By Vic Carucci
National Editor, NFL.com


(June 14, 2007) -- This is what I like about the St. Louis Rams' offseason moves: They took steps to help their defense reach the much higher level of production expected of Jim Haslett's aggressive-minded scheme. Hired by then-rookie coach Scott Linehan as defensive coordinator last year, Haslett was woefully short of quality pass-rushers and run-stoppers. He isn't anymore.

The Rams' biggest addition to upgrade their pass rush was defensive end James Hall, whom they acquired from the Detroit Lions in exchange for a fifth-round draft pick. Hall has outstanding quickness off the ball, which along with his active style of play and knack for avoiding blockers allows him to overcome his smallish, 6-foot-2, 270-pound frame.

Is Adam Carriker getting close to Marc Bulger because of talent or a suspect offensive line?
Is Adam Carriker getting close to Marc Bulger because of talent or a suspect offensive line?
The Rams addressed their porous run defense by making a tackle, former Nebraska standout Adam Carriker, their first-round draft pick. Carriker played end in college, but he has the size (6-6, 291 pounds), strength and versatility to start at tackle. He looks as if he will become the much-needed solid and steady force who should do plenty to allow Hall and fellow end Leonard Little be more effective.

St. Louis used the draft to pick up two other tackles, fifth-rounder Clifton Ryan from Michigan State and seventh-rounder Keith Jackson from Arkansas, who could make immediate contributions as part of a rotation. The selections made it easier for the Rams to ship off underachieving tackle Jimmy Kennedy to the Denver Broncos.

The Rams didn't stop with defense in their offseason shopping. They added a big-play receiver in free agent Drew Bennett, formerly of the Tennessee Titans. He should nicely fill the vacancy created after Kevin Curtis signed with the Philadelphia Eagles in free agency. The Rams made another offensive upgrade in former Miami Dolphins tight end Randy McMichael, who offers an impressive combination of athleticism and toughness. McMichael also is particularly dangerous in the red zone.

Dante Hall, acquired in a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs, adds a game-breaker to the Rams return game. The challenge will be for special-teams coach Al Roberts to find the players who can create running room for Hall. St. Louis' special teams also received a boost with the free-agent signing of ex-Dolphins punter Donnie Jones.

Fullback Brian Leonard, a second-round choice from Rutgers, offers the sort of versatility the offensive-minded Linehan should be able to use to the fullest. Leonard's blocking, running and receiving figure to make him a perfect complement to featured back Steven Jackson.


This is what concerns me: The offensive line. The Rams improved this unit's interior last year, but questions linger. Center Andy McCollum is trying to battle back from a season-ending knee injury he suffered in Week 1 in 2006. His replacement, Brett Romberg, was solid enough to compete in training camp this summer to be the permanent starter. But at 6-3 and 293 pounds, is Romberg large enough to hold up physically if he wins the job or McCollum is injured again? Right tackle Alex Barron gets flagged far too often for false starts.

The Rams don't appear to have done enough to address their lack of depth at cornerback. As a matter of fact, there is reason to wonder whether starter Fakhir Brown, who was solid in '06, is capable of putting together back-to-back decent seasons.