|Rams rookie CB Janoris Jenkins helped upgrade the secondary. (US Presswire)|
The Rams surpassed expectations in coach Jeff Fisher's first year, challenging for a playoff spot before finishing 7-8-1. They got major contributions from rookies and second-year players. For the first time in several years, the team heads into the offseason on an optimistic note.
The Rams finished 25th in scoring (18.7) and 23rd in total yards (329). Those were substantial improvements over 2011. QB Sam Bradford threw for career highs of 3,702 yards and 21 TDs, but needs more dangerous weapons. The Rams don't have a wideout who demands consistent double coverage. And the offensive line needs upgrading, specifically at right tackle and left guard.
Led by a deep and talented D-line, the Rams tied for the league lead with 52 sacks after finishing with 39 a year ago. They improved from 22nd in total yards (358.4) to 14th (342.6), and from 26th in points allowed (25.4) to 15th (21.8). Three rookies, CBs Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson and DT Michael Brockers, and second-year DE Robert Quinn made a big impact. This unit could be elite in 2013.
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Special teams: B-
Rookie K Greg Zuerlein hit seven field goals of 50-plus yards and emerged as a big weapon. But he slumped in the second half of the season and finished 21 of 28. The Rams ranked 12th in net punting (39.9) with rookie P Johnny Hekker, who also completed all three of his passes for 42 yards and a TD. St. Louis ranked 31st in punt returns and tied for 26th in kick returns.
The Rams were underdogs 14 times and won seven of those games. They went 4-2-1 in games decided by seven or fewer points. Fisher and his staff instilled the team with a toughness that had been lacking. But St. Louis ranked 29th in the league in penalty yards (61.1), often showing a lack of discipline.
Cumulative GPA: 2.8
Get more Rams updates and analysis from Larry Hartstein on Twitter @CBSRams.