Saturday, September 12, 2009

St. Louis Rams Season Preview

Offense - Change is the word for the Rams offense. New head coach Steve Spagnuolo is defensive minded. The Rams also brought in Pat Shurmur who runs a West Coast offense, so expect a lot of quick dink and dunk passes from Marc Bulger, and a heavy dose of Steven Jackson. I expect Jackson to get 25 touches every week, hopefully he can take the punishment. The Rams Will go with Samkon Gado and Kenneth Darby to back up Jackson. At receiver Torry Holt is gone and Donnie Avery is the #1. Avery has more receptions (53) in the NFL than any other receiver on the Rams roster. Their lack of experience is sure to show. Expect every team to key on Jackson and put 8 in the box. The Rams did draft OT Jason Smith from Baylor and picked up massive Center Jason Brown as a free agent to help restore the offensive line. The biggest question will be the leadership and ability for Marc Bulger to make positive plays and stay away from turnovers and sacks.

Defense - The Rams have been in the bottom 5 in points allowed the previous four years! It is hard to win many games that way. Steve Spagnuolo is going to look to build the defense around youngsters Chris Long and James Laurinaitis. The Rams must have a much better defense against the rush and generate a much better pass rush. The Rams are very young at defensive tackle, in addition Adam Carriker is out for the year with an injury. Spagnuolo has chosen to go very young with the roster. The Rams have chosen to release Tye Hill and Chris Draft and will start Jonathan Wade and David Vabora. The cornerbacks are super inexperienced with Ron Bartell leading the group with only four years of service. The lack of quality depth at cornerback will show against teams like Green Bay, Indy, and Arizona.

Special Teams - It does not get any better than Josh Brown and Donnie Jones. Some of the Rams best drives will be to play it safe get a few yards and let Donnie boot it 50 yards down field to help out the defense. The kick returns will be handled by Derek Stanley and Kenneth Darby, not much of a threat. With the new rule of only two players allowed on the kickoff wedge I am not expecting much on kickoff returns. We need the Rams to improve on kick coverage as well. Players like Chamberlain, Vobara and Culberson will be expected to make a lot of tackles.

Schedule - After starting the last 2 years 0-4 and 0-8 I am very worried about the Rams first 7 games on this years schedule. There is a good chance the Rams will get off to a slow start again. The Rams will play four 2008 playoff teams in 2009. The records of the Rams 2009 opponents were 119-137 in 2008. That is a winning percentage of only .464. The Rams have very hard games against the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts in 09. If you throw out those two games Rams opponents were 94-130 for a .419 winning percentage. The Rams play in the worst division in football and need to find a way to start winning division games again.

Our Thoughts - The offense will have a very hard time moving the ball and putting up points. They have the least experienced group of receivers in the NFL. They have a QB that has had two awful years in a row, and comes into the season with a broken pinkie. Marc needs to stand in the pocket and make good decisions. Steven Jackson will have every defense focused on stopping him. The defense is very young and I can't believe they are going into the season with this group of 5 cornerbacks. I expect them to get burnt early and often at the beginning of the season. James Laurinaitis is a great anchor to build around. I believe you will see the Rams manufacture a better pass rush with more blitzing and they will also swarm to the ball in an attempt to create a lot of turnovers. Overall the squad is in rebuilding mode and is just too young and inexperienced to expect much this year. The lack of star power and depth will hurt the Rams as well. The bottom line is going into a season with an offensive line that has never played a game together is just not good in the NFL. They have turned the corner with a new front office and head coach but they are still a few players away.

Prediction - (3 - 13) Early season schedule is way to hard

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