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2008 NFL Season Previews: #29

June 29, 2008

Team: St. Louis Rams
Division: NFC West
Last Years Record: 3-13
Head Coach: Scott Linehan
Offensive Coordinator: Al Saunders
Defensive Coordinator: Jim Haslett

Schedule(home games in CAPS, all times EST):

Week 1: Sept. 7 @ Philadelphia Eagles (FOX) 1:00 p.m.
Week 2: Sept. 14 NEW YORK GIANTS (FOX) 1:00 p.m.
Week 3: Sept. 21@ Seattle Seahawks (FOX) 4:05 p.m.
Week 4:Sept. 28 BUFFALO BILLS (CBS) 4:05 p.m.
Week 5: Oct. 5 BYE WEEK
Week 6: Oct. 12 @ Washington Redskins (FOX) 1:00 p.m.
Week 7: Oct. 19 DALLAS COWBOYS (FOX) 1:00 p.m.
Week 8: Oct. 26 @ New England Patriots (FOX) 1:00 p.m.
Week 9: Nov. 2 ARIZONA CARDINALS (FOX) 1:00 p.m.
Week 10: Nov. 9 @ New York Jets (FOX) 1:00 p.m.
Week 11: Nov. 16 @ San Francisco 49ers (FOX) 3:05 p.m.
Week 12: Nov. 23 CHICAGO BEARS (FOX) 1:00 p.m.
Week 13: Nov. 30 MIAMI DOLPHINS (CBS) 1:00 p.m.
Week 14: Dec. 7 @ Arizona Cardinals (FOX) 4:15 p.m.
Week 15: Dec. 14 SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (FOX) 1:00 p.m.
Week 16:Dec. 21 SAN FRANCISCO (FOX) 1:00 p.m.
Week 17:Dec. 28 @ Atlanta Falcons (FOX)

Key Losses:
Isaac Bruce
Milford Brown
Dominique Byrd
Gus Frerotte
Trevor Johnson
Andy McCollum
Todd Steussie
Jeff Wilkins

Key Additions:
Chris Long

Josh Brown
Jacob Bell
Anthony Becht
Reche Caldwell
Trent Green
David Macklin

Breakdown of the offense:
Predator look-a-like Steven Jackson is coming off a down year, where he dealt with game day injuries and had "only" 1002 yards on the ground (down from 1528 yards in 2006). He managed to get into the endzone only 5 times which was a far cry from his heroics of 2006 where he scored 13 times on the ground. Steven Jackson is going to be the center of Al Saunders offense, with his mix of speed and power he should fit in well with Al Saunders complex offense.

Marc Bulger suffered broken ribs in the second game of the season, the injury and the terrible offensive line hampered his output throughout the season. Bulgers suffered through his worst season professionally and without any big moves on the offensive line, I don't see any proof that this season will be any different.

Perenial Pro-Bowler Isaac Bruce was released and is now playing for the 49ers, the loss of Isaac Bruce will be felt on the field and off. The good thing for the Rams is that Torry Holt is still on the team. Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce were one of the best wide recieving combinations in the league over the last decade. Isaac Bruce's departure leaves Torry Holt as the only key offensive weapon from their Super Bowl victory. Torry Holts knee issues are something to be weary of, if he gets hurt Looker and Reche Caldwell cannot be expected to fill his shoes. Dane Looker will move into the two slot for the Rams. The competition for the third slot will be competitive and is anyones game. Randy McMichael is the tight-end, they hope to get him some more passes this year and keep him from blocking so much.

This offensive line was decimated last season, three of the starters will be returning from injuries, and how healthy this unit can stay will have a major impact on how this team performs offensively. Orlando Pace is returning from a torn labrum, right guard Richie Incognito had ankle and knee injuries, and Mark Setterstrom also had a knee injury. The addition of Jacob Bell from the Titans will result in Setterstrom battling it out with Brett Romber at center. Alex Barron and John Greco will battle for the right-tackle position.

If this team can stay healthy I still don't believe they will be good, because they cannot stretch the field and Bulger doesn't have any time in the pocket. For fantasy value, after Steven Jackson their is none.

