With training camp underway, and pre-season right around the corner, we inch our way closer to the start of the regular season and continue our opponent preview of each team the San Diego Chargers will face this year. They have all made different moves in order to improve their rosters, and this series will help you become more familiar with each opponent.
In other words, KNOW YOUR ENEMY...
The St. Louis Rams enter the 2014 season with hopes of improving off of a 7-9 record a year ago, as Sam Bradford enters his fifth season, and what looks to be a make-or-break year for the quarterback. Playing in a division that had three teams win 10-or-more games won't make things easier, but the quality additions to their roster should help.
St. Louis wasn't a big player in free-agency, with their biggest addition coming in the way of Kenny Britt, a former pupil of Jeff Fischer in Tennessee. The Rams used this year's draft to improve, with 11 picks at their disposal.
Greg Robinson, a player many experts have penned as the next Orlando Pace, should help solidify their offensive line, while their other first-rounder, Aaron Donald, has the potential to make what is already a ferocious defensive line, consisting of Chris Long and Robert Quinn, into one of the best in the league.
Playing in the NFC West, the Rams won only one divisional game last year, while beating six teams from other divisions, two of which were playoff teams. Their additions should make them a more competitive team, but much of their season hinges on the success of their quarterback.
Additions: Shaun Hill, Alex Carrington, Kenny Britt
Losses: Cortland Finnegan, Kellen Clemens, Chris Williams
2. Greg Robinson OT Auburn
13. Aaron Donald DT Pitt
41. Lamarcus Joyner DB FSU
75. Tre Mason RB Auburn
110. Mo Alexander S Utah State
188. E.J. Gaines CB Missouri
214. Garrett Gilbert QB SMU
226. Mitchell Van Dyk OT Portland State
241. C.B. Bryant DB Ohio State
249. Michael Sam DE Missouri
250. Demetrius Rhaney C Tennessee State
The Rodger Saffold situation played out in the Rams' favor, but losing Chris Williams on their offensive line might hurt, as Williams started all 16 games last year. Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson will be expected to hold down the secondary, but the depth behind them will be a concern, with these two now the veteran leaders of this group, as both enter only their 3rd year in the pros.
Reports out of Rams' training camp have many excited about their new additions, as Donald has been "unreal" thus far, while Britt has been getting lots of cheers from the fans with his exciting plays. Cornerbacks EJ Gaines and former FSU star Greg Reid have also stood out in camp, while Robinson has been getting reps at left tackle and guard while Jake Long recovers from off-season surgery.
The Rams could be a team that surprise many, as they went 4-5 last year after Bradford tore his ACL, but the quality talent they added should help them contend, especially against their NFC West rivals.
Health could be a concern for the Rams entering this week 12 match-up, as St. Louis will be wrapping-up a tough stretch in their schedule, having to face the Seahawks, 49ers (twice), Chiefs, Cardinals, and Broncos in consecutive weeks before they face the Chargers. Along with their bye-week coming in week four, the physical brand of football the Rams play could be paying it's toll by the time this game is played.
The Chargers will have a different situation coming into this game. With their bye-week in week 10, and the next two games in San Diego, they will not have to travel for three consecutive weeks following their week 9 game in Miami, which could really help the Bolts as they prepare for their toughest part of their schedule, which includes four playoff teams from last year in their final five games this season.
The Rams will look to get the ball more to Tavon Austin, as he enters his second year and looks to improve, while his Chargers' counterpart, Keenan Allen, looks to do the same. However, with each team's quarterback in different echelons, Allen and the rest of the wide receivers might have the advantage against a pass defense that ranked 19th in yards allowed last year.
Both teams have run-based offenses, so the key for either team winning may depend on how the running backs perform. Zac Stacy rushed for 973 yards and 7 TD's in 14 games in his rookie year, and now looks to be the focal point of their offense, while the Chargers should still rely on their rushing attack for much of their offensive success.