Behind Enemy Lines: Rams

TheGiantsBeat lead writer David Aitken asks GridironGateway publisher Nate Latsch five burning question ahead of Sunday's Week 16 meeting in St. Louis.

David Aitken | TheGiantsBeat.com

1. The Rams fall into that unfortunate category of “if only they had a quarterback…” that is preventing them from making a push in a very competitive NFC. How do you expect the Rams to address the QB position? Should we expect Bradford to come back?

Nate Latsch | GridironGateway.com

This has been the big question surrounding the Rams this season, but I think we will see at least one more year of Sam Bradford in St. Louis because I really don’t think there is a better option out there.

Bradford is owed a significant amount of money for next season, and I don’t see him coming back under those terms, but if the Rams are able to restructure his contract I could see him returning and having an opportunity to see if he can bounce back from back-to-back season-ending ACL tears.

The Rams are in a tough situation here. They have won enough games that they aren’t going to be in position to draft either Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston next spring and I haven’t seen anything that tells me a potential free agent like Mark Sanchez or Brian Hoyer would be a real upgrade over what they already have.

I do think they will address the position in the draft, possibly in the second round, and then bring back some combination of Bradford, veteran Shaun Hill or Austin Davis to compete for the spot.

David Aitken | TheGiantsBeat.com

2. Thanks to the Robert Griffin trade, the Rams had two first round picks this past year. Aaron Donald looks like a defensive rookie of the year candidate, but 2nd overall pick Greg Robinson had been much less talked about. How has his first season gone?

Nate Latsch | GridironGateway.com

Robinson has had a strange season. He was originally slated to be the starting left guard but then alternated between that spot and left tackle throughout training camp. He lost his starting spot late in the preseason when the Rams decided to insert veteran Davin Joseph, a two-time Pro Bowler who was released by Tampa Bay in the offseason, at right guard and move Rodger Saffold from right guard to left guard.

Robinson barely played in the team’s first four games before becoming the starting left guard for three games. Then left tackle Jake Long, who like Bradford was also coming off an ACL injury, suffered another ACL tear that also ended his season. So then Robinson moved back to left tackle, where he has started the past seven games.

The rookie from Auburn has been solid but not spectacular. He’s had his rough moments like every young player in the NFL, but he’s getting better as he adjusts to the pro game and a new offensive scheme. The Rams are confident that they have their left tackle for the foreseeable future.

David Aitken | TheGiantsBeat.com

3. The Rams are one of a few teams seriously linked with a move to Los Angeles in the near future. With the NFL pushing for two teams in the city, are the Rams a sure bet to make the move to the west coast?

Nate Latsch | GridironGateway.com

I definitely wouldn’t say it’s a sure bet.

You’d have to think that there’s enough smoke around this deal that there has to be some truth to it, but there also seem to be significant obstacles for the team to overcome in order to be able to leave St. Louis for the Los Angeles area. The biggest one being that if the St. Louis community is working on a viable option for a new stadium here, will the NFL allow the team to relocate.

It sure sounds like we are getting closer to an NFL team returning to Los Angeles, but nobody knows for sure when that is going to happen.

The biggest issue with this is that it doesn’t seem like anyone has the public or private financing to build a new stadium, either in St. Louis or Los Angeles. Rams billionaire owner Stan Kroenke does have the money to build a stadium, but he may be waiting for somebody to build one for him.

David Aitken | TheGiantsBeat.com

4. What has happened to Zac Stacy? Does his lesser role have more to do with the emergences of Tre Mason and Benny Cunningham or is there something else going on?

Nate Latsch | GridironGateway.com

This is a great question and one I haven’t really figured out yet.

Stacy came back entrenched as the starting running back after nearly gaining 1,000 yards last season, but he was never able to take the job and run with it this fall. Now I’m not sure if that is because Stacy just became ineffective all of a sudden or because the Rams’ offensive line hasn’t been able to push people off the ball and open up running lanes this season.

The Rams definitely established an identity last season as a team that was going to play tough defense and run the ball well. This season they’ve been strong defensively but haven’t really found an identity on offense. I suspect that it is because of the offensive line’s struggles, including losing Long for the season, that they haven’t been able to get it done with Stacy, Cunningham or Mason.

Mason has given the offense a boost with his big-play ability, but his 4.3-yards-per-carry average is deceiving because of his long runs. Too often I’m seeing a guy who doesn’t have many holes to run through and gets bottled up near the line of scrimmage.

We’ll see if the Rams can get the run going against the Giants this Sunday because that’s obviously an area New York has struggled with this season.

David Aitken | TheGiantsBeat.com

5. Outside of quarterback, where do the Rams find their biggest need to be?

Nate Latsch | GridironGateway.com

I think it makes the most sense to target an offensive lineman in the first round of the draft next spring. The Rams considered trading back into the first round this year to select Zack Martin out of Notre Dame, who deserves rookie of the year consideration for what he has done for the Dallas Cowboys’ rushing attack. He would have been great in St. Louis, but the Rams would have probably had to give up their 2015 first-rounder to get him and the deal didn’t work out.

The Rams look settled with Robinson at left tackle and then Rodger Saffold, resigned last offseason, at either left or right guard. But the futures of Long, veteran center Scott Wells and free-agents-to-be in Joseph and right tackle Joe Barksdale are up in the air.

The Rams could release Long and Wells in cap-savings moves but might lose Barksdale and Joseph because they may be worth more to other teams than the Rams are willing to pay them.

But there’s no doubt that the Rams will have to remake the offensive line this offseason and how they are able to do that will go a long way toward determining how successful they are next season.


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