By Cedric Williams
The St. Louis Rams have had an up-and-down season so far in 2013, winning their opener against Arizona in a terrific comeback, then losing the next three in increasingly disappointing fashion.
Then, St. Louis bounced back with impressive wins over Jacksonville and Houston, before losing their quarterback Sam Bradford, and suffering another three-game losing streak.
But then, just when all hope seemed to be lost for the season, the Rams delivered their most impressive win of the season last Sunday in Indianapolis.
And now with the club on its bye week, and no immediate opponent to prepare for, this week is the perfect time to reflect on the first 10 weeks of the 2013 Rams season with a look at our picks for St. Louis’ studs and duds.
Stud on Offense: RB Zac Stacy
Even with No. 1 draft pick Tavon Austin breaking out for his best game as a pro last week (314 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns, each from 55 yards or more out), the obvious choice for St. Louis’ offensive stud is rookie running back Zac Stacy.
Before he took over as the Rams’ No. 1 ballcarrier in Week 5, St. Louis was the second-worst rushing team in the NFL, with an average of just under 60 yards on the ground a game.
Since Stacy took over, the Rams are rushing for nearly 100 yards a game as a team, with the former Vanderbilt University star twice going over 100 yards by himself and averaging more than 88 yards/game in his six starts.
In fact, Stacy barely played in the Rams first four games, with 2012 draft picks Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead getting most of the carries, but since taking over as the starter, Stacy is on pace to become the Rams first rookie 1,000-yard rusher since Jerome Bettis in 1993.
Dud on Offense: TE Jared Cook
St. Louis made two big free agent signings during the offseason last year. They brought in a new left tackle (Jake Long from Miami) and they signed tight end Jared Cook away from Tennessee, believing he would be able to give them big plays up the middle of the field like Jimmy Graham does for New Orleans or Jason Whitten does for Dallas.
But other than a splashy debut in which he caught seven passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns in Week 1, Cook has been an almost non-factor for the Rams the rest of the season.
So far, he’s got just 33 catches and 428 yards this season, and other than that great first game, Cook hasn’t had more than 45 receiving yards in any one game this year.
Cook has also proven to be a disappointment as a blocker. Maybe disinterested blocker is a better way to put it. But either way, the fifth-year pro out of South Carolina has not lived up to his considerable offseason hype.
Stud on Defense: DE Robert Quinn
Another obvious choice for the Rams, Quinn has been the best player on the team this season, and is quietly having an MVP season for St. Louis.
The third-year man out of North Carolina, is second in the NFL with 12 quarterback sacks, and also ranks near the top of the league with 53 quarterback pressures and 16 quarterback hits.
No defensive end in the league has played as well as Quinn has this year. If that trend continues, No. 94 might just be in line for his first trip to the Pro Bowl.
Dud on Defense: CB Cortland Finnegan
Injuries and age have both reared their ugly heads during what has been a difficult season for Finnegan this year.
He came into the year as one of the Rams team leaders and one of its most effective players. But the early part of 2013 saw Finnegan getting burned time and again by the younger and speedier receivers the Rams were facing.
Then the eighth-year vet got hurt and missed a full month before coming back and playing a bit better since returning in Week 9 against his former club, the Tennessee Titans.
Lately, the Rams have been using Finnegan to play opposing team’s slot receiver, and that has gone pretty well.
That move has also cleared the way for more playing time for second-year corner Trumaine Johnson, the clear heir to Finnegan’s job at left cornerback opposite burgeoning star Janoris Jenkins at right corner.
For more Rams news and updates, visit Rams Central.
Cedric Williams, a lifelong St. Louisan and proud UMSL alum, has been a freelance reporter/photographer covering St. Louis area sports for nearly two decades. Most recently, he has been working as a credentialed beat writer covering the Rams and small-school college sports for Examiner.com and other outlets from around the area. Please share any comments, questions, or feedback with Cedric at firstname.lastname@example.org. His work can be found on Examiner.com.