St. Louis Rams: 5 Young Players That Still Need to Take Next Step

Doug ZerjalContributor IIDecember 6, 2011

St. Louis Rams: 5 Young Players That Still Need to Take Next Step

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    Anytime a team struggles, there's mistakes to point out or people to single out as the reason for failures.

    As another miserable Rams season winds down, there are several young players that need to still take the next step in their development.

    Chris Long isn't on this list. Why? He's quickly become the Rams' best defensive player and should make his first Pro Bowl. He's already elevated himself into the top tier of NFL defensive lineman.

    There are other young Rams that need to improve down the stretch of this season and right away next year. This improvement will be vital if the Rams are to compete in 2012.

    Here are five young Rams who need to take the next step in their game.

Danario Alexander

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    While Danario Alexander has been plagued by hamstring problems as of late, his overall production this year needed to be better.

    Alexander has 17 catches for 306 yards in 2011 and one touchdown.

    Alexander appeared to be trending up after a good game against the Giants in Week 2, when he had 122 yards receiving and a score.

    Following that game, Alexander has made few plays and hasn't been involved in many of the Rams' drives.

    It may not be all of Alexander's fault he's not involved in the Rams offense. To be fair, no single Rams player has tremendous stats this season. That's a product of the entire group not gelling and making plays.

    Still, Alexander needs to improve his game. With increased production—especially in the red zone—Alexander can greatly improve the Rams offense.

Sam Bradford

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    It's been a really difficult year for Sam Bradford.

    It's hard to be a quarterback for a bad team in the NFL.

    This is Sam Bradford's plight, like it or not.

    Sam Bradford has the potential to be a great quarterback. Don't doubt it. He has one of the best arms in professional football. Any scout would agree.

    He simply needs confidence. He needs stability on offense. He needs to have a solid core group of receivers that he can count on.

    There's also no debate that Bradford himself needs to improve. He will.

    Surround him with more talent and protect him, and the Rams fans and the front office will reap the rewards.

Robert Quinn

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    Robert Quinn has played well at times during his rookie season.

    Make no mistake, though—there's room to grow.

    Quinn possesses all the tools to become a tremendous defensive force opposite Chris Long.

    Quinn has five sacks this year and a forced fumble. He also blocked a punt against New Orleans.

    Quinn doesn't make this list as a criticism. He's a young player that hopefully will get better just like the Rams.

Lance Kendricks

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    One of the hardest things for fans to understand is the time it takes to develop some NFL players.

    Tight end Lance Kendricks is one of those players. He needs an entire offseason to develop his skills.

    Kendricks was probably expected to do more this season.

    After a preseason that strongly featured him, Kendricks has only caught 19 passes this season.

    Expect Kendricks to become a huge part of the St. Louis attack next season, no matter the coach.

Jason Smith

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    Jason Smith was the second overall selection in the 2009 NFL draft.

    It's time he gets healthy and plays well.

    Earlier this year, he was benched for poor play. A concussion currently has him on the sideline.

    Smith has been plagued by injuries his entire career. However, his inconsistent play is what really needs improvement.

    Smith makes tons of money, and it's time his play reflects it.