Two months have passed since our last attempt at predicting the Rams 2014 starting lineup, and since then we’ve had a little free agent action as well as the long-awaited NFL draft to help paint an even clearer picture of the team’s potential makeup. With the conjecture leading up to those events finally put to bed, the inclusions of the 2014 draft class and free agents make this the starting lineup that the Rams will most likely bring into training camp:
As you’ll notice, there are a handful of changes from our last predictions.
Quarterback – Sam Bradford
Nothing changes under center. Head coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead had publicly endorsed Bradford as their guy for 2014 prior to our March projections, and have continued to reiterate that stance in the time since.
Running Back – Zac Stacy
As foreshadowed in March’s guess at the offensive makeup, the Rams did draft a running back to complement incumbent starter Zac Stacy at the position. However, third-rounder Tre Mason out of Auburn will compete for the backup job against Benny Cunningham, who showed some flashes of productivity in limited snaps last year. Barring unforeseen circumstances, Stacy is the starter on Day 1.
Wide Receivers – Chris Givens, Tavon Austin, Kenny Britt
The first change in our offensive projections is found in the receiving corps, as newly-signed Kenny Britt steps in to replace Stedman Bailey, who has been suspended for the first four games of 2014 after violating the league’s performance-enhancing substance policy. It’s a major disappointment for Bailey, who seemed poised to compete for an increased role on the offense at the very least, if not a starter. In steps Britt, who was signed at the end of March, to fill the void. The Rams held firm in their confidence towards their current group of receivers and did not select one in the draft. While the signings of T.J. Moe and the additions of undrafted free agents Austin Franklin and Jamaine Sherman will add some competition in camp, we’ll stick with Givens and Austin as starters in our projections. The receiver battle will definitely be one to watch in camp.
Offensive Tackles – Jake Long and Joe Barksdale
The tackle group doesn’t change from our March projections. If Jake Long is healthy enough to play Week 1, as the team believes he will be, he’ll resume his role protecting Bradford’s blind side. The Rams selected Auburn tackle Greg Robinson with the No. 2 overall selection, but only figures to see time at tackle if Long isn’t ready and he outperforms Rodger Saffold in camp. Barksdale will look to improve upon a decent 2013 and entrench himself on the right side of the line.
Offensive Guards – Greg Robinson and Rodger Saffold
Robinson marks the third straight change at left guard since our projections began, but that streak should end here. Robinson looks likely to begin his career on the interior of the offensive line where he can adjust to the game and begin readying himself to eventually take over the left tackle position from Long. Again, this group gets shuffled if Long is deemed unready and either Robinson of Saffold are forced into his position, but ideally those two remain in place and give the Rams a very strong pair of guards to open up holes for Stacy.
Center – Scott Wells
At this point, it’d be a surprise if Wells didn’t resume his role as starting center to at least begin the season in 2014. The team drafted Demetrius Rhaney in the seventh round, but Wells’ experience will very likely keep him at the top of the depth chart. If not Wells, look for Tim Barnes or Barrett Jones to be next off the bench.
Tight end – Jared Cook
Cook remains the starter at tight end, and this one doesn’t figure to change. He’ll need to improve upon a decent 2013 to justify the free agent deal given to him last offseason.
What do you think of our way-too-early projections? Agree? Disagree? May’s look at the 2014 defense is coming on Wednesday.