The holiday season is here and upon us. As I enjoy my family and friends on the day where you give thanks for many things including your loved ones, I took a look back at the origin of Thanksgiving; a quick history lesson if you will.
It is well documented that Thanksgiving in North America originated from the gathering of European and Native traditions. The Europeans held festivals both before and after the harvest, giving thanks for the plentiful crops that were harvested, but also the celebration for the workers. Native Americans had also celebrated the end of a harvest season. Saying grace before carving the turkey at Thanksgiving dinner; I’m not sure where the turkey, and saying grace came from, but it totally works for me.
For Rams Nation, while suffering through a poor and inept football season, they still have a lot to be thankful for. A billionaire owner in Stan Kroenke, who soon will apply his golden touch to his latest sports endeavor, St. Louis Rams franchise, like he has done with his other professional sport empires that are winning.
A St. Louis fan base that is dedicated to Cardinal Nation, still has enough crossover, along with several gritty diehard football fans that love their team. But when reality sets in, a Hall-of-Fame coaching staff would struggle coaching this team because of the lack of talent. Talent makes coaching look good, and good coaching helps develop talent.
When you really break down this team, unfortunately it lacks talent in all three phases of the game. But there are several players the Rams fans should be thankful for. I took a close look and broke down the roster identifying the team’s present core of players.
Sam Bradford – Franchise quarterback with the skill set and attributes to excel and develop into an elite player; will need additional playmakers and difference-makers around him so he can help deliver a championship to a city that is thirsty for winning.
Steven Jackson – Pro Bowler and the most productive all-purpose running back from the line of scrimmage since 2006. A leader teaching his teammates what it takes to be a Ram. The ultimate professional that deserves to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
James Laurinaitis – The bell cow of the defense, extremely bright young player with Pro Bowl skill set. A linebacker that is a tackling machine with awareness in space and very good coverage ability.
Brandon Lloyd – Good skill set, soft hands and the ability to attack the ball at the highest point. A crafty route-runner that lacks run-after-catch production. At least I have not seen it yet.
Chris Long – Edge player with relentless motor, lacks natural pass rush skills to flip hips and turn corner on a consistent basis, but second effort, grit, desire and determination take him to the quarterback.
Danny Amendola – This player sitting on injured reserve is truly missed in 2011. He was Bradford’s safety valve and a triple-threat player as a receiver, punt and kickoff return man, whom I nicknamed the “human crash dummy” out of respect for his fearless play and disregard for his body.
Donnie Jones – Punter who unfortunately missed Pro Bowl selections the past two seasons; gives this team great field position.
Josh Brown – Placekicker who scores points when the offense is not sputtering and either scores touchdowns or puts him in position to drive field goals. One of the most productive kickers from 50-plus yards out.
A.J. Feeley – Backup quarterback proved his worth when Bradford missed two weeks taking the team to a 1-1 record.
Harvey Dahl – Interior offensive lineman that brings attitude as a run blocker. Tends to play upright and straight-legged in pass protection and stiffness shows up, despite ability to recover.
Quintin Mikell – A tough, hard-nosed safety who brought 400-plus tackles from Philadelphia to the Rams and has not missed a beat in the back end, around the box or blitzing off the edge.
Darian Stewart – A young safety that is quickly developing into a run stopper and flashed ball hawk skills. He has a bright future.
Rodger Saffold – A young left tackle that struggled in his sophomore season, has the skills and athletic ability to play at the left tackle position for 10 years. Currently on injured reserve with a torn pectoral muscle.
Greg Salas – Rookie receiver was really coming on before his injury. Has a very bright future as an inside receiver.
James Hall – Despite turning 35 in February, this player still plays the game at a high level, is productive and a leader. Will help the defense in passing situations as an inside pass rusher in the future.
Brit Miller – A very solid fullback with ability to sift through traffic and locate defenders on the move. Is also a mad man on special teams; a true football player with a great attitude.
Justin Bannan – This player has grown on me; he has come on during the second half of the schedule. While his play is not pretty or even productive, his big body frame takes up space in the middle allowing linebackers to run and hit.
Robert Quinn – The first player in NFL history to be drafted with a brain tumor, his confidence and skill set is starting to come on as an edge player with sack production and has contributed on special teams with production, after missing one year of football. Upside is bright.
Lance Kendricks – A receiving tight end that flashes very good skill set and upside. Has struggled with injuries and concentration drops his rookie season.
Josh Gordy – The surprise of the 2011 season. Young corner playing at a high level and has a very bright future.
Adam Goldberg – The best swing man in the NFL. Can play either offensive tackle positions and started at right guard for 16 games in 2010.
Eugene Sims – Versatile player to come off the edge and sink inside on passing situations. Also when you command a double team from the opponent every week on special teams, that’s called respect.
Chris Chamberlain – Every year the personnel department tries to replace him, but he has too big a heart and plays the game at a high level and is consistent in forming his craft.
Brandon Gibson – I nicknamed him “3rd &” because this possession receiver does nothing but move the chains when given the opportunity.
Tony Wragge – Brings attitude to the offensive center position. Like what I see to this point.
Bryan Kehl – Outside linebacker and special teams standout that helps your depth.
Austin Pettis – Rookie possession receiver coming into his own showed toughness and concentration across the middle, ability to take the big hit and is developing into a nice punt returner.
Thomas Welch – Newly added player needs to prove to everyone what he has in prime time under the lights, but I like what I see in practice. It’s hard to find young athletic tackles in this league.
Kevin Hughes – I feel he is playing out of position at left tackle; better suited for the guard position. He is still a pup but he has feet, length and is athletic.
Other contributors sitting on injured reserve will depend how they recoup from major surgeries: cornerback Bradley Fletcher (knee), cornerback Jerome Murphy (knee), cornerback Ron Bartell (neck), tight end Michael Hoomanawanui (knee).
When I look ahead at this team’s Christmas list, it is a must that they ask Santa for more Blue players (playmakers and difference-makers) to surround the above core players in order to deliver a championship in the near future. These players should come in the way of free agency and the draft. The following are the positions of major interest and not in any order:
Wide receiver: A playmaker outside the numbers with ability to stretch the field deep.
Cornerback: Ten corners currently on injured reserve, this is a position that needs to be addressed for the future.
Safety: While Mikell and Stewart are a good combination, depth is a major issue at the position.
Backup running back: Draft a good young runner, if Steven Jackson likes it or not, that either complements Jackson or has the same style.
Offensive and defensive linemen: You always come out of the draft with a couple linemen. With the future of Jason Smith up in the air, planning on a right tackle will be important sooner rather than later. An interior guard is a must; the team lacks a road grader and depth at the position. The Rams are getting long in the tooth at defensive tackles. Build your depth with young talented players.
While there is still several weeks remaining in the 2011 season, creating a plan while looking ahead at both free agency and the draft is the key to a solid future, then picking the right player to fit your scheme is key as well.