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Core must carry Rams through order of change
By Jeff Gordon
STLTODAY.COM SPORTS COLUMNIST
Tuesday, Mar. 25 2008
The Rams are undergoing considerable change this offseason.
Chip Rosenbloom has become the new majority owner. Billy Devaney has come
aboard as the new personnel czar. Al Saunders is making over the offense even
as you read this.
Jacob Bell signed on to become the new starting left guard. Josh Brown replaced
retired kicker Jeff Wilkins. Trent Green replaced Gus Frerotte as the back-up
quarterback. Anthony Becht arrived to upgrade the tight end position. David
Macklin came aboard to add cornerback defense.
The Rams will likely add a defensive lineman, another offensive tackle and an
impact wide receiver during the top half of the coming draft. Additional
free-agent signings remain a possibility.
The team will move training camp from Rams Park to a collegiate site, probably
in Wisconsin – forcing diehard fans to develop a taste for fried cheese.
But to get back into playoff contention next season, this team must fix what
was already in place.
Because the Rams locked in so many cornerstone veterans to long-term deals, the
organization didn’t have massive salary cap space to operate with. So this team
must get their returning starters – in addition to the returning supporting
cast – into a better place for the 2008 season.
A great example is defensive end James Hall. A high ankle sprain plagued him
most of last season. He was not the disruptive pass rusher the Rams needed on
the right side.
The franchise couldn’t justify keeping him under his old deal. But the Rams
just brought him back for less money because they need all the pash rushers
they can locate.
Another example is Adam Goldberg. He was a valuable fill-in two seasons ago.
But when he got hurt last season – amid all the other offensive line injuries –
the team’s guard play deteriorated.
His re-signing this winter generated little fanfare, but it should be a
positive step IF he can stay healthy this time around.
Brett Romberg’s low-profile return is a similar deal. Rams fans wanted the team
to sign high-profile free agent Justin Hartwig, but that wasn’t going to happen
for a host of reasons.
Romberg was a perfectly fine center last season when healthy. He could fill
that role next season, too, IF he can remain upright and mobile.
Young Dustin Fry and versatile veterans Mark Setterstrom and Richie Incognito
(also returning from injuries) could also factor in – depending on which player
wins the right guard job.
Everywhere you look on this team, there are veteran players seeking better
health and more prosperity in ’08:
--Marc Bulger suffered multiple injuries last season, plus the inevitable
Battered Quarterback Syndrome that results from ritual beatings. Saunders won’t
get far with his offensive overhaul if Bulger can’t regain his old Pro Bowl
--Even if the Rams draft tackle Jake Long – still a possibility – the team will
need Orlando Pace to stay healthy for a change and remind us why he is destined
for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
--Drew Bennett never got in stride last season, largely due to leg injuries.
With iconic receiver Isaac Bruce off to play for the *****, the Rams will need
gigantic improvement from Bennett.
--Torry Holt has to manage his chronic knee injury. He may never regain his old
explosiveness, but he can use his smarts to remain one of the elite receivers
of his era.
--Even with Hall returning – and even if the Rams draft defensive end Chris
Long – the Rams will need Leonard Little to heal up and regain his disruptive
pass rushing skills. Surely he’s got another year or two in those legs, right?
--Linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa must become an impact player in Jim Haslett’s
defense again. (It would be nice if he had full use of both arms for a change).
Some fans wanted the Rams to dump him and keep Brandon Chillar, but a franchise
can’t manage a salary cap operating that way. There is never enough money to
fix all the problems.
So, yes, the Rams are facing a summer of change. But much of that change must
occur with all the incumbents who broke down in 2007.
Re: Core must carry Rams through order of change
Where's that voodoo lady with the chicken bones? Right now, I'd take Howard Balzer burning sage in order for the Rams "core" to stay healthy.
Re: Core must carry Rams through order of change
Tells it exactly like it is. People need to get healthy and step up. That said, I have a whole hell of a lot more confidence in Saunders than Olsen could ever imagine of having, and as Han Solo said, he can imagine a lot. Saunders knows offensive linemen, and if he has faith in the guys that we've re-signed, I know I do.
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