As Chris Long said during his exit interview before the players pretty much bolted for the off-season, the business side of the NFL suggests not everyone will be back. It’s just reality. It doesn’t matter if you go a perfect 19-0 on your way to a Super Bowl. Change is inevitable.
If you don’t win the Super Bowl, by definition you’re not good enough. And if you don’t make the postseason, you’re even further from being good enough.
So here we are in a crucial time of the Jeff Fisher era where the franchise has delivered something that has been lacking since dinosaurs practically roamed the Earth.
Hope that this team is truly moving in the right direction as opposed to pulling the ultimate pump fake - making fans believe progress is being made when in actuality it’s just spinning its wheels.
A regression in 2013 would be the sports equivalent of catastrophic. We’d think we’ve been fooled again into thinking times were truly different. Progress must, and I mean MUST, continue to be made.
And to do that changes need to be made. Not outrageous, titanic sized changes like last offseason. But rather slightly more subtle, albeit significant, changes.
From free safety (sorry, Craig Dahl, you’re not an NFL starter) to offensive line (duh) to weapons for Sam Bradford there’s no shortage of ways to make this football team better.
But before we dive into areas that need to be fixed from outside the organization, it’s critical to point out that if this Rams squad is going to get to where it wants to go it will need continued evolvement from many within the organization.
Exhibit A. Rodger Saffold. Son, if Sam Bradford is going to become the quarterback many believe he can be, he needs time to throw. And since you play the position that blocks - typically - the most dynamic pass rusher a defense can offer, your availability is paramount to his success.
The answer is not to get another left tackle. The answer is for the current left tackle to be healthy. And being healthy for just 19 games (out of 32) the last couple seasons isn’t good enough. You have to be on the field. Case closed.
Others who need to continue to progress are those in the 2012 draft class (Michael Brockers, Janoris Jenkins, Chris Givens, Brian Quick, Trumaine Johnson, etc) and others who were recently selected (Robert Quinn, Austin Pettis, Lance Kendricks).
It’s my contention, always has and always will, that nothing can dominate a game like a defensive line. A top notch pass rush can stuff the run and the pass all by itself. If a quarterback is getting hit 1.5 seconds after taking the snap it doesn’t matter if Bo Bo the Clown is playing free safety. No receiver can get open that quickly.
Because of this, the evolution of Robert Quinn is huge. He went from five sacks in year one to 10 and a half in year two. Can he be a 15 sack guy? 20? I’m not suggesting he has to, but the more explosive he is at getting to the QB the better this defense will be. I’m a firm believer the Rams defense can be as good as Robert Quinn allows it to be.
The list goes on as well. Chris Givens needs to emerge as a do-everything receiver as opposed to just a run-by-everyone receiver. Michael Brockers can become one of the best defensive tackles in football if he keeps making progress. Austin Pettis showed glimpses of being a very nice red zone threat late in the season.
So, it’s much more than just adding additional pieces. It’s also about taking the current pieces and watching them blossom.
If that happens, then we’ll know this sense of hope we all feel won’t just be another pump fake on our emotions.