As much as Rams fans would so desire, having just Sam Bradford, Steven Jackson, James Laurinaitis and Chris Long on the field does not a successful team make. Heck, it doesn’t even make a team, period.
Successful NFL franchises have high-quality players at every position. You need good protection for the quarterback, playmakers on the outside to attack the defense, defensive linemen that can get pressure and stop the run, tackling linebackers, impact special teamers. You get the picture.
The Rams have a few dozen practices, 12 quarters of preseason football, and the first round of roster cuts behind them. For Rams fans, there has been a lot to be excited about, and there has been a lot that will cause worry.
In the spirit of staying positive, here are the Rams’ preseason standouts that will carry through to the regular season.
PK Greg Zuerlein
Greg Zuerlein has shown more than any other Ram that he is ready for the regular season.
To the casual fan, it probably didn’t make much sense for the team to cut long-time placekicker, Josh Brown, and go with a rookie. To do all of this in April at the NFL draft, without having seen one practice session or game audition, probably seemed insane.
Zuerlein has proven any and all doubters wrong.
Just to recap, Zuerlein has calmly nailed three 50-plus yard field goals so far in the preseason. And all came with plenty of leg to spare.
Zuerlein doesn’t appear to be a goalpost-scraping type of kicker. As the guardian of Oz's Emerald City might say: "He is a leg of a different color.”
As a Division-II All-American last year, Zuerlein led the nation in field goals per game (2.3) and set a D-II record with 21 consecutive FGs (making 23 of 24 attempts).
Last year the Rams were last in the league in third-down conversion rate (28 percent), so the opportunities for Zuerlein will be plentiful.
There’s still time to make (and win) that bar bet with any sucker who would want anyone but Zuerlein to lead the team in scoring this year.
RB Darryl Richardson
I was asked in a comment last week about whether I see Richardson as the backup (over Isaiah Pead) to Steven Jackson. Right now, I do not.
Head coach Jeff Fisher told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (via stltoday.com) that he did not see a competition for the No. 2 spot behind Jackson. Fisher indicated that there were other considerations at play (special teams) when setting the final rosters.
Richardson has been very impressive during the preseason, gaining 86 yards on 18 carries (4.8 average) over the last two exhibitions. He has run with aggression and power. Richardson finds the hole in the defensive line and attacks it immediately.
Richardson doesn’t make negative plays, he doesn’t stutter step at the line and he has a nose for the first-down line.
Against Dallas, Richardson took a pass five yards behind the line of scrimmage, faced down three Cowboys defenders, found a seam and turned the play into a positive gain for a first down.
That’s the kind of effort the Rams are going to need this season.
DE Robert Quinn
Robert Quinn looks ready to take the next step in his NFL career. A rookie no longer, Quinn is the second-most tenured Ram (behind fellow DE Chris Long) on the defensive line.
Last week against Dallas, Quinn was impressive, batting away a ball at the line, earning a sack and helping snuff out a screen play by pressuring the quarterback into a throw away before the play could develop.
Quinn now has three sacks in three preseason games this year. If Quinn can maintain such performances in the regular season, it is going to force offenses to pick their poison when it comes to deciding which stud Rams DE to double-team.
TE Lance Kendricks
Short of the five guys paid to keep Sam Bradford upright in the pocket, Lance Kendricks is next in line to be Bradford’s best friend in the regular season.
Kendricks is money in the play-action. Watching him cross over the middle, catch a pass in perfect step and rumble down the field, is a thing of beauty.
In limited action as a starter this preseason, Kendricks has caught five balls for 78 yards and a touchdown.
Kendricks impressed everybody last year during the preseason, so maybe this year’s performance should come with a caveat.
Nonetheless, if defenders try to get away with using a linebacker to cover Kendricks, they will get burned.
Forcing defenses, however, to keep a safety on Kendricks will mean more single-coverage down the field for Brian Quick, Brandon Gibson and the rest of the receiving crew.