield, he is the only one that deserves any sort of recognition.

    Hopefully Long will motivate his teammates.

LOSER: Mike Sims-Walker: Wide Receiver

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    Mike Sims-Walker has the second most receptions on the team and the third most receiving yards. However, when your numbers are 11 catches for 139 yards throughout four games, things don't look so good.

    After a disappointing season in Jacksonville, Sims-Walker signed with St. Louis as a free agent. Because he showed signs of being a great wide receiver as a Jaguar, the thought was that he would benefit from playing with an emerging star like Bradford.

    Unfortunately, he nor Bradford have panned out this season. Again, this can be directly related to the Rams' lousy offensive line, but when Sims-Walker is getting outplayed by guys like Brandon Gibson and Danario Alexander, some blame has to be put on the newly acquired receiver.

    The Rams have a lot of growing up to do offensively, and it all starts up front on the line. However, if Sims-Walker ever wants to be a threat at receiver, he has to pick up his production.

WINNER: Donnie Jones: Punter

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    When one of the "winners" in the first quarter of your season is your punter, you know something is going wrong.

    Alas, that has what it's come down to in St. Louis. Anything they can get, right? For as bad as they've been, it's a good thing that punter Donnie Jones has been so good.

    Jones has already booted 27 punts for a total of 1, 214 yards. That's right, Jones has punted for almost 400 more yards than Bradford has thrown for.

    He is averaging 45 yards per punt with his longest on the season being an impressive 65 yards. He has also put down four punts inside his opponents' twenty-yard lines.

    The entire Rams' special teams is performing pretty well when it comes to punts. As a team, the Rams are only allowing 5.8 return yards per punt. This is good enough to be top-10 in the NFL.

    Jones has to feel good about having such an impressive start to his season, but for his team's sake, he has to hope that his attempts go way down for the rest of the season.