With the Colts facing the St. Louis Rams on Saturday, Stampede Blue's Josh Wilson talked with Turf Show Times' 3K about the Rams, Saturday's game, and their 2015 outlook. The questions are in bold and then 3K's responses follow.
1. The Rams made the offseason acquisition to get Nick Foles in a trade from the Eagles. Philly fans seem to like Sam Bradford a lot - are Rams fans feeling the same way about Foles? How has he looked so far?
Well, the core issue with Sam Bradford's time with the Rams wasn't necessarily the quality of his play. It was the quantity. After suffering a pretty serious injury to his throwing shoulder in his final college season, there were already concerns coming into the league. A high ankle sprain in his second pro season in 2011 preceded the ACL injury of 2013 that was re-injured in the 2014 preseason. So Rams fans feelings toward Bradford don't really take his on-field capabilities into account first. It's that he's just been unable to apply them consistently in the last five years.Tougher still, the Rams never came up with an applicable backup to offer any potential in Bradford's absence. Instead, the Rams relied on veteran backups who were meant more to counsel and mentor Bradford and other members of the offense. So while you can point to Kellen Clemens and Shaun Hill as solid veterans to have on a 53-man team trying to weather a 16-game regular season after the preparatory phase, once you're turning to them to playing lengthy stretches of a season, you're in trouble.In the end, Rams fans are just optimistic at the promise of having the intended first team QB around long enough to manage the offense and let the defense win you games.
2. The Rams drafted running back Todd Gurley with the tenth overall pick in the draft. How much has he practiced, since he's recovering from an injury? And will he be the starting running back from the start this year?
Not much. He's still just coming off of individual drills being made available for practice earlier this week. So between the Rams comfort in being cautious with other options on the depth chart like Tre Mason and Benny Cunningham and Fisher's penchant for holding rookies out of action early in their first season (see: Greg Robinson, Aaron Donald and Mason in 2014), I wouldn't expect to see Gurley before the Rams' bye week in week 6.
3. The Rams have a very good front seven and have had a lot of defensive success recently it seems. What can we expect from the unit this year? More of the same?
To a degree, but the Rams' D-line got off to a tough start last year. Chris Long was injured in the first game, and the rest of the unit put up the worst sack total through five games in NFL history. Now if we're being intelligent, SB Nation blog types, we're allowed to look at context. Opposing offenses certainly did. Between the Rams D-line's reputation and their 2013 tape, teams were well aware of how well they could get to the passer. Adding Aaron Donald, who has the potential to be the best DT in the entire league, meant that the line was a key part of opposing offenses' game plans. So the passing games the Rams were facing wasn't asking for deep QB drops risking pressure. Instead, they were combining power runs with quick passes. The line wasn't doing itself any favors though, if we're being honest. I just wonder how much of that we're going to see early in the regular season. Everyone knows the Rams' defensive line is one of the best in the league, if not the top line. Everyone also knows the other levels are suspect. It's going to be a question of whether the linebackers and secondary can provide adequate coverage to allow the line to exploit any additional time they're given to blow up their opponents' plans.
4. I've got to ask, since Kendall Langford spent the past three seasons with the Rams but is now with the Colts: what do Rams fans think of him? How did he do in St. Louis? And what might we expect from him with the Colts?
He wasn't someone Rams fans were entirely unhappy with. I would, though, note the situation didn't ask a ton of him. With Michael Brockers, a plus run gap stuffer, plugging the interior with Langford and Robert Quinn with Chris Long (along with the best defensive end second team duo in the NFL in William Hayes and Eugene Sims), Langford's job was made immeasurably easier by the sum of the other parts. Still, I doubt you'd find any (ok, there's always a handful of nuts in the soup) Rams fans who would speak negatively of Langford's contributions in St. Louis.
5. The Rams play in what I consider to be the best division in football, which is unfortunate for them. How good can this team realistically be in 2015? And with the Seahawks and Cardinals each in the division, how realistic are the chances of the Rams making the playoffs?
The difficulty being a Rams fan is that things don't make sense. There's no consistency to the level of their play. In week 7 last season, the Rams beat the Seahawks. Twice-berthed Super Bowl attendees Seattle. The next week, they lost 34-7 to Kansas City. The week after, they beat San Francisco in northern Cali...three weeks after losing an embarrassing showing on Monday Night Football. At home. The best stretch for the Rams came in weeks 11-14: a near-perfect win over Peyton Manning's Broncos at home, a close loss to San Diego on the road (in which Shaun Hill had the Rams in the end zone for a possible winning TD cut down by an interception (see the above note on having to actually play guys like Hill and Clemens (give me nested parentheticals or give me death))), and back-to-back shutouts over Oakland and Washington. The Rams would then lost the final three games of the season.
I get that the NFL provides parity in massive doses. Any Given Sunday would be the strongest brand ID in America were it not for Oliver Stone's career post-Nixon. But as a Rams fan, it's just tough to stomach the certainty of the NFC West's dominance in recent years while watching the Rams' division record fgo from 4-1-1 in 2012 to 1-5 in 2013 to 2-4 last year. I'm only half-joking to suggest the Rams will go 6-0 in the West and finish 7-9.
I don't mind the comparative strength of the division. It's a bit of an excuse to lean on in explaining away losses. The Cardinals won 18 games from 2010 to 2012. The Rams won 16. In the last two years? The Cardinals have won 21 to the Rams' 13. And with the overwhelming flow of draft picks that have stocked this franchise in the last half decade, there's no reason they shouldn't have been better. There's no reason why they shouldn't be this year. Except that they haven't.
The Rams are a popular team du jour for the same reason they have been since 2011. How realistic are their chances at playoff football? Not unrealistic. But the last three years under Jeff Fisher suggest the realistic outcome is always below the mean. You can feel the optimism growing behind the team. But I've been here far too many times before. I'll lean on the old Missouri state maxim.
Thanks again to 3K for taking the time to answer these questions, and be sure to check out Turf Show Times for complete coverage of the game from the Rams' side of things.