Yardbarker Horiz

Monday, February 1, 2010

2010 Offseason: Saint Louis Rams Initial Review

First year general manager Billy Devaney and first year head coach Steve Spagnuolo inherited the lowly Saint Louis Rams after a 2-14 regular season mark in 2008. Unfortunately, 2009 was one game worse, and their 1-15 record puts them at the top of the board for the 2010 draft.

The following is a review of the Rams as they stand at this time.  Years of experience is given in parentheses. Players with more than five years experience are in bold.

OFFENSE
QB Keith Null (1), Kyle Boller (7), Mike Reilly (1) -- Marc Bulger (9) on IR
FB Mike Karney (6) -- Daniel Fells (4) on IR
RB Steven Jackson (7), Samkon Gado (4), Kenneth Darby (3), Chris Ogbonnaya (1)
WR Donnie Avery (3), Ruvell Martin (5) -- 3 WRs on IR
LT Alex Barron (6), Ryan McKee (1)
LG Roger Allen (1), Mark Setterstrom (5)
C Jason Brown (6)
RG John Greco (3), Eric Young (2) (listed as T on roster) -- Jacob Bell (7) on IR
RT Adam Goldberg (8), Phil Trautwein (1), Jason Smith (1)
WR Danny Amendola (1), Brandon Gibson (1), Jordan Kent (3)
TE Randy McMicheal (9), Billy Bajema (6)

OT Jason Smith, WR Brooks Foster, QB Keith Null, and RB Chris Ogbonnaya were draft picks last year. The Rams have to be a bit disappointed that the 2009 Draft #2 overall pick (Smith) ended the year third on the depth chart (concussions). Null, a sixth rounder out of West Texas A&M, finished the season with a QB rating of 49.9 completing 73 of 119 for 566 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions while starting the last four games of the season after Bulger went on IR. None of the Rams QBs had more touchdowns than interceptions last year. It is also worth noting that Bulger is the third oldest player on the team.

DEFENSE
RCB Quincy Butler (3), Jonathan Wade (4), Cord Parks (1)
RE Chris Long (3), James Hall (11)
RT Clifton Ryan (4), LaJuan Ramsey (4)
LT Darell Scott (1), Leger Douzable (3)
LE Leonard Little (13), Victor Adeyanju (5), James Wyche (5)
LCB Ronald Bartell (6), Justin King (3), Danny Gorrer (1) - 1 CB and 1 DB on IR
ROLB David Vobora (3), Larry Grant(2) , K.C. Asiodu (1)
ILB James Laurinaitis (1)
LOLB Paris Lenon (9), Chris Chamberlain (3)
SS James Butler (6), Clinton Hart (8)
FS Craig Dahl (4) (listed as SS on roster), David Roach (2) -- One FS on IR

ILB James Laurinaitis, DB Bradley Fletcher, and DT Dorell Scott were 2009 draft picks. Fletcher ended the year on IR. Laurinaitis was a serious candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year (107 solo tackles and two interceptions), and Scott worked up from his fourth round draft spot into the starting lineup. On this side of the ball, the two oldest players on the roster are both at DE (Little and Hall). Hall appears to be expendable with youth already in place around him -- but will there be quality depth if he leaves?

So the question comes down to -- where is the biggest need? Or can we tell yet? There appears to be a lot of youth on the DL and not much on the OL. Steven Jackson is taking a lot of wear and tear at running back. Having drafted an OL last year, the Rams tipped their hat about issues up front on offensive line.  And that the draft pick was not able to contribute fully -- so they may still consider OL an important need.

The other consideration is draft position. Not just any player is worth the money of the number one draft position. Is a DL worth the money? Consider Albert Haynesworth, the alleged $100 million man, played 12 games (missed 4!) in 2009 for 29 tackles, 8 assists, and four sacks. Defensive linemen also take a lot of abuse in the trenches. Where an offensive linemen could be protecting a major investment at QB a defensive linemen is generally not protecting an expensive player.  Defensive lineman are generally counted on to be interference and make the linebackers more productive.  St. Louis had a very productive linebacker last year, so it does not appear that defensive line is a real need.

A young defensive line with a young, all-pro-caliber linebacker would indicate that the defense is being productive but just lacks experience.  As a result, this team gave up over 27 points and 370 yards per game.  It gave up an average of 8.0 yards per passing play and 4.4 yards per rush.  The rush number is respectable but the passing number is not.  I believe that the defensive backfield would be a more important place for improvement than in the front seven.

On the other side of the ball a quarterback selection is suggested by the age of the incumbent (Bulger), the lack of production by the backups, the drafting of an offensive lineman the previous year, and having a very productive running game already in place.  I would say QB, DE, CB, and Safety are the top priorities at this time.

If they are active in free agency the picture should make itself clearer; if not, the Rams could pull a big surprise with the #1 pick this year!

(Updated: Rams Leave Hints In Free Agency

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