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St. Louis Rams 2005 Season Preview
(Sports Network) - What was once known as "The Greatest Show on Turf" is now something strikingly similar to the last days of "Cats", or perhaps the final season of "Happy Days." Capable of producing the occasional electrifying moment, but largely a pale imitation of its former self. That is what many NFL observers believe the St. Louis Rams have become.
Yes, the Rams gave their fan base a couple of reasons to smile last season, like the home-and-home sweep of the Seattle Seahawks that ultimately lifted the franchise into the playoffs, and another victory over those Hawks in a postseason thriller. But the ugly moments were plentiful too. Decisive losses to the lowly Dolphins (31-14), Bills (37-17), Panthers (20-7), and Cardinals (31-7). Monday Night dismantlings at the hands of the Patriots (40-22) and Packers (45-17). A 47-17 laugher against the Falcons in the NFC Divisional Round. This is not the type of football to which Rams fans wish to grow accustomed. In an effort to return the team to its former prominence, the Rams went out and made a few offseason changes. On defense, the club brought in a couple of starters - Dexter Coakley and Chris Claiborne - who will be charged with turning around one of the league's worst run defenses. It added a potential star in right tackle Alex Barron, and brought in veteran guard Rex Tucker to further assist up front. The secondary that was an overwhelming liability a year ago added three promising rookies in Ronald Bartell, O.J. Atogwe, and Jerome Carter. Whether those moves pay off to any great degree will determine whether "The Show" can go on for St. Louis and its concerned legion of supporters in 2005. Below we take a capsule look at the 2005 edition of the St. Louis Rams, with a personnel evaluation and prognosis included therein: 2004 RECORD: 8-8 (2nd, NFC West) LAST PLAYOFF APPEARANCE: 2004, lost to Atlanta, 47-17, in NFC Divisional Playoff COACH (RECORD): Mike Martz (51-29 in five seasons with Rams, 51-29 overall) OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Steve Fairchild DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Larry Marmie OFFENSIVE STAR: Torry Holt, WR (94 receptions, 1372 yards, 10 TD) DEFENSIVE STAR: Leonard Little, DE (46 tackles, 7 sacks) OFFENSIVE TEAM RANKS: t25th rushing, 5th passing, 19th scoring DEFENSIVE TEAM RANKS: 29th rushing, 11th passing, 25th scoring FIVE KEY GAMES: at San Francisco (9/11), Seattle (10/9), Arizona (11/20), at Minnesota (12/11), Philadelphia (12/18) KEY ADDITIONS: TE Roland Williams (from Raiders), T Alex Barron (1st Round, Florida State), T Matt Willig (Panthers), G Rex Tucker (Bears), DT John Parrella (Raiders), LB Chris Claiborne (Vikings), LB Dexter Coakley (Cowboys), CB Ronald Bartell (2nd Round, Howard), S Oshiomogho Atogwe (3rd Round, Stanford), S Michael Hawthorne (Packers), S Jerome Carter (4th Round, Florida State) DB Terry Fair (Lions), DB Corey Ivy (Buccaneers), DB Michael Stone (Cardinals) KEY DEPARTURES: QB Chris Chandler (released), TE Cameron Cleeland (not tendered), C Matt Lehr (to Falcons), T Kyle Turley (waived), G Chris Dishman (not tendered), DE Bryce Fisher (to Seahawks), DE Jay Williams (released), LB Tommy Polley (to Ravens), LB Erik Flowers (not tendered), S Zach Bronson (not tendered), S Antuan Edwards (not tendered), S Aeneas Williams (not tendered), S Rich Coady (to Falcons), CB Jerametrius Butler (lost for season with knee injury), CB Dwight Anderson (released), P Kevin Stemke (released) QB: Marc Bulger (3964 passing yards, 21 TD, 14 INT) had another efficient season running the St. Louis offense last year, boosting his completion percentage from 63.2 to 66.2 while cutting his interceptions down from 22 to 14. Bulger's backup will be journeyman Jamie Martin (188 passing yards), who was signed in early December of last season after Chris Chandler (463 passing yards, 2 TD, 8 INT) was wildly ineffective. Chandler was cut in the offseason, and the third-stringer in 2005 will likely be seventh-round draft choice Ryan Fitzpatrick (Harvard), who wowed Rams coaches with his athletic ability during training camp. RB: St. Louis began the transition from Marshall Faulk (774 rushing yards, 