NFL 2012: Debunking the Biggest Myths About the St. Louis Rams
The NFL is a league of parity, but the minds of analysts and viewers still focus only on the last things they saw.
It's easier that way. Instead of looking at circumstance or the possible changes that could occur, many focus purely on their last impressions or on win-loss records.
It's the natural way.
It's stained the minds of thousands and left them thinking they know all the answers. That's not the way the NFL works, however. Every year there's a team that goes from last to first, a quarterback that progresses beyond reason or even a running back that defies his age and doubters.
Myth: The Rams Are Not Division Contenders
Two years ago the Rams entered the final week of the season with the division title on the line.
The Rams were one victory away from getting back into the playoffs.
The current Rams roster is more talented than last year's and more talented even than the one that had a rookie Sam Bradford. There's a lot of reasons to think the Rams will be able to contend in football's weakest division.
The Cardinals came on strong in the second half of last season, especially defensively. However, they still have the worst quarterbacking situation in the NFC West. Their roster has bright spots but also has gaping holes along the offensive line, quarterback and other offensive positions filled by players not named Larry Fitzgerald.
Their defense can be good but is largely unremarkable.
The Seahawks are quietly building a good roster but will have an ongoing quarterback battle entering camp. Is Matt Flynn the answer? That will be one of the biggest questions of this season. The Seahawks defense is plenty good, but the team has issues on offense that could sink them.
The 49ers stunned the NFL in 2011, posting a 13-3 record and showcasing one of the league's best defenses.
The division runs through them. However, there is a history of regression to the mean with such teams. They faced the league's easiest schedule last year. Footballoutsiders.com posted their projections for the upcoming season and pegged the 49ers as a 7-9 candidate.
Would it really be that surprising if Sam Bradford made a lot of progress this year and the Rams won the division?
Not really. The Rams added some good pieces through the draft and free agency, and sometimes a good coaching change can make a big difference (e.g., the 2011 49ers).
Myth: Steven Jackson Will Hit the Age Wall
It's a well-known fact that a running back's shelf life is limited.
There's only so much abuse the boy can take, and eventually they all break down.
Steven Jackson hasn't gotten much respect recently. The league's active career rushing leader (unless Thomas Jones signs with a team), Jackson will turn 29 this season. With seven straight seasons over 1,000 yards—something very few running backs can boast—Jackson remains the heartbeat of this offense.
Jackson should be given the benefit of any doubt this season. He should not bare the blame for the Rams' terrible offensive track record.
If Jackson were on a contender, or even a balanced offense, he might still be in the discussion as of one of the best backs in the league.
Myth: Sam Bradford Is a Questionable Franchise Quarterback
There shouldn't be a question in anyone's mind.
The only question should be whether Rodger Saffold and Jason Smith can keep him upright long enough to get the job done.
Many point to Bradford's sophomore season as a troubling slump. The man was sacked over 70 times in his first two seasons and was forced to miss six games due to his injuries last year.
He played injured through many games, and the precipitous statistical drop from his rookie season can all be linked back to his injuries and the enormous amount of pressure he was under.
Bradford set an NFL rookie record for completions in 2010 and looked like the second coming of Peyton Manning. But that all seems like the distant past after Cam Newton set the world ablaze last year.
Now, Bradford's being written off.
Bradford will have his struggles this year, as any third-year quarterback would, given the lack of experience and talent the Rams have at wideout. But in the end his talent will prevail.
As long as he can stay on his feet.