With training camp less than two weeks away, there are a handful of players on the Rams roster that will look to elevate their respective games to ensure a spot on the 2014 roster. Beyond that, they’ll want to have an even greater impact on the season as a whole after performing below expectations in the past few seasons. With that said, our weekly Top 5 attempts to rank the players who will either “boom or bust” in 2014, meaning they’ll finally break through and become steady fixtures on the team or will put in another subpar season and likely be ushered out the door. Let’s get started:
5. Running back Isaiah Pead
The former second-round pick was drafted in 2012 to compliment Steven Jackson out of the backfield with bursts of quickness to spell Jackson’s more straightforward abilities. Fast forward to present day, and Pead has received only 17 carries in his two years as a Ram, having been overtaken by the likes of Daryl Richardson, Benny Cunningham, and Zac Stacy. With the addition of Auburn’s Tre Mason in this year’s draft, carries will be difficult to come by. However, it’s been reported that Pead is eager to become a major contributor on special teams and carve out a role for himself on the team. He’ll need to make his presence felt if he wants to ensure his long-term employment.
4. Tight end Jared Cook
Tough to call the Rams’ 2013 leading receiver a candidate for a “boom or bust” season, but it looks like he’ll have to have an even bigger impact this season to justify the $35 million contract he was given prior to last season. Cook was great at times but was brought in to become a major pass-catching option for quarterback Sam Bradford. After exploding for 141 yards on seven receptions and catching two touchdowns in the first week against Arizona, Cook would only tally more than 50 yards receiving in a game on one other occasion, the Rams’ Week 11 win over Chicago.
3. Wide receiver Chris Givens
Givens enters the third year of his career coming off of a relatively disappointing sophomore season. To this point, he’s been vocal about refocusing on football and dedicating himself to the game. That will have to show up on the field. I’ve written before that the team doesn’t need him to become a 1,000-yard, 10+ touchdown guy, but simply hanging onto the ball and making the plays that come his way will do a lot in keeping defenses in check and securing his future with the team.
2. Wide receiver Brian Quick
Quick is the great mystery of the Rams offense. Once hyped as the next Terrell Owens, Quick has yet to evolve into anything close to approaching the once great receiver for the 49ers, Eagles, and Cowboys. As an outsider, it’s tough to tell what the team has in Quick. All the physical tools and athleticism are there, but it has yet to really translate into on-field performance. Year three is generally when wide receivers begin producing at levels expected of them, and plenty of eyes will be on Quick in his quest to do just that. The Rams passed on the 2014 class of wide receivers in the draft, meaning they’re also expecting a certain level of production out of their batch. Quick will have to at least begin booming this season, otherwise the bust label will become inescapable.
1. Quarterback Sam Bradford
Duh. For all the flack that he takes, it’s tough not call this a make-or-break year for the fifth-year signal caller. Bradford enters the year coming off a Week 7 season-ending knee injury suffered in 2013, as well as a mountain of expectations placed upon him. Bradford was on his way to becoming the top quarterback he was drafted to be before his premature exit last year, and will look to resume that level of play come this fall. His performance this season will shape the team’s plans for the next few years. Will it be Bradford at the helm in 2015 and beyond or will the team be forced to change direction and begin anew in the quarterback department?