ST. LOUIS -- The idea of a 'must win' game is probably thrown around a bit too much in the NFL, but it's not often the term is applied to an offseason in which no tangible score is kept.
But Monday afternoon, colleague and ESPN Insider Louis Riddick drew that exact analogy in an excellent column on the need for the Rams to hit a home run this offseason.
Riddick identified the Rams as a team capable of making a big leap forward in 2014 with the major caveat that they must push all the right buttons in the draft, free agency and elsewhere to do so. As Riddick points out, not only can the Rams do that, but they must should they want to avoid the heat turning up on coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead in their third year together.
Without giving away all of what Riddick gets into -- there's plenty to chew on there -- here's an excerpt worth teasing:
"The Rams have quality players at a couple of premium positions (DE, MLB/WLB, CB), and the team is paying big for a head coach and GM going into their third offseason together. This team has been constructed with their philosophy and their players. The Rams are their program. Now they have to capitalize."
Riddick points out that the 2013 season was a difficult one to determine how far along the Rams are in their rebuild. He noted the team's ability to win with backup quarterback Kellen Clemens but also points out the struggles it had in the ever-difficult NFC West. Those are topics we've discussed here at length.
The overriding point to the piece is the Rams have to not only put together a good plan for the offseason but also find a way to execute it. That's much easier said than done.
On most everything Riddick says in the article, I agree. The Rams have quietly targeted 2014 all along as the year they finally break out. Regardless of the difficulty of the division or anything else, there are no excuses this time around. It's time to put up or shut up. If they're going to put up, a strong offseason is absolutely imperative.
A roundup of Monday's Rams stories appearing on ESPN.com. ... In the Ram-blings, we provided a link to Fisher's visit with Colin Cowherd on ESPN radio. ... Next, we took note of Snead's comments that running back Daryl Richardson still figures into the team's plans. ... From there, we got the fans involved with an early look at the NFC Championship Game between Seattle and San Francisco from the perspective of a group that likes neither side. ... Finally, we weighed the pros and cons of the team adding South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney with the No. 2 overall pick in this year's draft.
At stltoday.com, columnist Bernie Miklasz discusses how the strength of the NFC West should make the Rams better.
Miklasz also writes that Rams quarterback Sam Bradford's injury history should provide ample reason for the Rams to consider a quarterback early in the draft.
The Pro Football Writers of America began handing out some hardware, announcing its All NFL, All AFC and All NFC teams. Rams punter Johnny Hekker and defensive end Robert Quinn landed spots on the NFL and NFC teams.
Turf Show Times offers its latest mock draft with a couple of mild curveballs for the Rams.