St. Louis Rams
2014 Record: 6-10, missed playoffs, 2-3 in last five
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1st: 25th in DVOA* overall offense (26th pass, 15th rush) | 9th in DVOA* overall defense (20th pass, 4th run)
2nd: Second-least effective team in the NFL against No. 2 wide receivers (5.8 pass attempts per game, 58 receiving yards per game) but effective against tight ends (6th-best, 7.3, 44.4) and receiving running backs (10th-best, 6.4, 37.9, according to Football Outsiders’ defense vs. receiver types chart.
3rd: Key loss: QB Sam Bradford | Key addition: QB Nick Foles
4th: The Nick Foles for Sam Bradford trade was interesting. Bradford was supposed to be the face of the franchise when he was drafted first overall in 2010, but injuries have kept him offtrack. Foles might have peaked in his breakout season, that ridiculous 2013 when he threw 27 touchdowns to only three interceptions. The rest of the trade indicated as much, with the Rams getting two picks, including a second-rounder, to the Eagles’ one. It’s a wait-and-see situation on Foles, but he does have weapons around him in a wide receiver crew that screams value — Brian Quick, Kenny Britt, Stedman Bailey and even disappointing Tavon Austin, a former eighth-overall pick. Meanwhile, the emergence of Tre Mason as a rookie was a bright spot. But the Rams brought in heralded rookie Todd Gurley — who rivaled Foles as THE key addition. Gurley has been hurt, but many believe he is the superstar running back of a potentially great 2015 RB class. Of course, it’s all going to take a lot of time unless the offensive line miraculously improves. St. Louis’ defense, led by LBs James Laurinaitis and Alec Ogletree, DBs Janoris Jenkins and Tim McDonald, and 2014 defensive rookie of the year defensive tackle Aaron Donald, was inconsistent in 2014, but a pile of playmakers return. DVOA also suggests, based on their 9th overall defensive ranking, that they were actually more effective than their statistics indicate. Considering how shoddy the offense was (25th overall, 26th passing), the defense spent a lot of time on the field, which can inflate numbers.
*Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, a Football Outsiders’ advanced NFL metric, measures a team’s performance on a per-play basis. The metric attempts to limit variance and provides a more realistic measurement of how good a team is regardless of matchup or situation, making it a strong indicator of future success. Read more about DVOA.