EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Training camps around the league are either already underway or will be before the end of the week. The St. Louis Rams officially get underway on Friday.
In the days leading up to the start of camp, we'll take a look at 10 burning questions facing the Rams as they head toward the 2015 season.
No. 2: Can Nick Foles be enough of an upgrade at quarterback to make the Rams contenders?
If nothing else, the Rams' decision to trade Sam Bradford for Foles in March injected some new life into an offense desperately in need of some. From here, comparisons between Foles and Bradford will be unavoidable as Bradford takes the reins in Philadelphia and Foles does the same in St. Louis.
But really, for those attempting to evaluate Foles' impact on his new team, Bradford comparisons shouldn't be the baseline. Foles isn't really replacing Bradford, who didn't play a regular-season snap for the Rams after the midpoint of the 2013 season. Rather, Foles should be held up against the likes of Kellen Clemens, Austin Davis and Shaun Hill.
In that regard, it would be a surprise if Foles doesn't exceed the productivity of the backups that have been under center for the Rams in the past season and a half.
The question then becomes will having Foles be enough of an upgrade -- given all the other moving parts on the offense -- to elevate the Rams to playoff contention?
Assuming Foles is able to stay healthy, he should be a good fit for what the Rams expect of their quarterback in a run-heavy offense. Foles won't be asked to carry the load for the offense by throwing 40 to 50 times a game. His primary focus will be on keeping turnovers to a minimum and taking advantage of deep ball opportunities when they arise.
More specifically, much of what the Rams hope for from Foles will come in the play-action game. That could be an ideal match considering Foles' success in that area. Since 2013, Foles leads all quarterbacks with 23 touchdowns on play-action passes. If Todd Gurley and the running game can get rolling, Foles should have ample opportunity to take advantage of play-action.
In 2014, Davis and Hill each went 3-5 as the starter, combining for 3,658 yards, 20 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. The yardage and touchdown totals are probably reasonable expectations for Foles but to get the Rams into playoff contention, he'll need to reduce the interception total by about half. Even more to the point, he'll need to cut down on the type of back-breaking turnovers that turned into touchdowns for the defense.
Rams quarterbacks threw six interceptions and coughed up two fumbles that were returned for touchdowns in 2014, miscues that often either proved the difference on the scoreboard or allowed a close game to get away.
Foles' job won't be easy, especially with three new starters on the offensive line and a new coordinator in place but if he proves capable of taking care of the ball and offering the occasional big play in the passing game, it would go a long way toward getting the Rams back to the postseason for the first time since 2004.