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  1. #1
    RamWraith's Avatar
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    5 questions facing Rams with camp set to begin

    BY STEVE KORTE
    News-Democrat



    After posting a 3-13 record -- their worst mark since coming to the Gateway City in 1995 -- the St. Louis Rams are eager to begin anew.



    That new beginning officially starts today as the team arrives at Concordia University in Mequon, Wis., for the start of training camp.



    Here are the five biggest questions facing the Rams as they open training camp:



    1. Can Orlando Pace and the offensive line stay healthy?



    Pace has missed more than twice as many games (23) as he has played (nine) over his last two injured-plagued seasons.



    He probably won't be cleared for contact for at least another week, but the Rams are hoping he can return to his Pro Bowl form.



    The Rams have better depth on the offensive line this season with addition of free agent Jacob Bell, who will start at left guard, and rookies John Greco and Roy Schuening, but they still need to avoid the kind of injury epidemic that paralyzed the offense for much of the 2007 season.



    Richie Incognito will challenge Brett Romberg for the starting job at center in what could be the most spirited battle of training camp.



    If Incognito doesn't unseat Romberg, he still could end up starting at his old spot at right guard where former left guard Mark Setterstrom is working.



    The Rams hope the competition between Incognito, Romberg and Setterstrom will lead to them getting their best five offensive linemen on the field.



    2. Can coach Scott Linehan reinvent himself?



    Linehan needs to regain the confidence of his players after a disastrous 2007 season that saw several of his star players question his decision making.



    Linehan went a long way toward repairing the damaged relationship with his offensive players by hiring Al Saunders as offensive coordinator.



    Saunders is a high-energy coach who knows how to motivate players.



    Now that Linehan is no longer calling plays, he should be freed up to manage other issues that occur during games and during the week leading up to games.



    It's how Linehan handles that managerial role that could shape the 2008 season, and ultimately decide whether his coaching tenure with the Rams lasts beyond this year.



    3. Can Drew Bennett replace Isaac Bruce?



    Bennett was a disappointment last season as the Rams' No. 3 receiver, yet the Rams are counting on him filling Bruce's spot in the starting lineup this season.



    Bennett has been a productive receiver -- he had 80 catches for 1,247 yards and 11 touchdowns with the Tennessee Titans in 2004 -- in the past.



    Rookies Donnie Avery and Keenan Burton also will be given a chance to help fill the void left by Bruce's departure.



    Other receivers hoping to earn a roster spot include Dane Looker, Dante Hall, Reche Caldwell, Derek Stanley, Brandon Williams, Marques Hagans, Shaine Smith, Matt Caddell and Eric Fowler.



    The Rams certainly have quantity when it comes to their receiving corps, but we'll find out if they have quality there, too.



    4. Is the defense ready to step up?



    The Rams have invested a lot of resources in their defense in recent years, and it's time for them to start reaping some returns on that investment.



    The defensive line has the team's last two first-round picks in Adam Carriker and Chris Long along with veterans Leonard Little and La'Roi Glover. They need to improve upon the meager 16 sacks the defensive line generated last season.



    Will Witherspoon has developed into a force at middle linebacker with a team-leading 132 tackles and seven sacks last season, while Oshiomogho Atogwe is an emerging star who led the NFC in interceptions with eight at free safety last season.



    If the Rams' defense can continue to make strides, it'll take a lot of pressure off the offense.



    5. Can the team survive its early schedule?



    Five of the Rams' first seven games come against 2007 playoff teams, including both Super Bowl participants, the New York Giants and the New England Patriots.



    The Rams' bye comes in Week 5, meaning they'll have to play their final 12 games without a break.



    If the Rams can't find a way to win a few games in the early going, they could find themselves buried by the midway point just like last season when they started off 0-8.


  2. #2
    jkramsfan's Avatar
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    Re: 5 questions facing Rams with camp set to begin

    yes to every question EXCEPT the one that has Bennett replacing Bruce,I don't see that happening,although I think Bennett will be much better this season than last, he will never come close to Isaac.

  3. #3
    moloch41's Avatar
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    Re: 5 questions facing Rams with camp set to begin

    I feel tricked- there was definately more than five questions packed away in there.

  4. #4
    TekeRam's Avatar
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    Re: 5 questions facing Rams with camp set to begin

    Nope, only five question marks in the whole thing moloch.

    As for Bennett, I agree, he won't be able to replace the emotional effect that Bruce had, however, Bruce is certainly slowing down and Bennett gives a new dimension out wide. His height allows fr some jump ball fades to be thrown in the endzone, which you have to agree, Bruce would be unlikely to win. Will Bennett be able to win the hearts of the fans like Bruce, no, and he'll never live up to the accolades that Bruce achieved, however, in terms of pure production, I bet he'll come close.

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