STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
QUARTERBACKS: Starter — Sam Bradford. Backup — A.J. Feeley.
Bradford had a season worthy of being the league's offensive rookie of the year. He completed 60 percent of his passes for 3,512 yards and had just 15 interceptions. His passer rating of 76.5 is average overall, but good for a rookie. He wasn't asked to do much, partly because of an absence of play-makers at receiver. His average per attempt was just 5.95 and average per completion was under 10 (9.9). Feeley, who never got on the field for a snap, helped Bradford's development because of his background in the West Coast offense. Thaddeus Lewis was on the practice squad and has been signed to a 2011 contract.
RUNNING BACKS: Starter — Steven Jackson. Backups — Kenneth Darby, Keith Toston, FB Mike Karney, FB Brit Miller.
Jackson's second half wasn't as strong as his first, and a large part was due to struggles on the interior of the offensive line. Jackson had his best stretch when John Greco shared time with Adam Goldberg at right guard. But when Jason Smith missed a game with a concussion, Renardo Foster started and then was active for the rest of the season while Greco was inactive. Jackson rushed for 1,241 yards, but averaged only 3.8 yards per attempt. Darby (34) and Toston (27) had a combined 61 rushing attempts. After Miller was signed, he took the spot of Karney on the game-day roster because of his prowess on special teams. When Miller was lost for the season because of a knee injury, Karney was active for the final two games of the season.
TIGHT ENDS: Starter — Billy Bajema. Backups — Daniel Fells, Michael Hoomanawanui, Derek Schouman, Darcy Johnson, Fendi Onobun.
The biggest disappointment was the right games missed by Hoomanawanui because of two high ankle sprains. He and Bradford developed a promising rapport in training camp, but Hoomanawanui went down early in the season opener. After coming back, he had three touchdowns on just 13 receptions before being injured again. Bajema is a solid blocker, and sometime pass-catcher who had 14 receptions and two touchdowns. Fells is maddening with his inconsistency, although he did have 41 receptions and two touchdowns. Schouman was signed in late November. Johnson (concussion) finished the season on injured reserve. Onobun showed some potential with his freakish athletic skills, but he needs to have a busy offseason. He missed the final seven games on injured reserve with a back injury.
WIDE RECEIVERS — Starters — Brandon Gibson, Laurent Robinson. Backups — Danny Amendola, Danario Alexander, Mardy Gilyard, Donnie Avery, Mark Clayton, Dominique Curry.
The last four names say a lot about the team's receiver situation during the 2010 season. Avery, Clayton and Curry all had knee injuries that ended their seasons; Avery's occurred in a preseason game. Clayton caught 23 passes in four-plus games before being injured. Amendola led the team with 85 receptions, but he averaged just 8.1 yards per catch. Gibson showed improvement, but he has to cut down on drops. Robinson averaged only 10.1 yards per reception. Alexander was a revelation, and had three of the team's longest pass plays from scrimmage and he only played eight games. He has to be more consistent and learn to get open more, but considering the knee surgeries he's experienced and the fact he had virtually no training camp, it was significant the Rams got anything out of him this season. Gilyard was a disappointment and needs a strong offseason to show he can compete.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters: LT Rodger Saffold, LG Jacob Bell, C Jason Brown, RG Adam Goldberg, RT Jason Smith. Backups — T Renardo Foster, G John Greco, C/G Hank Fraley, G Mark Setterstrom.
For the first time since 2003, the Rams did not experience debilitating injuries to the line. Smith missed one game with a concussion, and Saffold missed some time, but not much. Saffold, Bell, Brown and Goldberg started all 16 games. Only twice in six previous seasons had the Rams' starting line started as many as five straight games. Saffold and Smith both held up the edges well, and should do that for years to come. Inside is a different story. With a power back like Jackson, the Rams are missing a physical presence in the interior. Foster is a solid backup tackle. Greco has to stay healthy, and he could compete with Goldberg at right guard. Fraley was a non-factor. Setterstrom missed the entire season because of a triceps injury suffered in OTAs.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: DE Chris Long, DT Fred Robbins, DT Gary Gibson. DRE James Hall. Backups — E C.J. Ah You, George Selvie, E Eugene Sims, T Darell Scott, T Jermelle Cudjo, T Clifton Ryan.
No one could have expected the production from Hall (10.5 sacks) and Long (8.5). Long found a home at left end, and Hall's sack total was the second-most of his career. Robbins was a commanding presence inside and aided the improvement of the run defense and he contributed 6.0 sacks. Gibson was solid. Selvie showed some quickness in his rookie season, and could get more playing time next season depending on how high a level the soon-to-be 34-year-old Hall can stay at. Ah You has developed into a solid role player, and rookies Sims and Cudjo show promise. The future is uncertain for Ryan, who played in only one game before persistent migraines ended his season.
LINEBACKERS: Starters — WLB Chris Chamberlain, MLB James Laurinaitis, SLB David Vobora. Backups — SLB Na'il Diggs, WLB Larry Grant, WLB Bryan Kehl, LB David Nixon, LB Curtis Johnson, LB Josh Hull.
Laurinaitis is the anchor of the defense, and should be for many years. Around him is another matter. Diggs did a solid job until a shoulder injury ended his season with four games remaining. Vobora took his spot, but didn't have the same consistency. Musical chairs was the best way to describe the weak-side spot. Grant started the first seven games, but four different players started over the final nine games. Kehl started one game, followed by Chamberlain with two. Grant started another, followed by Vobora before Chamberlain started the final four. All are effective special-teams players, but there has to be more consistency there in 2011. Nixon and Johnson were added to the roster late in the season. Hull suffered a season-ending knee injury in the season opener.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters — CB Ron Bartell, CB Bradley Fletcher, FS Oshiomogho Atogwe, SS Craig Dahl. Backups — CB Kevin Dockery, CB Jerome Murphy, CB Quincy Butler, CB Justin King, S James Butler, S Darian Stewart, S Michael Lewis.
Bartell came on strong at the end of the season after being bothered by a persistent stinger in his neck. He missed the 13th game against New Orleans, but overall had another strong season. Fletcher also recovered from a serious 2009 injury to start 15 games, but there is still mystery why Dockery started instead in a Week 10 game at San Francisco, and gave up two early big plays. Murphy showed promise and needs to have a good offseason. Quincy Butler was re-signed in late October and was needed because of injuries. King regressed, and also had injury issues resulting in him being inactive for eight games. An upgrade is needed at strong safety. Atogwe is still a force at free safety, and he improved against the pass. James Butler was injured early and might not have been 100 percent all season. He started just four games. Dahl, who started 13 games, is a try-hard guy, but he's simply a good backup that shouldn't be starting on an every-week basis. A pleasant surprise was Stewart, who made the team as a rookie free agent. He contributed on defense and special teams. Lewis played just two games after being signed in late October.
SPECIAL TEAMS: PK Josh Brown, P Donnie Jones, LS Chris Massey, KR Danny Amendola.
The trip of Brown, Jones and Massey remain one of the best in the NFL. Brown was 33-for-39 on field goals and made three of four from 50 yards or more. Jones finished with a 40.0 net and had 32 kicks end up inside the 20. Massey had one or two glitches, but consistently gets the ball exactly where the holder (Jones) wants it. Amendola is feisty, but just doesn't have the explosiveness to be a threat to score. Like at receiver, Gilyard was a disappointment as a kickoff returner.
Re: Rams Report
He has very good points in this breakdown.