By Sam Clancy for KSDK Sports
(KSDK Sports) -- Rams rookies report to training camp today, and with several high profile college athletes looking to make a mark in their first NFL seasons, perhaps we should look back at some of the best rookie seasons in St. Louis Rams history.
First, let's lay down some ground rules. This is St. Louis Rams history, so sorry Jerome Bettis and Eric Dickerson but you're not on the list. It has to be a season in which they were eligible for the rookie of the year, so breakout years from Kurt Warner and Isaac Bruce won't be here either.
Finally, the player has to make an impact on the recordable stats or the team's record, so, sorry Orlando Pace but the 43 sacks allowed and the 5-11 record just won't cut it.
So here we go.
6. Tinoisamoa's 2003 season / 43rd overall pick in the 2003 draft
Pisa Tinoisamoa was a key contributor to the Rams' "bend but don't break defense" in 2003. In that season, The Rams forced five more turnovers than any team in the league and helped them finish with their last winning record in team history, and Tinoisamoa was a strong contributor to that. He was second on the team in tackles with 67, had three interceptions and forced four fumbles.
His rookie year was his finest in overall production, and after two years with the Chicago Bears Tinoisamoa called it quits after 8 years in the league.
5. Bulger's 2002 season / 168th overall Pick in the 2000 draft
Marc Bulger drafted by Saints in 2000 168 overall but went without a team until 2002 when he started 7 games as a part of the QB carousel of 2002. While the other two were struggling to the tune of 10 touchdowns to 21 interceptions and a record of 1-8, Bulger was succeeding. A quarterback rating of over 100, 6-1 record and a 14-6 Touchdown to INT ratio made him the best option, but his injury bug that plagued him throughout his career was already becoming evident.
He missed three games in a row with an injured finger after taking over the starting role mid-season, then was removed from the game in late December with a back injury, and missed the following week. His production and win-loss record made him the starter in 2003, but his injuries would continue behind a weak offensive line, and made his last NFL appearance in 2009.
4. Laurinaitis 2009 Season / 35th overall pick in the 2009 draft
A stand out performer at The Ohio State University, James Laurinaitis entered the draft as one of the highest rated linebacker prospects. After being a tackling machine as a Buckeye, Laurinaitis picked up right where he left off in the pro game.
His 107 tackles led the young defense and was the first 100-tackle season in 3 years. He announced himself as the leader of the team even as a rookie. He also threw in 2 interceptions, 2 sacks and 1 fumble recovery for good measure. Although the Rams were 1-15 in 2009 and their defense ranked second to last in terms of scoring, Laurinaitis showed that better times were ahead.
3. Jenkins 2012 Season / 39th overall pick in the 2012 draft
There was no question that Janoris Jenkins had talent when he declared for the draft, but his off the field issues kept his name on the board for 38 picks in 2012, long enough for gambling head coach Jeff Fisher to snatch him early in the second round.
Jenkins was a good addition to a young defense that is growing together, but his biggest impact was in game changing plays. He led the league in defensive touchdowns, and with his three INT returns for touchdowns he now ranks seventeenth among active players in that category after just one year.
2. Holt 1999 season / sixth overall pick in the 1999 draft
Torry Holt was the Rams sixth pick in the 1999 draft, and was teamed up with the most talented offense St. Louis had ever seen. First year starter and league MVP Kurt Warner, All-Pro Isaac Bruce, scoring machine Marshal Faulk and all-time great Orlando Pace all made the pro-bowl on the offensive side of the ball, so Holt just had to slide in and contribute.
His regular season stats were good, but not great. 788 receiving yards, 6 touchdowns, and 4 fumbles while making 15 starts made him the team rookie of the year, but his real presence came in the Super Bowl. A third quarter touchdown to put the rams up 16-0, and 109 receiving yards in the game helped the Rams to their first and only title.
1. Bradford 2010 season / first overall pick in the 2010 draft
Some fans have been critical of Sam Bradford's play in the first three seasons of his career due to the successes of other rookie quarterbacks, but what they forget is that Sam was one of the first QBs to be a first year starter.
His 590 passing attempts and 354 completions both set rookie passing records, and he became only the third rookie to pass for over 3000 yards. His success wasn't in statistics, it was on the scoreboard. Following the 1-15 season of 2009, Bradford led the Rams to a 7-9 record and one win away from the playoffs.
His performance in that final game against the Seahawks left something to be desired, but Bradford was still voted AP Offensive Rookie of the Year. He became the only St. Louis Ram to win the award, and joined Hall of Famers Jerome Bettis and Eric Dickerson as the third winner in the organization's history.
So there it is, my list. There are many others like it but his one is mine. This is purely my opinion, and you may have your own, so leave a comment of your top six, or top eight or top ten or whatever. Let's hear it.