Brian Feldman writes T.J. McDonald and Rodney McLeod formed a very underwhelming set of safeties a season ago and both return to their starting spots. By Daniel Fredman
ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) -- There isn’t a doubt in the world the Rams have improved on paper from the end of last season. Forget that they added a pair of 1st round picks in OL Greg Robinson and DT Aaron Donald. The fact they were able to somehow re-sign OL Rodger Saffold and get even more depth with G Davin Joseph is equally significant.
But that doesn’t mean everything is going to be candy canes and rainbows in 2014. Every team in the league has challenges. Every team in the league has question marks going into a season.
As far as I’m concerned, these are the biggest two for Jeff Fisher and the Rams before they kick off Week 1 against the Vikings on September 7th:
Dominance of defensive front seven as it relates to the secondary
Now let me be clear. The D-line and linebackers are not a concern. That group will be the least of the team’s problems going forward. But given how little of a priority the Rams placed on improving the corner backs and safeties it will leave them wide open to criticism if Robert Quinn and company don’t totally dominate every series.
Should the line and linebackers be simply good – and not great – then there is a chance the secondary could be exposed. T.J. McDonald and Rodney McLeod formed a very underwhelming set of safeties a season ago and both return to their starting spots.
Janoris Jenkins, after having a tremendous rookie season, regressed in year two and got burned way too often by big time wide receivers like Julio Jones. Trumaine Johnson is a work in progress as well.
If the Rams can get to the opposing quarterbacks BEFORE they have a chance to pick the secondary apart then Gregg Williams’ unit will be just fine. If there’s an area to be strong at, defensive line is the one I’d pick. But given the potential weakness the Rams will have in the backend of their defense, an awful lot of pressure is being put on the front seven to not just be good.
They have to be great.
Depth of the offensive line
Yes, the Rams re-signed Rodger Saffold after his botched attempt at inking with Oakland. Yes, they got a starting caliber guard in Davin Joseph to be ready in case something happens. But given the rate of injuries this team has faced along that unit over the past few seasons, depth is always going to be a question.
Jake Long is coming off a torn ACL but the team expects him to be ready to line up and start Week 1. Regardless if he does or not, Long has been injury prone for the vast majority of his career. Saffold hasn’t been the perfect picture of health either. Center Scott Wells has battled injuries in his time with the Rams, too.
What happens if history repeats itself and Long, Saffold and/or Wells start going down like they’ve done recently? Joseph can plug one gap. But that’s just a single spot. If another or even two spots are needing to be filled? What then?
And we haven’t even mentioned the fact they’re relying on a rookie like Greg Robinson to hammer down a guard spot.
The names all look nice…when they’re healthy. Long has been to a Pro Bowl. Saffold and Wells are very nice players in their own right. Robinson has the potential to be great. Even Joe Barksdale – the projected starter at right tackle – handled himself well last year.
But things rarely go the way you plan over the course of a full 16-game regular season. And the depth of that unit, as it relates to the number of injury prone players the Rams are banking on, concerns me.