There is an old saying, often used by politicians, that the Chinese symbol for “crisis” is an amalgam of the symbols for “danger” and “opportunity.” It is through this notion that we, as Rams fans facing our toughest season in nearly a decade, can find hope.

Let’s start by stating the obvious: with respect to the goal of competing for the playoffs, this season is over. It is unfortunate that this point must be conceded so early in the year but, in doing so, new goals can be set for the remainder of the season. After all, if one is willing to take a “glass half-full” approach, a schedule of eight games with essentially nothing to lose can be viewed as a true opportunity to build for the 2008 season.

With this approach in mind, here are my goals for the Rams in the remainder of the 2008 season:

Low Risk Growing Pains
Most NFL players don’t sign their rookie contract and immediately play at a Pro Bowl level. Rather, it takes some seasoning. If a team is a contender, this creates a dilemma… do you give your young players a chance to play and improve, or do you go with veterans who, though perhaps less talented or aging, are known commodities? The Rams don’t have this problem. They have eight games left to give their young players invaluable experience. The Rams should give as many reps as possible to players like Adam Carriker, Clifton Ryan, Claude Wroten, Dustin Fry, Dominique Byrd, Joe Klopfenstein, Brian Leonard, Antonio Pittman, Marques Hagans, Jonathan Wade and Derek Stanley. Doing so may not translate to wins this year, but it will help us immensely in the long run.

Find A Second Team O Line
I think it is safe to say that the starting O line in the next Rams game will consist of at least three, maybe four, players who have virtually no chance of being in the starting lineup at the beginning of 2008. But if this year has taught us anything, it is the need for depth on the O line. We have an eight game tryout for the backup roles on the O line in 2008.

Don’t Needlessly Expose Proven Players
This one may get some debate, but I think that, as the season winds down, there will be a good argument for shutting down key players. We know what Marc Bulger, Torry Holt, Steven Jackson and Leonard Little can do. There’s no sense in having them play hurt and risking their status for 2008. I’m not saying they need to be shut down right now, but come December…

Put The Coaching Staff On Notice
I think those who would be fine seeing Linehan & Co. return for 2008 are shrinking in number, but for those who still think continuity is the preferred approach, I would submit that the remainder of the season should be used to test that notion. The Front Office should make it very clear (privately) that the coaching staff needs to earn a 2008 return. This is not necessarily to be determined by the won/loss record, but rather by fielding a team that plays with enthusiasm and fire, and competes each week. If the coaching staff can’t inspire effort, a change must be made.

I, for one, am very much looking forward to 2008.