10 Early Winners and Losers of the St. Louis Rams' Offseason

Steven Gerwel@Steve_GerFeatured Columnist IVJune 18, 2012

10 Early Winners and Losers of the St. Louis Rams' Offseason

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    As fans, we judge the team's offseason based on what kind of players were acquired through the draft and free agency and whether or not we're excited for the season to start based on those acquisitions. 

    We're looking for recognizable names and blue-chip prospects who can better the team and improve the entertainment value.

    For the players, who approach the NFL as a profession rather than a source of entertainment, they judge their team's offseason based on whether or not their job is now easier thanks to the added talent. 

    Not only that, but the players can also hold resentment against the team if the offseason was spent finding their replacement. 

    So based on the roster moves that have been made over the last several months, which St. Louis Rams players have benefited from the offseason? And which players are likely to suffer as a result of the offseason? 

    This slideshow will look at the 10 winners and losers for the Rams this offseason. 

Winner: James Laurinaitis, LB

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    The St. Louis Rams focused many of their offseason resources on the defensive side of the ball, and as the center of the defense, James Laurinaitis is one who directly benefits more than anyone. 

    The team drafted defensive tackle Michael Brockers with the No. 14 overall pick and they signed Kendall Langford in free agency. 

    Brockers and Langford will occupy blockers and get after the ball-carrier, which will greatly simplify Laurinatis' job. 

    But other than the added beef up front, the Rams also signed veteran outside linebackers Jo-Lonn Dunbar and Rocky McIntosh. Both will likely start alongside Laurinaitis in the Rams' basic package.

    With 142 combined tackles last season, Laurinaitis was productive without the support of competent tackles and outside linebackers. It's scary to think what will happen to his production now that the team has invested in both positions.

Loser: Bradley Fletcher, CB

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    After a promising 2010 season as a starting cornerback, Bradley Fletcher was viewed as an up-and-coming player in the St. Louis secondary. 

    But now that the team signed Cortland Finnegan in free agency and used a second-round pick on rookie Janoris Jenkins, who has twice the raw talent as Fletcher, it looks as though Fletcher will lose his job as a starter. 

    Fletcher is also recovering from his second knee injury in three years, which could prevent him from making a stand and retaining his job.

    But even if Fletcher isn't on the field every play, he's still a valuable asset and provides the team with great depth at the position. 

Winner: Chris Long, DE

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    Chris Long was able to record 13 sacks last season despite receiving little help from his defensive teammates. 

    But now that the team added Michael Brockers and Kendall Langford in the middle, and 2011 first-round pick Robert Quinn is entering his second season, Long will be provided with more sack opportunities.

    The added defensive talent could be Long's ticket to his first Pro Bowl.  

Winner: Steven Jackson, RB

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    Steven Jackson can perform whether he's properly supported or not. But even so, the team found him some help anyway. 

    The Rams signed Pro Bowl center Scott Wells, who will open holes for those runs up the gut, but they also drafted a legitimate backup in the second round—Isaiah Pead. 

    Pead is a speedy back capable of making big plays with his quickness and agility, which is a nice contrast to Jackson's bruising style of play. 

    Jackson is still the focal point of the ground game, but Pead will give Jackson the opportunity to rest on occasion so that he'll remain fresh throughout the entire game. 

Loser: Austin Pettis, WR

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    As a third-round draft pick a year ago, all it took for Austin Pettis to make the roster was merely showing up for practice. 

    This season will not be so forgiving for the second-year receiver. 

    With the additions of Brian Quick and Chris Givens from the draft, as well as free agent Steve Smith, Pettis has been knocked down the totem pole and will have to fight for a spot on the team. 

    Pettis will duke it out with Brandon Gibson and Danario Alexander for the sixth wide receiver spot. And since Pettis is suspended for the first two games of the 2011 season, he's already behind. 

Winner: Harvey Dahl, G

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    Harvey Dahl was the only Rams offensive lineman who was able to consistently do his job at an exceptional level last season. 

    Not only was he the only lineman playing up to par, but he was one of the few capable of staying healthy for the entire year. 

    Last season, Dahl probably felt as though he was carrying everyone else's dead weight. But this year, he'll be lining up next to Pro Bowler Scott Wells, which will make his life much simpler. 

Loser: Brandon Gibson, WR

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    Had the Rams drafted only one wide receiver instead of two, Brandon Gibson would have a realistic shot at making the final roster. 

    Now, Gibson will have to do everything in his power to gain the respect of the coaching staff, but it will ultimately be a futile effort. 

    Unless several injuries occur during training camp, the Rams will not have room for Gibson in 2012. 

Winner: Danny Amendola, WR

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    Danny Amendola will return from a 2011 elbow injury that sidelined him for the entire season and provide quarterback Sam Bradford with a security blanket out of the slot. 

    But luckily for the undersized Amendola, he won't be forced to take the punishment that comes with punt and kick return duties. 

    The Rams drafted Janoris Jenkins, Isaiah Pead and Chris Givens. All three players are capable of returning kicks, which will allow Amendola to focus on his responsibilities as a receiver. 

Loser: Jerome Murphy, CB

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    Jerome Murphy received limited playing time as a rookie in 2010 and missed the entire 2011 season with a broken ankle.

    And even with the misfortune of last season, things still aren't looking up for Murphy. 

    Murphy is fully expected to make the final cut, but his shot at receiving steady playing time is slim thanks to the offseason acquisitions of Cortland Finnegan, Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson. 

    Perhaps, the team's best move is to convert the hard-hitting Murphy into a safety, which is a position with paper-thin depth. That would likely be his best shot at receiving regular playing time. 

Winner: Sam Bradford, QB

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    Sam Bradford wasn't rewarded with high-profile receivers and linemen in the offseason, which is what the fanbase was wanting for him. 

    He will, however, return to Rams Park with the luxury of a marginally improved supporting cast. Even if many of the upgrades are rookies and unproven players, he's still in a better position than he was last season. 

    Center Scott Wells is probably the most helpful acquisition for Bradford. Not only will Wells protect him from mammoth nose tackles, but he'll also inherit Bradford's duties as the shot caller for blocking assignments, which is something Bradford struggled with last year. 

    As far as firepower, the Rams added Isaiah Pead in the backfield, who will provide Bradford with an excellent screen pass target. 

    At wide receiver, the Rams used a second-round pick on Brian Quick. And at 6'4" and 220 pounds, Quick gives the Rams the sizable red-zone threat they've been desperate for. 

    The team also used a fourth-round pick on receiver Chris Givens, who will stretch the field with his blazing speed, as well as free agent Steve Smith, who was a Pro Bowl receiver for the New York Giants in 2009 before injuring his knee. 

    The acquisitions were modest, but Bradford is certainly entering 2012 with more ammo than he had a year ago.