The St. Louis Rams struggled last season going 6-10. They closed out the 2005 season by going 1-4 over their last five games. The lone win was against Dallas (20-10) in a meaningless game. This season the rams have a new coach–Scott Linehan. Are the problems gone as well? Linehan not only steps into the Rams coaching job for the first time, but as an NFL head coach too.
Marc Bulger will be the guy again in St. Louis. The main question surrounding Bulger isn’t his ability–it’s his health. He’s had arm problems in the past. However, the QB position is one of the more solid ones on the offense. Waiting in backup is the competent Gus Frerotte. They also have Ryan Fitzpatrick. He’s had limited duty, but he impressed.
Marshal Faulk is gone. He had knee issues and will miss the entire 2006 season. He’s technically retiring, but there a chance that he returns for one last season in 2007. The man for the Rams is Steven Jackson. While Jackson gained over 1,000 yards last season, he wasn’t a “great” running back. He’s got the potential, but he will have to step it up a notch this season.
The Rams receiving unit is above average. Any unit with Tory Holt and Isaac Bruce would be. In the 2006 draft, the Rams picked up TE Joe Klopfenstein from Colorado in the second round and TE Dominique Byrd in the third round. Both will be fighting for playing time and could help improve the offense. If either TE performs well early the Rams will have a very rounded offensive attack.
Defense and Special Teams
Here’s where it goes downhill for the Rams. Up until this point the Rams have sounded like a competent team. The defense is average. The defensive line was weakened by the loss of NT Ryan Pickett. This season, there’s been some shifting with the line and the Rams hope its for the better. One thing that plagues a poor defense is poor tackling and the Rams got their share and went back for seconds. They brought in LB Will Witherspoon to help solidify the linebacker unit.
The biggest question mark on this Rams defense is with the secondary. Will they be able to cover teams with solid receivers? The answer, as it stands, is probably not. The Rams are hopeful that new additions like S Jerametrius Butler will help infuse the secondary with leadership and get it set on the right course. The special teams need some work, but they should do an adequate job.
The St. Louis Rams are really on the bubble this season. Their schedule is not that difficult. They have 6-7 games that are probable losses, 2-3 that are winnable games and the rest should be games they win. Depending on how these go, the Rams could finish anywhere between 6-10 and 9-7. A 9-7 finish might be enough to sneak into the playoffs in the NFC. Two critical games come at season’s end when they play Washington and at Minnesota. The first five games are very soft–with the exception of the Denver game. After Denver, the Rams play San Francisco, Arizona, Detroit and Green Bay. They could be 4-1 at that point, but that’s where their schedule beings to get tough.