The St. Louis Rams Are a Quarterback Away From Being Contenders

Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The St. Louis Rams have been one of the hardest teams to figure out in the 2014 NFL season. In wins over the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks, they have looked like one of the better teams in the league. In blowout losses to the Minnesota Vikings and Kansas City Chiefs, they have looked like a team that should be picking in the top-five in the 2015 NFL Draft.

Since their last playoff appearance in 2004, the Rams have gone 49-107, and have yet to finish in the top half of the NFL standings in any given year. Over that stretch, the Rams have had three top-five picks, a top-10 pick, and of course they cleaned up in the Robert Griffin III trade with the Washington Redskins. With that arsenal of draft picks, the Rams have built one of the best young nuclei in the league — on one side of the ball.

All statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

St. Louis has invested heavily in defensive players in recent drafts, and it’s clearly starting to pay off. Here is a look at the key defensive statistics for the St. Louis Rams heading into Week 15 of the 2014 NFL season:

Rams Key Defensive Statistics (league rank):

  • 331 total yards allowed per game (ninth)
  • 222 net passing yards allowed per game (sixth)
  • 109 rushing yards allowed per game (12th)
  • 19.2 points allowed per game (sixth)

Those numbers actually improved following the Rams’ 12-6 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday night. Despite losing, it was their third-straight game in which they didn’t allow a single offensive touchdown. In fact, over their last three games, the Rams are giving up an average of just four points per game.

The Rams have Pro Bowl-caliber talent literally all over the field on defense. They have arguably the best front seven in the NFL, and strong safety T.J. McDonald is blossoming into an All-Pro candidate. This group is only going to get better with time as the oldest starter in the group is 29-year-old Jo-Lonn Dunbar.

Donald Miralle/Getty Images

Donald Miralle/Getty Images

For as good as the Rams’ defense has been in 2014, their offense has been equally as bad. Here is a look at the key offensive statistics for the St. Louis Rams heading into Week 15 of the 2014 NFL season:

Rams Key Offensive Statistics (league rank):

  • 330 total yards per game (22nd)
  • 245 passing yards per game (13th)
  • 86 rushing yards per game (29th)
  • 21.8 points per game (17th)

Believe it or not, those numbers will actually be worse once the Cardinals’ dreadful offensive performance from Thursday night is factored in. Most of their offensive struggles can be traced back to lackluster play from the quarterback position; the most important position on the football field.

The Rams have a handful of talented, young players on the offensive side of the ball in running back Tre Mason, tight end Jared Cook, and wide receivers Kenny Britt, Tavon Austin, and Steadman Bailey. Their offensive line could be better, but like so many other position groups on the St. Louis roster, they are young and full of potential. That brings us to the quarterbacks.

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Following another season-ending injury to Sam Bradford, the Rams have used veteran journeyman Shaun Hill and former undrafted free agent Austin Davis as their quarterbacks in 2014. They have both had small amounts of success, but for the most part, they have been incredibly inconsistent, and neither appears to be the long-term answer at the position for St. Louis.

Bradford was selected by the Rams with the first-overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, and while he has shown flashes of being a big-time NFL quarterback, he has been plagued by injuries throughout his entire professional career. The Rams have said that Bradford remains in their plans, but it’s hard to put a lot of faith in a player with his injury history.

There’s no doubting where the Rams’ offseason priorities will lie. Their defense should return almost completely in tact, so general manager Les Snead and head coach Jeff Fisher will be tasked with finding a quarterback that can lead them back to the playoffs. Their roster, as it stands now, is capable of playing with anybody in the league on any given Sunday. If they can fix the quarterback position, which will be no easy task, this is a team that can be legitimate Super Bowl contenders in the upcoming seasons.