Thursday’s Thoughts

janorisjenkins-

(St. Louis, MO)

by @RealShaneGray

-I was happy to see former University of Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel agree to terms yesterday on a three year, $21 million dollar contract with the Philadelphia Eagles that includes $12 million in guaranteed cash. This is Daniel’s second significant “second string” contract of his career — after just finishing a three year, $10 million dollar deal with the Kansas City Chiefs where he served as a backup to Alex Smith.

Considering Daniel’s sizable contract in relation to his professional resume, ESPN’s Adam Schefter was right in pointing out that the former Mizzou standout will receive at least a puncher’s chance to win the Eagles starting quarterback job over incumbent QB Sam Bradford — who somehow recently reeled in a 2 year, $35 million dollar deal to remain in Philadelphia.

Furthermore, this move puts Daniel in position to potentially land at least a handful of starts in 2016 due to injury, considering the fragile history of Bradford, a player who has missed 33 of 96 pro starts due to injury — or over two full season’s worth of games in six years.

With all that said, however, I can’t help but wonder whether a delay of another 24 hours might have left Daniel with an almost ideal opportunity with the Denver Broncos after the Super Bowl winning franchise lost Peyton Manning to retirement and free agent Brock Osweiler to the Houston Texans.

Had Daniel remained on the market, you have to wonder if John Elway and company might have took a hard look at Daniel few relatively few appealing options available on the free agent market.

With the QB spot wide open in Denver, an exceptional D in place, a more-than-capable stable of running backs in the fold and some very good pass catchers under contract, a chance to lead the offense in the Mile High City would present a great opportunity for a quarterback this fall.

Considering how everything has played out, I can’t help but wonder if Daniel could have at least ended up being in the mix and with a chance to earn a starting gig had he signed on in Denver.

-Folks can spin it however they want to, but the Rams loss of cornerback Janoris Jenkins to the New York Giants is a significant one. At 27, Jenkins was entering his prime and coming off what was clearly his best all-around season to date.

Sure, there is a shot that former Mizzou Tigers corner E.J. Gaines can get back to full strength following a season ending injury last year and build upon a very stout 2014 rookie campaign, but there is no guarantee this will occur.

Gaines indeed had a very impressive rookie season, but even if he proves to be as good in 2016 as Jenkins was a year ago, the Rams lost high-quality depth at a position that absolutely demands depth and lots of in today’s pass-proficient NFL.

So, even if Gaines proves to be an adequate replacement for Jenkins opposite of franchise-tagged Trumaine Johnson, Los Angeles lost quality depth that will likely be much harder to replace than most wish to admit.

Beyond Jenkins, the Rams also lost starting free safety Rodney McLeod, who had grown into a solid player in Gregg Williams’ defense. With Williams running something of a unique, hybird D, replacing a solid veteran like McLeod may be easier said than done.

In total, a good-to-great 2015 Rams defense is now minus half of its starting secondary from a season ago. People can act as if that isn’t a big deal, but it is.

Beyond that, the Rams are now down nearly 50 percent of last season’s first string defense when counting the cuts of defensive end Chris Long and middle linebacker James Laurinaitis.

Yes, Long’s production had dropped off and Laurinaitis had his flaws. And yes, both are replaceable — especially on the field — and even upgradeable.

On the other hand, Laurinaitis ran and quarterbacked the St. Louis D for seven seasons and both J.L. and Long both served as key leaders in the Rams locker room.

The stat sheet is one thing, but the intangibles are another — and both Long and Laurinaitis brought a great deal of desirable intangibles to the franchise that aren’t always easy to replace.

Can the Rams defense be as good as it was a year ago?

Yes, it can, as they will have defensive end Robert Quinn back in top form, a deep, talented defensive line that includes defensive tackle Aaron Donald and re-signed defensive end William Hayes and potential improvement in the middle, where former outside ‘backer Alec Ogletree is expected to take over — something he has experience doing from his SEC days at the University of Georgia.

The Rams also return one of the game’s best strong safeties — T.J. McDonald — and re-signed small but highly-productive outside linebacker Mark Barron. If he can hold up at 210 pounds — which is a legitimate if — then the Rams could be formidable at linebacker.

With all of that considered, the departures of Jenkins and McLeod in free agency — and particularly Jenkins — wasn’t a small thing. This pair was productive and likely will not be easily replaced.

There’s a reason that most top-tier defenses lock up their in-prime defenders. The Rams are gambling that they can plug-and-play others and be fine. But for me, they will have to prove they can do it before I believe it.

-On the other side of the ball, I think the Rams made smart moves in bringing back center Tim Barnes (yet another former Missouri Tiger stalwart finding his way into this article) and 6’4″ wide receiver Brian Quick — who was on his way to a breakout campaign in 2014 before suffering a season ending injury midway through the year.

With a full offseason without a major surgery to recover from ahead of him, can Quick get it going in 2016? In my mind, he can. And if I’m right, it will give a big boost to a Rams offense that needs the passing game to get a lot better this fall than it has been in recent seasons.

-Speaking of wide receivers, former Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson hung up the cleats early at age 30 and walked away from a whole lot of paper in retiring during the past week.

At 6’5″ and with great speed to go with it — especially a little earlier in his career — Johnson was pretty much unstoppable when at his best. Johnson was not only a great player, but, from all indications, a good man as well.

It is amazing that one organization — the Lions — have now watched two all-time greats retire while at or near their prime, after seeing running back Barry Sanders walk away at the top of his game in 1998. How unlucky is Detroit, anyhow?

In that farewell year, Sanders compiled 1,491 rushing yards, 37 catches and four touchdowns.

— Thanks for reading….

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