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NFL.coms STL Rams camp preview ..
Key Camp questions
Can the Rams play "Rock 'em, Sock 'em" football behind Steven Jackson and a rebuilt offensive line?
The Rams' offense has been finesse in nature since the end of the 1990s, but Steve Spagnuolo is attempting to transform the team into a hard-hitting, smash mouth unit anchored by its rushing attack. In Steven Jackson, the team has a premier runner with the size and skills to thrive in a grind-it-out style. The former Pro Bowler has compiled four straight seasons with more than 1,000 rushing yards, and has averaged at least four yards per carry in each season. Although Jackson is a proven commodity as a workhorse, it is the jelling of the offensive line that will ultimately determine if the Rams are able to play the kind of "old school" football that Spagnuolo envisions. While new additions, Jason Brown and Jason Smith, upgrade the talent along the line, they must mesh with holdovers Jacob Bell and Alex Barron in the team's new blocking scheme. With chemistry being essential to the success of the offense, the Rams will spend all preseason working out the kinks between their star runner and rebuilt front line.
Is Donnie Avery a No.1 receiver?
The Rams jettisoned long-time star, Torry Holt, but didn't replace him with another established receiver. Thus, the team enters the season depending on Avery to anchor the passing game. While the speedster enjoyed a stellar rookie season (53 receptions for 674 yards with three scores), expecting Avery to become a feature guy in his second season appears risky. The big-play specialist only had one game with over 100 receiving yards, and his sensational performance against the Patriots (six catches for 163 yards and one touchdown) accounted for the bulk of his production. With the Rams pinning their hopes on their burgeoning playmaker, Avery must come through with an impressive training camp to assuage their concerns about his readiness to handle a bigger role.
How much will Spagnuolo's trademark aggressiveness reflect in the Rams' defense?
The Rams' head man will try to put his imprint on the team's defense, but it remains to be seen if the unit has the personnel in place to thrive in the attacking scheme that Spagnuolo is bringing from New York. As the Giants' defensive coordinator, the 11-year NFL coaching veteran relentlessly pressured defenses with a host of man and zone-blitzes, and he is intent on cultivating that mentality in St. Louis. Though the Rams may lack the defensive line depth that Spagnuolo is accustomed to, they have a core of good players capable of making waves in the scheme. Will Witherspoon, Chris Long, O.J. Atogwe and Ron Bartell are emerging players set to take on bigger roles in the blitz-heavy system. Witherspoon and Long will take turns providing the pressure from various angles while Atogwe and Bartell act as game-changers in the back end. While the ultra-aggressive approach appears to mesh will with the Rams' best defenders, it will be interesting to see if the change in mindset produces better results in 2009.
Top position battle - King VS Wade
The battle being waged for the team's nickel corner position is significant considering the prolific passing attacks that reside in the NFC West. Nickel corners play up to 70 percent of the game, so Justin King and Jonathan Wade are fightin for a starting spot. In King, the team has an ultra-athletic cover man with the tools to play inside or outside. Wade, the Rams' third-round pick in 2007, has flashed promising skills, but is maddeningly inconsistent in coverage.
Player on the spot
QB Marc Bulger
After two sub-par seasons, the two-time Pro Bowler finds himself squarely on the hot seat. The eight-year veteran has posted back-to-back seasons with passer ratings barely above 70 following a sensational five-year run where Bulger completed more than 60 percent of his passes and enjoyed a passer rating over 81.4. Given the enormous cap number Bulger takes into 2010, the team must see if Bulger's slump is temporary or a sign that his better days are behind him.
LB James Laurinaitis
Laurinaitis is set to make an immediate impact for the Rams at middle linebacker. The rookie has been impressive during summer workouts and the team felt strongly enough about his progress that it released leading tackler Pisa Tinoisamoa. While it may take some time for him to settle in as a defensive leader, Laurinaitis' uncanny penchant for playmaking will quickly earn him respect in the locker room.
Avery a possible sleeper
The time of Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce is over in St. Louis, as the team now moves on to the Donnie Avery and Keenan Burton era. Avery showed flashes of potential as a rookie and has some sleeper value, but Burton has more to prove before he'll warrant draft consideration in fantasy football
Re: NFL.coms STL Rams camp preview ..
Lots of questions... not long until they're answered. God how I've missed football!
I find it rather interesting that they highlighted the nickel battle, rather than the second cornerback battle. I would think that spot is just as open as the nickel spot is.
Re: NFL.coms STL Rams camp preview ..
Can't wait til preseason!!! I smell playoffs!!!
"In Spags We trust"LA RAMMER
It's Jim not Chris
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