Rams look forward to getting healthy for next year
By Michael Rushton, NFL Contributing Editor
(Sports Network) - Nobody is happier that the 2007 season is over for the St. Louis Rams than their medical staff.
The unit might be getting overtime checks, though, given all the work it was forced to put in this season.
The Rams' injury report resembled a Pro Bowl team this year, with quarterbacks Marc Bulger and Gus Frerotte, running back Steven Jackson, wideouts Isaac Bruce, Drew Bennett and Dante Hall, corner Tye Hill, linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa and defensive end Leonard Little all missing time this year.
Heck, even Rams' secondary coach Willy Robinson suffered an torn quad exiting the locker room during one game this season.
It's kind of funny then that Torry Holt, who entered the season with concerns about his knee, played in all 16 games.
No unit got hit harder than the offensive line, as tackles Orlando Pace and Adam Goldberg, as well as guards Richie Incognito and Mark Setterstrom, all ended the season on injured reserve.
It's no surprise then that the Rams ended the season 3-13, the club's worst finish since posting the same record in 1991. This season saw St. Louis get off to a franchise-worst 0-8 start, surpassing the 0-6 start the Los Angeles- based squad got off to in 1962.
The team won three of four games after halting its skid, but dropped its final four tests to again put head coach Scott Linehan's job in question. However, given the number of injuries, the second-year coach might get a pass.
What was obvious is that Linehan had trouble adjusting this year to the injuries and other setbacks. If he hopes to survive in the NFL, he'll need to do a better job of making necessary changes as the unexpected happens.
That is, if the Rams give him a chance next year.
A groin and back injury kept Jackson out of the lineup for two separate stretches and four games total, and the club averaged just 95.4 rushing yards per game for the season.
And despite an offense that features Bulger, Jackson, Holt, Bruce, Bennett and tight end Randy McMichael, the Rams scored only 263 points on the season, 28th in the league.
The defense was as bad as advertised, allowing 438 points (31st in the league), but it was the offense that underperformed.
The Rams' season never turned, it just got off to an awful start and never recovered.
The 0-8 start doomed the club, so Pace's injury has to go down as the biggest of the season. The former Pro Bowl tackle tore his labrum and rotator cuff in the club's season-opening loss to Carolina, setting the tone for the year.
The Rams couldn't stay healthy on the offensive line, let alone replace someone the caliber of Pace. That led to both Bulger and Frerotte taking a beating this year. Bulger was sacked 37 times in 12 games, while Frerotte was brought down 11 times in parts of eight games.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe had a breakout year, playing in all 16 games while leading the NFC with eight interceptions. He was the lone bright spot of an otherwise dismal defensive group.
Of course, as the Rams' luck would have it, Atogwe is a restricted free agent this offseason. He ended with 75 tackles and 12 passes defensed, and returned his final pick of the season to the end zone.
Holt, meanwhile, shook off injury concerns with his knee to turn in the most consistent season of any Ram this year. He led the team with 93 catches, 1,189 yards and seven touchdowns. However, it was Bruce who continued to highlight his awesome career.
When all was said and done, Bruce ended the season with 14,109 career receiving yards, good for third place on the NFL's all-time list. He passed James Lofton (14,004).
Bruce is already the Rams' all-time leader in receiving yards, touchdowns and receptions.
Jackson, meanwhile, shook off injury to finish strong, as he managed to just go over the 1,000-rushing yard mark (1,002 yards) while rebounding to score five touchdowns.
Linebacker Will Witherspoon was the defensive leader, totaling a team-high 110 tackles to go along with a team-best seven sacks.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Injuries, injuries, injuries. The Rams never stood a chance, especially on the offensive line.
That created a domino effect, as the club got off to its horrid start that made it impossible to recover. It's tough to remain motivated knowing you have to win out just to finish at .500.
The frustrations of the season came full circle during the team's loss to Pittsburgh on December 20, as Holt and Linehan got into an incident on the sidelines. Holt said he was just venting some frustration.
"I'm frustrated with the same things everyone else is," Holt said after the game. "That's numerous reasons and I was just expressing that. Again, it may not have been the proper stage, but it is what is and you move on."
However, clashing with the franchise wideout isn't a smart move for Linehan in regards to his job security.
Of course, things got off to a bad start in the Gateway City before the season even started. While the Rams were good against the pass in 2006, they were horrible against the run and gave up 381 points.
Yet the offseason saw the likes of Bennett, Hall and McMichael come in, while linebacker Chris Draft was the only big-name defensive player acquired by St. Louis. The team also used its first-round pick on Nebraska defensive tackle Adam Carriker, but he managed just 30 tackles and two sacks in 16 games.
UP NEXT: THE DRAFT
The Rams finished with the second-worst record in the NFL, behind only Miami's 1-15 mark. However, it won't be an easy draft for St. Louis.
Just as injuries ruined the season, they also make it tough to analyze what the club needs. St. Louis' offense was bad on the ground, but obviously Jackson wasn't to blame. So, does the team need to address the offensive line this offseason, or will it rebound next year after getting healthy?
In all, St. Louis is a perfect candidate to trade down, especially to a club that is high on Arkansas running back Darren McFadden. That would allow the Rams to get a couple of extra picks, going on the assumption that they underachieved in 2007.
That being said, the club needs to address the defensive side of the ball hard and fast in getting ready for next year.
The Rams don't appear to have any big-name unrestricted free agents to worry about re-signing in the offseason.
Re: Rams look forward to getting healthy for next year
I agree with all you said. The mass of injuries makes it almost impossible to assess 2007 needs except for defense. We need to focus on defense in the draft and free agency.
Re: Rams look forward to getting healthy for next year
the Cardinals(baseball) had a lot of injuries this past season also,just a bad year for St. Louis sports in that respect.