Rams Look To Take Another Step Forward In Year Two Under Fisher
The St. Louis Rams took a major step forward in their first year under head coach Jeff Fisher, going from a 2-14 record in 2011 to a 7-8-1 mark in 2012. That included a 4-1-1 mark against NFC West opponents, which has led to even more online sports betting optimism heading in to this season. The Rams have all of the pieces in place to take another step forward in 2013, but it won’t get any easier in a loaded division that includes the defending NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, and the Arizona Cardinals – all of which could contend for a playoff spot.
This will be the first time in quarterback Sam Bradford’s career that he enters an online sports betting season with the same offensive coordinator that he had the previous year, and that alone should be enough to expect improvement. However, Bradford will have to overcome the loss of two of his top targets in wide receivers Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson, with the hope being the arrival of former West Virginia teammates Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey will help offset the loss. Brian Quick and David Givens are both talented receivers that will also make the transition easier after working with Bradford a year ago, while Darryl Richardson is set to take over as the primary running back following the departure of the NFL’s leading-active rusher in Stephen Jackson. St. Louis spent money to bring in franchise left tackle Jake Long to help protect Bradford’s blind side, a sports betting move that somewhat flew under the radar but will pay major dividends.
The defense took a major step forward last year and it all began with the defensive line. Defensive ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn each finished with over 10 sacks, working in tandem with William Hayes while tackles Kendall Langford and Michael Brockers held things down in the middle. James Laurianitis really came in to his own as the middle linebacker, and will likely play an even bigger role in helping rookie Alec Ogletree make the transition to the NFL now that he is primed to be a starter following the suspension of fellow linebacker Jo-Lunn Dunbar. The secondary is strong as well led by veteran Corland Finnegan, who brings a on of toughness and leadership to the table in addition to his skill set opposite another star in fellow corner Janoris Jenkins. The Rams drafted rookie TJ McDonald with the intention of giving him every chance to start at safety, with Darian Stewart and Matthew Daniels set to compete for the other starting spot.
Kicker Greg Zuerlein established himself as one of the best in the business as a rookie, hitting four field goals from 50-plus yards including one from 60 yards out. The addition of Austin will provide a major spark in the return game as he handles both punt and kickoff return duties as a rookie, looking to show off the big-play ability he was known for at WVU.
The Rams are a better team on paper than they were a year ago, but that doesn’t necessarily mean dramatic improvement when it comes to their position in the NFC West. The 49ers, Seahawks, and Cardinals are all expected to be better in 2013, and they will remember what St. Louis did to them a year ago when the Rams went 4-1-1 in the division. Fisher has this team on the right online sportsbook track, but it will be at least one more year before they compete for a playoff spot.
2013 PROJECTION: 7-9; 3rd in NFC West