2010 NFL Preview – St. Louis Rams

by Paul Raymond | Posted on Monday, August 9th, 2010

The St. Louis Rams had an absolutely dreadful season in 2009, sporting the worst record in the National Football League at 1-15. After a steady three season decline, starting with the teams 3-13 record in 2007 there is reason for optimism. Head coach Steve Spagnuolo and GM Billy Devaney have put together a good, solid young core since the start of that 2009 season. Will it be a team that competes for the playoffs in 2010? Not even close. What they will be is a very young team that’s going to experience a lot of growing pains.

—–

Let’s first look at the personnel changes.

Key Additions – QB Sam Bradford, OT Rodger Saffold, WR Mardy Gilyard, QB A.J. Feeley, DT Fred Robbins, CB Kevin Dockery, OL Hank Fraley, LB Bobby Carpenter, LB Na’il Diggs

Key Losses – QB Marc Bulger, OT Alex Barron, LB Paris Lennon, DT Adam Carriker, DE Leonard Little

First thing that stands out is the exchange of old aging veterans from the old Rams to veteran players that Spags has experience with. Spanuolo has had three of the players on his teams before, Robbins, Dockery and Fraley.

Robbins and Dockery were part of his Super Bowl winning defense with the New York Giants, while Fraley was an offensive lineman with the Philadelphia Eagles while he was an assistant coach on the defensive. Spags also has some history with Bobby Carpenter, as he was a former Dallas Cowboy, so he saw first hand twice a season what kind of player he was.

This is pretty smart in my opinion as he’s bringing in players that know the systems he likes to run. He’s not bringing in star players who can help the team win now, he’s bringing in players that can compete now but help teach the young players on the team his style of football. Something that’s needed with the large amount of youngsters the Rams have stockpiled since their downfall began in 2007.

—–

Offense

In 2009, the Rams offense was an absolute mess. The team used three quarterbacks and a bunch of nothing at the wide receiver position. The only bright spot was running back Steven Jackson, who also happened to be the teams leading receiver, which in a way tells you just how bad they were. Looking at the 2010 roster thou I’d think things will be a little different.

The quarterback position was a mix of Marc Bulger, Kyle Boller and Keith Null, three guys who struggled mightily almost all season. This year the position was given a complete overhaul, the first pick in the 2010 NFL Draft was spent on Sam Bradford, while the team also brought in A.J. Feeley. Bradford most likely won’t start the season as the starter, as he needs to learn a pro-style offense, at Oklahoma he played primarily out of the shotgun. While he learns thou Feeley should help the team stay afloat, especially with a revamped offensive line in front of him.

One of the reasons the quarterbacks struggled in 2009 was that the offensive line consistently opened up holes for the opposing defenses to get through. In 2010, the Rams will be moving Jason Smith over to left tackle, where he should be more effective as he was more of a two-point stance, pass blocker while at Baylor. Rookie, Rodger Saffold should step right in at the right tackle position, where his drive blocking style should be most effective, especially in the running game.

The interior of the line has tremendous depth with five capable starters competing for three spots. This unit which may of been the Rams weakest in 2009, should be much improved and give Feeley and Bradford more time to make decisions. The question is can their wide receivers get open before the line breaks down?

The Rams do have a solid front line receiver in Donnie Avery but after that things get confusing. For this unit to be at its best they need Laurent Robinson to come back healthy. At the time of Robinson’s fractured fibula in Week 3 of 2009, he was the teams leading receiver and looked like he was on his way to a huge season. In two and a half games he already had 13 receptions for 167 yards. If he comes back playing as he did at that time, this unit becomes infinitely better. In competition for the slot and fourth receiver spot are a talented young group that includes draft pick Mardy Gilyard, Danny Amendola, Brandon Gibson and Keenan Burton.

Even with a coach like Spagnuolo the Rams continued to run a more explosive, wide open type offense in 2009. While they didn’t succeed at it, they stayed with what worked best for them in the past it just happened they didn’t have the pieces. In 2009 the team ran the shotgun about 39% of the time, I don’t expect that number to drop much if Bradford winds up the starting QB. A spread offense is the kind he knows, so if the Rams want to shotgun it up and throw three receivers out there, he’ll feel right at home.

I’d have to say with certainty that the Rams offense will start to work its way to what were used to from them and that they will drastically improve upon their 2009 numbers, of 29th in yardage and 32nd in scoring.

$15 off $100 or more at NFLShop.com until 08.15.10. Exclusions Apply.

—–

Defense

Spagnuolo landed his job with the St. Louis Rams due to his genius work with the Giants in their Super Bowl winning season. Spags learned all he could from the late Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson and has carried that style with him and made his own changes. With New York he quickly became one of the newest defensive geniuses in the league but people may have to find that hard to believe after the Rams defense ranked 31st in points allowed and 29th in yards allowed.

The numbers alone would make people doubt Spagnuolo’s scheme but a deeper look shows he just didn’t have the talent to make it happen. They lacked the pieces to succeed just like the Rams offense did. Spags was able to his usual aggressive and trickery type style at times, but with the lack of personnel he couldn’t fully implement it. The players just didn’t fit.

Defensive end Chris Long and linebacker James Laurinaitis both started to show some of their playmaking abilities in 2009 but without help along side them, they’ll never develop into the players the team hoped they would be. During the draft and free agency the Rams worked on adding depth to help these guys out.

Fred Robbins should help clog up the middle at his defensive tackle position, he’s 33 and his career is winding down but he’s still a force in the running game and has to be watched on passing downs. Spags brought in plenty of linebacking help to try and solidify what was a pretty weak unit last season. What I did find interesting is the Rams now have four linebackers from Ohio State, three that have graduated in the last five years. Not sure what that means but familiarity with each other could definitely help as they learn the system.

The strongest part of the defense in 2009 was their secondary and that should be no different in 2010, which isn’t saying much. Somehow the Rams were able to keep O.J. Atogwe, a huge coup for such a horrible team. After O.J. the team has a whole bunch of serviceable players who are all weak in different areas. Somehow thou Spags was still able to utilize his zone blitzing schemes with this group, hopefully with a year under his system this unit should improve. One thing that must improve is the cornerbacks inability to get interceptions, they had a total of zero in 2009.

Just like the offense, the defense should improve upon their dismal numbers in 2009. I wouldn’t expect as big an improvement thou as this is a unit that still doesn’t have the pieces it needs to succeed.

—–

Analysis

The Rams should be an improved team in 2010 but how much I’m not quite sure. I don’t expect them to be just a one win team, but I can’t picture them winning more then five and that’s at best.

The pieces are quickly falling into place on the offensive side of the ball, those players just need the experience now. On the defensive side thou those pieces just aren’t there yet. There is more to work with yet but for Spagnuolo he doesn’t quite have the talent needed yet.

Spags walked into a mess when taking this job and he’s done an admirable job in trying to work with what he’s got. Another solid draft class or two should give him all the help he needs after that his coaching and leadership abilities should definitely take over.

If management and the fans give Spagnuolo and his staff some time the Rams could become respectable again in another two to three years, maybe sooner if things come together quickly.

To view other teams in our team by team season previews and preseason power rankings, click here.

Leave a comment

XHTML: You can use these html tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>


  • Twitter Updates