After a 52-0 blowout victory over the Raiders on Sunday afternoon, the Rams improved to 5-7 on the season. Remembering that the team lost starting quarterback Sam Bradford before the season began, the team has been very impressive competing in one of the toughest divisions in football.
Playing the way they have in 2014 with a combination of Shaun Hill and Austin Davis, the Rams have a lot to be proud of and more importantly, a lot to look forward to in 2015, writes Nick Wagoner of ESPN. The club has signature wins against the Broncos, Seahawks, and 49ers, with very close and competitive losses against the Eagles, Chargers, and Cowboys.
The team has already put together an impressive defense full of first-round picks. The defensive line has a cornerstone, with Robert Quinn, Chris Long, Michael Brockers, and Aaron Donald all developing exceptionally and providing a foundation for the team. Beyond the line, the team also has seen strides from linebacker Alec Ogletree, and has gotten solid play from 2009 second-round pick James Laurinaitis.
The Rams also have hope for former first-round pick Mark Barron, who was acquired via trade with the Buccaneers. Add to that a young secondary that needs to be more consistent, and the defense should only improve next season.
On offense is where the surprises have come. Kenny Britt, Tavon Austin, Brian Quick, and Stedman Bailey have all improved as the season has progressed, turning from a meager group of wideouts into a set of players who are able to make plays down the field. Third-round pick Tre Mason has set himself up to be the running back of the future, showing game-breaking speed to go along with the ability to be a lead back and absorb a heavy workload.
As long as the offensive line does not regress, it can be solid enough to round out the team, especially if second-overall pick Greg Robinson makes the leap as the left tackle next season.
Neither Hill nor Davis will likely be the starter going into 2015. If the Rams solve their quarterback problem, they could see an uptick in wins next season, and could compete in the tough NFC West. Their fifth win of the season will likely catapult them out of a top-10 pick, and move them out of the running for Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston. If those two are selected before the Rams’ pick arrives, they might not have another passer on the board worth taking.
That will leave the team to search out other options at the position. There are some current NFL players who may be looking for starting jobs in 2015. Robert Griffin III might be on the outs with Washington, and Mark Sanchez may be playing his way into a starting job as well if the Eagles decide not to retain his services. Brian Hoyer played well for stretches early this season, but may not be wanted back in Cleveland.
Either way, this team more than most might be only one player away from the playoffs. Unfortunately, that player may not be very easy to find.