The Minnesota Vikings begin the 2014 season on the road against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome. The Rams and Vikings play this season because they both finished fourth in their respective divisions.
2013 Record: 7-9 (fourth in the NFC West Division)
2013 Offensive Statistics: 21.8 points scored per game, 304.8 total offensive yards per game, 109.5 rushing yards per game, 195.3 passing yards per game, 21 turnovers,
2013 Defensive Statistics: 22.8 points allowed per game, 345.0 total offensive yards allowed per game, 102.9 rushing yards allowed per game, 242.1 passing yards allowed per game, 29 turnovers forced, 53 sacks
Head Coach: Jeff Fisher (third season in St. Louis)
Key Returning Offensive Players: WR Tavon Austin, WR Stedman Bailey, QB Sam Bradford, TE Jared Cook, WR Chris Givens, TE Lance Kendricks, OT Jake Long, RB Zac Stacy
Key Returning Defensive Players: DT Michael Brockers, LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar, CB Janoris Jenkins, LB James Laurinaitis, DE Chris Long, LB Alec Ogletree, DE Robert Quinn
Free Agent Additions: WR Kenny Britt, DE Alex Carrington, QB Shaun Hill, WR T.J. Moe
Draft Picks: Round 1, Pick 2 - Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn; Round 1, Pick 13 - Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh; Round 2, Pick 41 - CB Lamarcus Joyner, CB, Florida State; Round 3, Pick 75 - Tre Mason, RB, Auburn; Round 4, Pick 110 - Maurice Alexander, S, Utah State; Round 6, Pick 188 - E.J. Gaines, CB, Missouri; Round 6, Pick 214 - Garrett Gilbert, QB, Southern Methodist; Round 7, Pick 226 - Mitchell Van Dyk, OT, Portland State; Round 7, Pick 241 - C.B. Bryant, S, Ohio State; Round 7, Pick 249 - Michael Sam, DE, Missouri; Round 7, Pick 250 - Demetrius Rhaney, C, Tennessee State
Outlook: The Rams are expected to make some noise in the best division in football. The NFC West nearly produced three playoff teams and was the only division that had every team win at least seven games.
The Rams still have question marks at key positions. Namely quarterback and the offensive line. Former No. 1 overall draft pick Sam Bradford has not proven capable of staying healthy. Part of that problem has been the offensive line play. Jake Long was a big free agent acquisition prior to last season to protect Bradford’s blindside. He played in all but one game last season. The Rams also hope to protect the edge by draft Greg Robinson with the second pick in the draft. They could have added a big time weapon for Bradford, but got him protection instead.
The other issues plaguing the Rams offense are at the skill positions. Running back Zac Stacy took hold of the starting spot, but has only done it for half a season. Tavon Austin has the explosiveness to be a weapon, but is small and may need a bigger receiver to step up on the outside.
There are a lot of question marks surrounding the Rams offense, but the defense is pretty good - especially along the front. Chris Long, Michael Brockers and Robert Quinn were one of the league’s best trios last season. The Rams then drafted Aaron Donald in the first round to give them the best front four in the league.
James Laurinaitis and Alec Ogletree are a pair of very good linebackers with complementary skill sets. Laurinaitis is a very good tackler that will stuff the run and Ogletree is a freakish athlete that can run with wide receivers and running backs.
Janoris Jenkins was one of the league’s best cornerbacks last season. The other four starting spots in the secondary should be up for grabs. If the front seven can perform as expected, it may not matter who starts with Jenkins.