January 21, 2007
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
PERSONNEL ANALYSIS:RB Steven Jackson proved his durability, with 436 touches, missing only part of one game (December 11 against Chicago) with leg cramps. But Jackson's yeomen work only masked the team's need for a No. 2 running back. At this stage of his career, and with past knee problems, Stephen Davis is probably good for only 10 touches a game. Should something happen to Jackson, it's no sure thing that Davis could handled the load for three or four games. Tony Fisher, the team's No. 3 RB, spent much of the year on Injured Reserve with a knee injury. So even though Jackson is young in his career, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Rams draft a back or look for a modest-priced pickup in free agency. Coach Scott Linehan seems to prefer big backs, but a change of pace speed back who can catch the ball out of the backfield, and return kicks would seem to be ideal. . . .
CB Jerametrius Butler, who spent the year in the doghouse and rarely played, did not accompany the team back from its season-ending game in Minnesota and has yet to speak with Linehan. (Linehan has tried to speak with each player on the '06 team individually since the end of the season.) Butler established a reputation as a good cover corner as a starter in the 2003 and '04 season, but missed the entire '05 season with a knee injury. But he isn't the most physical corner around, and that was a factor in the team signing ex-Saint Fakhir Brown, who played pretty well.
SCOUTING REPORT: After waiting a couple of years to get a chance to start an NFL game, former Miami (Fla.) standout C Brett Romberg made the most of three last-season starts. He showed enough in victories over Oakland, Washington, and Minnesota that the Rams feel he can be at worst a middle-of-the-pack starter among the 32 starting centers in the league. Romberg doesn't have ideal height or wing span. But he's smart, technically sound, and makes good use of leverage. He was able to knock the rust off quickly. Romberg will at least be given the chance to compete for a starting job. His competition remains to be seen, although veteran C Andy McCollum could return after suffering a season-ending knee injury in the 2006 season opener.
SPECIAL PROJECT: Practically from the day he was draft, rookie TE Joe Klopfenstein was thrown into the starting role. He came into the NFL known as more of a pass catcher, but was expected to do plenty of blocking in Linehan's offense. Klopfenstein was a willing blocker, but had several tough moments, particularly when it came to taking on bigger defensive ends and linebackers. Klopfenstein needs a full offseason in the weight room to improve both his upper body strength and his leg strength for drive blocking. He can add some bulk on his still lanky 6-5 frame. As a pass catcher, Klopfenstein needs to be a little less mechanical, and quicker in and out of his breaks.