St. Louis Rams: 5 Rams Who Aren't Getting the Respect They Deserve
The St. Louis Rams entered the 2011 season as the favorites to win the NFC West division but have yet to find a win in 2011, having lost all six of their games in convincing fashion.
An 0-7 record is a real possibility.
There was so much hope for the Rams entering the 2011 season. They went 7-9 in 2010, missing the playoffs by one game and were thought to be on the right track. And after obtaining only six total wins in three seasons (2007-2009), the fanbase is understandably running thin on patience.
There's a surplus of negativity among Rams fans.
Fan mail and comments resemble the mindset of a pitchfork mob more than an NFL fanbase, and there's nothing wrong with that given the frustration generated by the franchise over the past five years. The Internet and the sports subculture as a whole are not forgiving environments, and they certainly don't require people to use the same rationale as they do in everyday life.
It's perfectly fine for fans to point out that the recently cut Mike Sims-Walker was paid over $3 million to play like a below-average receiver, or that Jason Brown is getting paid $4 million in 2011 to miss blocks despite being a high-profile free agent who signed a $37.5 million deal.
However, that cloud of negativity and the overall lack of censorship when it comes to critiquing the team brings out unfair comments.
There's much to complain about when it comes to St. Louis Rams football this year, but it does not mean all 53 members of the roster are failing. If for no other reason than to generate a sliver of positivity, these players should at least be mentioned and recognized.
Here are five players being overlooked in St. Louis and over-criticized by a small portion of fans. They are far from the problem and are most likely part of the solution to moving forward.
5) Danario Alexander
Before Brandon Lloyd arrived on the team a week ago through a trade, the Rams were dangerously thin on receivers.
Danny Amendola, who by far was the most reliable receiver and third-down option in 2010, suffered a dislocated elbow during the team's Week 1 encounter with the Philadelphia Eagles, thereby ending his season.
Mike Sims-Walker, who was acquired as a free agent before the 2011 season, was thought of as a guy who could have a breakout season in St. Louis but was a colossal bust. He was cut from the team to create a roster spot for Lloyd.
In the first five games, the only receiver who had unquestionable talent was Danario Alexander.
Technically, Brandon Lloyd has more yards that any Rams receiver with 357 yards, but he got 283 of those yards in a Broncos uniform. Alexander has 296 yards on the season and has picked up every one of those yards with horns on his helmet.
He has been one of the few bright spots on offense. At 6'5" and 217 pounds, the Rams must find a way to get him more involved.
4) James Laurinaitis
James Laurinaitis, now in his third season, is the only consistent linebacker on the team, and one among a handful of Rams players who would be a starter for the majority of NFL teams.
Laurinaitis has been overwhelmed in 2011 with no quality players in front of him at defensive tackles, or to the side of him at outside linebacker.
Yet he's second on the team in combined tackles with 47. He also picked up a key interception against the Washington Redskins, which put the Rams in a position to with that game—if only they had an NFL-caliber offense, or even a collegiate-level offense.
2012 is Laurinaitis' last season under contract. If the Rams don't show some promise real soon, they could lose some key players like Laurinaitis to free agency.
3) Steven Jackson
There's really no explanation required for Steven Jackson. No. 39 has been a franchise-caliber player ever since arriving at St. Louis in 2004.
Jackson has been a 1,000-yard rusher for six consecutive years and remains the focal point of the Rams offense.
After rushing for 56 yards and a touchdown on his first two carries in the season opener, Jackson was sidelined with a quad injury. The injury kept him out of the Rams Week 2 game against the Giants and it limited his carries significantly against the Ravens.
Since then, Jackson has returned to health and has been strong. He rushed for 96 yards against the Packers and had 70 rushing yards with a touchdown against the Cowboys, despite having no room to run.
It seems as though Jackson will turn in another strong year in 2011, which is sad considering the Rams' near-decade of incompetence has likely killed any shot at the Hall of Fame for Jackson.
2) Quintin Mikell
The Rams' free-agent acquisitions in recent years have nearly all been busts, whether it's center Jason Brown, safety James Butler, wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker or linebacker Ben Leber.
There have been some average acquisitions, such as Fred Robbins (who has declined significantly in 2011) and Harvey Dahl.
But the one signing that seems to be phenomenal is safety Quintin Mikell.
Mikell has been all over the field and is leading the team in solo tackles with 33. He also has a sack, an interception and two forced fumbles.
Since Steven Jackson and Sam Bradford missed some time with his injury, it might even be fair to declare that Mikell has been the best player on the entire team.
1) Sam Bradford
Talk about a bad situation for the young second-year quarterback. To an outside observer or someone with an untrained eye, it might seem as though Sam Bradford has declined in his sophomore year.
That couldn't be further from the truth.
Bradford is tied for fewest interceptions among starting NFL quarterbacks with two (one of them came on a pass that was on target, but his receiver tripped).
He also has two 300-yard games, despite playing on an offense that's averaging 9.3 points per game and only 301.2 total yards per game.
He has made some mistakes, like overthrowing a handful of passes or holding the ball too long on occasion, mistakes that are expected out of a second-year passer, but overall he still looks to be every bit of the player the Rams had drafted and better than the quarterback he was last season.
The Rams have a lot of problems, but Bradford and the other four players on this list are far from being one of those problems.