Breakdown of the defense:
This unit was hurt by a lack of a pass rush, which made their first round draft pick pretty easy. Defensive end Chris Long of UVA was the obvious choice, after a season where the defensive ends totaled only 5.5 sacks last season. Chris Long brings speed off of the edge and some youth.The Rams will be lucky if Chris Long is half as good as his father Hall of Famer Howie was. Leonard Little is returning from a lack-luster year(1 sack in 2007) and a toe surgery, but with the addition of Long opposing offenses won't be able to key on Little as much and put him in more 1 on 1 situations. Adam Carriker and La'Roi Glover are expected to be the starting tackles.

Although this defense was bad last year, Will Witherspoon had a career year with 7 sacks,132 tackles, and 10 batted passes. Will Witherspoon was everywhere last year and with Pisa Tinoisamoa back this unit could be respectable. Pisa had been injury plagued the past two years (has only played in 20 games),but when he is healthy he is one of the better weak-side linebackers in the NFC. Chris Draft and Quinton Culberson look to compete for the strong-side job.

The secondary just like the o-line, d-line, and almost everything else on this team; needs to bounce back from injuries. Tye Hill only played in 8 games last season due to a wrist injury and Fakhir Brown missed 4 games due to league suspension (failed drug tests). When there starting cornrbacks were healthy last season, the Rams were 3-3, without them 0-10. Brown still faces more league suspensions, but he is under appeal. One more slip for Brown will mean a one-year suspension. Second year player Johnathan Wade looks to contribute a lot on defense. At the safety positions the Rams have Oshiomogho Atogwe and Corey Chavous as the starters.

This team will need to stay healthy, if they can manage to do so they can compete in the weakest division in the NFC. This defensive lacks depth and any injury at almost any position could dessimate the team and lead them right back to the top-5 in the draft.

Breakdown of the Special Teams:
Jeff Wilkins retired this past offseason and they have acquired the consistent Josh Brown from the Seawhawks to replace him. Punter Donnie Jones was very dependable last season, with a 47.2 yards gross and 39.3 net average. The camp battle on special teams will be for the kick return jobs. Dante Hall showed he could still return well returning 1 punt for a touchdown, but he was constantly hurt and only played in 7 games. Expect Keenan Burton and Donnie Avery to be in the mix with Hall for the job.

Position Grades:
QB's: B-; Marc Bulger has been reliable every season he has played, but how we he do in the complicated system Al Saunders uses. Trent Green and all his concussions don't give the Rams a second choice. Brock Berlin is still Brock Berlin and will buried on the bench.

RB's : B+; Stephen Jackson is one of the best backs in the league, but without a line and no deep passing threat he will be relied on way too much. Expect him to have a relatively close season to his season in 2007. Brian Leonard needs to become a better second option, while Travis Minor and Antonio Pittman will battle for the 3rd spot.

Wr/TE: C; Torry Holts knees are done, Dane Looker is a decent number three playing in the two, and Drew Bennett needs to step it up after a bad first season in the STL.

O-Line: C+; Orlando Pace is a great lineman, but it looks as if his best days are behind him. The rest of the line needs to play tougher on a consistent basis.

D-line: C+; If Leonard Little can bounce back from the injury, they may have one of the better end combinations in the NFC with him and Chris Long. Adam Carriker needs to stay on the field and La'Roi Glover can play consistent with fewer snaps.,

LBs: C; Pisa continually disappears on defense and if not that hes injured, Will Witherspoon is the leader of this defense and can do it all. Quinton Culberson only had one start last season but he played well in that game and the coaches hope he can do it every game. No reliable back-ups after Chris Draft in this unit.

DBs: F; This group got burned again and again, Fahkir is most likely going to be suspended for atleast a couple games, and after him and Tye Hill they don't have anything. The saving grace of this group is Atogwe who needs to continue his stellar play of last season.

Season Outlook:
5-6 wins, this team could win more just by being in a terrible division and having an easy schedule. It all depends on if Stephen Jackson can return to his form of 2006. Because this defense will not win any games for this team until they fix there corner situation. I wonder if he still believes?

LCB Staff Opinions:
Berndons4 Thoughts: St. Louis used to be the most entertaining team in the league. Those days are long gone now, with not nearly enough playmakers on offense. One plus might be the defensive line, with Adam Carriker and UVA rookie Chris Long.

Teachs Thoughts: Steven Jackson's dreads make him look like the head orc in the Lord of the Rings and that guy died before the movie ended.


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