NOTES, QUOTES

—New coach Steve Spagnuolo made his first two hires with the addition of Pat Shurmur as offensive coordinator and Ken Flajole as defensive coordinator.

Shurmur was an assistant with the Eagles since 1999, and spent the last seven seasons as quarterbacks coach. His uncle, Fritz Shurmur, was a Rams assistant and defensive coordinator from 1982-90.

Flajole has been Carolina's linebackers coach since 2003. He and Spagnuolo don't have a coaching connection, but Flajole and Eagles coach Andy Reid were assistants together at the University of Missouri from 1989-91.

Spagnuolo also received permission to talk with Vikings special teams coach Paul Ferraro. They were teammates at Springfield College in 1980 and '81, and were on the same staff at Massachusetts in 1982 and at Bowling Green in 1996 and '97. Ferraro was with Carolina in 2005 at the same time as Flajole.

Interviewed as a potential defensive line coach was Randy Melvin, who has been with the Browns since 2005.

—General manager Bill Devaney and Spagnuolo have connections from earlier in their careers.

Devaney was a scout with Washington in 1983 when Spagnuolo was getting his feet wet as an intern in the player personnel department.

Ten years later, Spagnuolo was with the Chargers as a scout when Devaney was the club's player personnel director.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "St. Louis has treated me well, giving me the opportunity to play and I am always going to be appreciative of that. Whatever happens, that is in God's hands and I am not really fretting over it. I feel like I am going to be where I'm supposed to be this next year." — FS Oshiomogho Atogwe, commenting on his impending free agency. Atogwe is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent Feb. 27.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

UNIT-BY-UNIT ANALYSIS

QUARTERBACK: Starter — Marc Bulger. Backups — Trent Green, Brock Berlin.

All indications are that Bulger, despite a season of struggles, will return as the starter in 2009. However, it's also possible the Rams will explore signing a different backup and that Green won't be back. It also appears likely that a young quarterback could be brought in to develop behind Bulger. Berlin has shown progress, and could remain in the mix as the No. 3 quarterback.

RUNNING BACKS: Starter — Steven Jackson. Backups — Kenneth Darby, Antonio Pittman, Travis Minor. Injured reserve — Brian Leonard.

Jackson held out for 27 days, and then missed several games because of a groin injury. He went over 1,000 yards in the final game of the season, and showed how different the team is when he plays. However, it's clear the offense needs a better backup because 2007 second-round pick Leonard is not the answer, nor is Pittman, who showed flashes, but not consistency. Darby was a find as a slasher-type back, and showed ability as a receiver. He could be a solid third-down back. Minor might have reached the end of the line with the Rams. There were no true fullbacks on the roster at the end of the season. Finding a true fullback is a necessity.

TIGHT ENDS: Starter — Joe Klopfenstein. Backups — Anthony Becht, Daniel Fells. Injured reserve — Randy McMichael.

The loss of McMichael in the fourth game of the season sabotaged offensive coordinator Al Saunders' plans for the offense, but he is expected back in 2009. Klopfenstein has done little since being selected in the second round of the 2006 draft. Becht was signed as a blocker, but was only adequate. Fells showed some potential after being signed off Tampa Bay's practice squad, and got in some time at the end of the season at fullback.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters — Torry Holt, Donnie Avery. Backups — Keenan Burton, Dane Looker. Injured reserve — Drew Bennett, Dante Hall, Derek Stanley.

The big question is whether Holt will be back for the final season of his contract at a cost of about $8 million. He wasn't happy with his role in the offense, but he could become enthused again depending on what happens with the offense. Avery made great strides in his rookie year, although the big plays he made early weren't happening at the end of the season, partly because of a hip injury that bothered him most of the season. Burton learned a lot but also produced little, and needs the offseason to get his knee right. Looker's versatility is always a plus. It's unlikely that Hall will be back, and perhaps Bennett if the Rams want to eat some dead money on the salary cap. He was injured early in the first game of the season and didn't play again. Stanley was showing some development when he tore the ACL in his knee in the 14th game of the season. The question is when his recovery will be complete after surgery.

OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters — LT Orlando Pace, LG Jacob Bell, C Brett Romberg, RG Richie Incognito, RT Alex Barron. Backups — G/T Adam Goldberg, G John Greco, G Roy Schuening, T Anthony Davis, C Cory Withrow. Injured reserve — C Nick Leckey, G Mark Setterstrom, T Brandon Gorin, T Rob Petitti.

Pace isn't what he once was, but he's still good enough to anchor the line. Bell couldn't overcome a persistent hamstring problem that affected him early, and then at the end of the season just when he was starting to play. There has been talk of moving him to tackle, but he would have to add some weight. Romberg lost his starting job to Leckey in the preseason and didn't play much until Leckey suffered a broken foot in pregame warmups against Chicago. Incognito has ability, but has to reduce the bad penalties. Barron lacks passion, and entering the final season of his contract, might not be around if a replacement can be found. Goldberg is a versatile backup that started seven games at four different positions. Greco is being groomed to start, and Schuening is a good prospect who was active for just one game. The most disappointing development was when Setterstrom was injured in training camp and missed the entire season. That came after he was injured in Week 3 in 2007. Coaches don't know if they can count on him. Leckey is an overachiever that started 10 games, but the team needs an upgrade at center.

DEFENSIVE LINE: Starters — DLE Victor Adeyanju, DT Adam Carriker, NT Clifton Ryan, DRE Chris Long. Backups — E Leonard Little, E James Hall, E Eric Moore, T La'Roi Glover, T Antwon Burton.

Little is probably as important to the team's defense as Jackson is to the offense. When healthy for three games early in the season, he had 4.5 sacks. But he did little in the rest of the games after injuring his hamstring in the season opener, then playing the second half of the season with the hamstring torn. Adeyanju was solid, but is not a natural pass rusher. Long showed progress as a rookie, and will be expected to pick his game up even more in 2009. Carriker was bothered most of the season by an ankle injury, and also had shoulder issues. Ryan is inconsistent, but there is no real backup nose tackle on the roster. Glover is contemplating retirement.

LINEBACKERS: Starters — WLB Pisa Tinoisamoa, MLB Will Witherspoon, SLB Quinton Culberson. Backups - OLB Chris Draft, OLB Chris Chamberlain, MLB David Vobora, MLB Larry Grant. Injured reserve — OLB Gary Stills.

Witherspoon, who had a Pro Bowl caliber season in 2007, struggled all season with a shoulder injury, and was scheduled for offseason surgery. Tinoisamoa finally had an injury-free season, and was solid, but had trouble at times fighting off blockers. Culberson began the season as a starter, but was average at best. The Rams played their best games when Draft started on the strong side, but he then missed five games because of a broken bone in his foot, and then started in the middle because of Witherspoon's injury. Chamberlain and Vobora were rookies who still have a lot to learn. Stills' contributions were solely on special teams.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters — LCB Ron Bartell, FS Oshiomogho Atogwe, SS Todd Johnson, RCB Fakhir Brown. Backups — CB Jonathan Wade, CB Jason Craft, CB Quincy Butler, S Corey Chavous, S Eric Bassey, S David Roach. Injured reserve — CB Tye Hill, CB Ricky Manning Jr., CB Justin King.

Bartell was arguably the team's best defensive player. He was consistent all season, and is developing into a very good cover corner. Scheduled to become a free agent on Feb. 27, he is a priority for the Rams to re-sign. Brown is solid, but will be 32 next season. He might not be in the team's plans. Wade started the season finale with Brown out because of an ankle injury, and was OK. He has the ability, but has struggled to be consistent. A big loss was a toe injury suffered by the rookie King in training camp. He was making a move on the depth chart when the injured occurred in the first preseason game. Craft played well in several roles, necessitated by injuries to Hill and Manning. Hill has had two injury-filled seasons and lost confidence when he did play at the beginning of the 2008 season. Atogwe was once again a major playmaker in the secondary with interceptions and forced fumbles. He is also a priority to re-sign in the offseason. Johnson replaced Chavous as the starter late in the season, but wasn't much better. The position needs major improvement.

SPECIAL TEAMS: PK Josh Brown, P Donnie Jones, LS Chris Massey.

This was the strength of the team. Brown had some rough moments, but was consistent all season as was Jones. He became the second player in history to average 50 yards a punt. Massey continues as a long snapper that rarely, if ever, has a bad snap.