Season Preview: St Louis Rams

Season Preview: St Louis Rams
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Sports Mole examines the St Louis Rams ahead of the start of the 2013 NFL season.

The St Louis Rams will begin their 2013 NFL season against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

The team turned their fortunes around last year under new head coach Jeff Fisher, improving from a 2-14 record in 2011 to 7-8-1 last season.

Sports Mole takes a closer look at their off-season activity to see whether they can continue to improve in 2013.

Head Coach: Jeff Fisher heads into just his second season as head coach of the St Louis Rams. The team made huge improvements during their first year under Fisher

Last Season: 7-8-1

Review: The Rams were one of the surprise packages of the 2012 season, turning around their 2-14 showing in 2011. Fisher's side had the best record in the NFC West against their divisional rivals, losing just one of their six games against the other NFC West teams. St Louis finished the season strongly, and only dropped out of the race for a wildcard spot in the playoffs in the final couple of games.

Notable Ins: The Rams brought in former Miami Dolphins tackle Jake Long to protect quarterback Sam Bradford, who has been sacked more than 30 times per season since coming into the NFL. Long was the top pick in the 2008 Draft, and made the Pro Bowl during his first four seasons in the league. He missed the end of last season with a shoulder injury, but has been back to full health during pre-season. St Louis also acquired tight end Jared Cook during free agency, after he failed to agree a new contract with the Tennessee Titans. Cook started just five games for the Titans in 2012, but recorded 523 receiving yards and scored four touchdowns.

Notable Outs: The Rams lost their rushing yards leader and one of their top wide receivers during the off-season. Steven Jackson voided the final year of his contract with the team to join the Atlanta Falcons. He added 1,045 rushing yards during his final season with the team, scoring four touchdowns. Meanwhile, Danny Amendola made the move to the New England Patriots. The wideout was Bradford's favourite target in 2012, taking 63 receptions for 666 yards and three touchdowns.

Key Player Offense: Daryl Richardson: The running back is expected to fill the void left by Jackson during his second season in the NFL. The 2012 seventh-round Draft pick made 475 yards from 98 carries for the team last season. He had faced competition from Isaiah Pead during pre-season, but his rival will miss the opening game for breaching the league's policy on substance abuse.

Key Player Defense: Chris Long: The prolific defensive end was the team's leading sack taker in 2012 with 11.5. The 28-year-old did not play during the pre-season with an undisclosed injury, but he is likely to be a big part of the team's defense again this year once he is back to full fitness.

Rookie to watch: Tavon Austin: Austin was one of the top-rated wide receivers in the this year's Draft, and the Rams recognised that, trading up the order to acquire the former West Virginia player with the eighth overall pick. The 22-year-old showed plenty of promise during the pre-season as he recorded 66 receiving yards from eight receptions. He is likely to be the natural successor to Amendola.

Pre-season form: With so many changes during the off-season, the Rams were still gelling during their pre-season fixtures, winning just one of their four August games.

Prediction: The Rams have made some good signings this year, but they still need more time to become a genuine threat in the increasingly-competitive NFC West. The main focus of this season is likely to be rebuilding.

St Louis Rams players celebrate on December 2, 2012
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