50 receptions, 4 TD) to Steven Jackson (673 rushing yards, 19 receptions, 4 TD) in the backfield last season, and Jackson will officially take over the No. 1 job this season. Jackson averaged 5.0 yards per rush as a rookie last year. The 32-year-old Faulk will play more than the average backup, but is expected to garner the fewest touches of his career this season. Holdovers Aveion Cason and Arlen Harris (63 rushing yards, 4 TD), both of whom have return experience, were battling for the third-string running back job in training camp. The Rams rarely use a traditional fullback, instead employing Brandon Manumaleuna (15 receptions, 1 TD) in an H-back role. Either Joey Goodspeed (6 rushing yards, 11 receptions, 1 TD) or seventh-round draft choice Madison Hedgecock (North Carolina) will appear when the club employs a fullback. WR/TE: Beginning their seventh season together in the starting lineup are wideouts Torry Holt (94 receptions, 10 TD) and Isaac Bruce (89 receptions, 6 TD), a duo that continues to strike fear in the hearts of opposing defensive coordinators. Holt posted his fifth consecutive 1,000-yard season, and his 94 catches were tied for the NFC lead. Bruce, who will turn 33 during the 2005 campaign, recorded the second most receptions of his career in '04. Complementing that heralded tandem will be backups Shaun McDonald (37 receptions, 3 TD) and Kevin Curtis (32 receptions, 2 TD), both of whom had their moments last season. Dane Looker (13 receptions) had a beat on the fifth wideout job during camp. St. Louis uses a tight end sparingly in their multi- receiver offense, but former Raider Roland Williams will be back to fill the role as needed. Williams caught 51 passes and scored 10 touchdowns as a Ram between 1998 and 2000, but last had an NFL reception with Oakland in 2002. OL: The health of this unit could be a determining factor in the team's offensive success this year. Left guard Tom Nutten, 34, has played in just eight games over the past two seasons and comes off reconstructive toe surgery. Right guard Adam Timmerman, 34, has started all but one game over the past nine seasons but comes off surgery on both his foot and shoulder in the offseason. Right tackle Rex Tucker, who spent the past six years with the Bears, missed 10 games with elbow and hamstring injuries last year. The certainties up front are center Andy McCollum, who is 35 but has started every game since 2000, and All-Pro left tackle Orlando Pace, who was nearly traded to the Texans in the offseason but was signed to a long-term contract with the Rams after those plans fell through. In line to serve as a backup is first- round draft choice and tackle Alex Barron (Florida State), who jeopardized his chance to start with a two-week holdout at the start of training camp. Holdovers Blaine Saipaia (five starts last year), Larry Turner (14 games played, one start), former Panther Matt Willig and rookie Claude Terrell (4th Round, New Mexico) could be fighting for two spots on the active roster. DL: The Rams ranked near the bottom of the league in sacks a year ago, and their top player in that category, end Bryce Fisher (48 tackles, 8.5 sacks), signed with the Seahawks in the offseason. Anthony Hargrove (31 tackles, 1 sack), who started two games as a rookie last year, will try to settle into Fisher's former role on the right side. The key to the club's pass rush comes from the left side, where the team is hoping that Leonard Little (46 tackles, 7 sacks) can bounce back to his double-digit sack form of 2001-03. The backups at end figure to be Tyoka Jackson (23 tackles, 4 sacks) and second-year pro Brandon Green (3 tackles with the Jaguars). Martz will look to the interior line to lend further assistance to a unit that ranked 29th in the league against the run last year. Ryan Pickett (45 tackles, 2 sacks), former first- round pick Jimmy Kennedy (16 tackles) and Damione Lewis (36 tackles, 5 sacks) should form a three-man rotation at tackle, with holdover Brian Howard (9 tackles), former Charger and Raider John Parrella (22 tackles with Oakland), and undrafted free agent Jeremy Calahan (Rice) trying to crack the depth chart as backups. LB: St. Louis received limited production from its linebackers a year ago, and will have a new look