“Counterparts to be counted on” is a 32-part series where we the “Front Office” of couchpotatogm.com analyze one offensive player and one defensive player on each team that MUST have a particularly strong individual season in 2015 for their respective teams to have a successful 2015 campaign. The ultimate goal is to win a Super Bowl but a successful season doesn’t always result in hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. No matter what “you” consider to be a success these counterparts are essential to achieving that goal.
St. Louis Rams “Counterparts to be counted on” 2015
Nick Foles – Can the real Nick Foles please stand up? The new starting quarterback of the St. Louis Rams comes into the 2015 season with a huge “chip” (no pun intended) on his shoulder after being traded this offseason for Sam Bradford, although leading the Eagles to a 14-4 record in the last two seasons in Philly. In 2013, substituting for an injured Michael Vick, Foles lit the league on fire throwing 27 touchdowns to only 2 interceptions while going 8-2 as starter and leading the Eagles to the playoffs. In 2014, which should not have come as a surprise to anyone, the QB regressed to a 13 touchdown 10 interception campaign which was cut short after 8 games when he broke his left collarbone ending his season. Whether fair or not, the Eagles new regime lead by mastermind Chip Kelly was not a huge believer or fan of the statue-like QB, who was drafted by Andy Reid and decided to cut bait and roll with a more slightly more mobile and considerably more accurate quarterback who fits his system. On the other side of the deal, the St. Louis Rams organization grew tired of their number 1 draft pick Sam Bradford’s health issues. Sam Bradford, better known as “Mr. Glass,” has played only 7 games over the last two seasons injuring his ACL after 7 games in 2013 then re-injuring the same ACL in a preseason game in 2014 causing him to miss the entire season.
As with any Jeff Fisher team in the past, the running game and the defense will be relied upon heavily to lead the team into the playoffs. The defense is loaded from top to bottom across the defensive line, the linebacker core, and the secondary while the running game boasts two young, talented running backs with sky high potential in Toddy Gurley and Tre Mason. With all that said, the “counterpart to be counted” on for the 2015 season for the Rams will still be the trigger man Nick Foles. In what seems like a daunting task playing behind a shaky young offensive line and a dearth of talent in the receiving core, Foles must weather the storm and provide the Rams with a viable passing game. If Foles can accomplish this feat the Rams can make a playoff push, if not it can possibly mean another top ten draft pick in 2016. Speaking of playoffs the Rams haven’t played in the postseason since 2004 and hasn’t had consistent quarterback play since the days of Marc Bulger and Kurt Warner. Since 2006, the Rams has had 11 different players start at least one game at quarterback. The team desperately needs a long term solution at the position and the 26-year-old Foles might just be the guy to help the Rams turn the corner.
Trumaine Johnson – The 6’2 208 pound boisterous corner back out of Montana is expected to start opposite of Janoris Jenkins following the season ending foot injury to CB E.J. Gaines. Gaines a sixth round rookie last season in my opinion was the Rams’ best cornerback last year and will be missed mightily in the secondary and by a defense as a whole with Top 5 potential. Now with the loss of their top corner, the secondary situation is murkier unless Johnson steps up and provides stability and flashes the potential he has always possessed.
Johnson looked poised to be “the guy” on the outside and have a breakout performance last season in defensive coordinator’s Gregg Williams’ aggressive defensive scheme, but he was derailed by a preseason knee injury. Now back at full strength Johnson will need to prove he can stay healthy for an entire season to be the defensive “counterpart to be counted on” for the St. Louis Rams. In his three-year career Johnson has started in less than half of his games but this season will be pivotal for himself and the team as he will be the corner the Rams count on to keep the elite big bodied receivers in the NFC in check. His 6’2 frame will be counted on to go against players like Alshon Jeffrey, Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green, and Mike Evans this season.
The talented young corner will try to stabilize a secondary that has been the weakest link for the defense during Jeff Fisher’s tenure. It’s not that their secondary is terrible but when compared to the front 7 with guys like Robert Quinn and Aaron Donald along the defensive line and Alec Ogletree and James Laurinaitis leading the line backing core, the secondary will be the unit that opposing offenses attack. If Johnson and the secondary can hold their own behind one of the strongest front 7s in the NFL the defense can potentially carry the Rams to a playoff berth.