there this season. In to play the weak side is three-time Pro Bowl pick Dexter Coakley (68 tackles with the Cowboys), who is undersized and aging (he'll turn 33 in October) but will command more respect than the departed Tommy Polley (78 tackles, 2 sacks) at that position. In the middle is former Viking Chris Claiborne (57 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT with Minnesota), who has ability but has been an overall disappointment in stints with the Lions (1999-2002) and Minnesota (2003-04). The holdover on the starting unit is strong side linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa (95 tackles, 1.5 sacks), who was originally moved to safety in mini-camp but was ultimately shifted back to his natural position. Former first-round pick Robert Thomas (56 tackles) has been relegated to backup status, and part-time starters Brandon Chillar (27 tackles) and Trev Faulk (39 tackles) also figure to find the field as reserves and on special teams. DB: The Rams tallied a league-low six interceptions last season, and the man who had five of those, cornerback Jerametrius Butler (79 tackles, 5 INT) will miss the 2005 season with a knee injury. That places pressure on third-year player DeJuan Groce (29 tackles) and 2004 starter Travis Fisher (34 tackles, 1 INT) to pick up the slack. There are also concerns at safety, where three players that started last year - Aeneas Williams (46 tackles), Rich Coady (44 tackles), and Antuan Edwards (30 tackles) - have all departed. Slated to play free safety for the first time in his career is former Packer corner Michael Hawthorne (34 tackles with Green Bay). The holdover at strong safety is Adam Archuleta (88 tackles, 2 sacks), who played poorly while nursing a back injury last season. Three rookies - cornerback Ronald Bartell (2nd Round, Howard) and safeties O.J. Atogwe (3rd Round, Stanford) and Jerome Carter (4th Round, Florida State) - will be among the backups. Former Buccaneer Corey Ivy, converted wideout Mike Furrey, and one-time Lions starting corner Terry Fair were among the players competing for backup duties during the preseason. SPECIAL TEAMS: Kicker Jeff Wilkins (19-24 FG, 32-32 XP) is back for his ninth season as a Ram, but the team will have a new leg doing the punting. Sixth- round draft choice Reggie Hodges, who averaged 42.6 yards per boot as a senior at Ball State, takes over for Kevin Stemke (39.8 avg.). Arlen Harris (20.2 kickoff return avg.) was unspectacular on returns last year and could lose his job to Aveion Cason (22.1 avg.). Punt returner Shaun McDonald (4.8 avg.) had a challenge from former All-Pro return man Terry Fair during camp. New special teams coach Bob Ligashesky will be charged with turning around a Rams unit that ranked among the worst in the league in special teams defense last year. PROGNOSIS: The Rams needed desperately to upgrade the defense that was their undoing in 2004, but their offseason moves on that side of the ball elicited nothing but yawns. Coakley and Claiborne represent a small upgrade at linebacker but are well short of dominating, the secondary is going with largely unknown commodities, and the top sack man and team interception leader from a year ago will both be absent. Indeed, there is little to suggest that the defense will be improved at all. That puts plenty of pressure on the offense, and while there's no doubt that the team's skill players - Bulger, Jackson, Holt, and Bruce - are elite, the prospect of an aging and ailing offensive line holding up for 16 games is dim. St. Louis figures to hang around in the NFC West because it is the worst division in football, but anything more than another .500 finish will be a shock.
-09-02-2005 #2BobNWeave Guest
Re: St. Louis Rams 2005 Season Preview
Give me a break. Our defense will be better I think, our running game will be better. And we have a cupcake schedule IMO. That guy should be selling newspapers, not writing in them with that kind of an outlook. at best I see us 11-5, at worst I see the rams 9-7
-09-02-2005 #3STLRAMSFAN Guest
Re: St. Louis Rams 2005 Season Preview
Thats his opinion and opinions are like XXX holes every one has one. I just think his will backfire (opinion that is).
Last edited by STLRAMSFAN; -09-02-2005 at 04:46 PM.