Rams Team Report

By Jim Thomas
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

With a new head coach in place in Scott Linehan, as well as most of his staff, the next move is the restructuring of the personnel department, particularly in the area of pro personnel. The Rams are one of only four teams in the NFL which do not have a director of personnel. The lack of expertise in this area has shown in some of their free-agent moves in recent years -- not only in the signing of outside free agents, but also in deciding which of their own free agents to keep. Some detractors say the team relies too heavily on the Giddings independent scouting service in making its pro personnel decisions. The Rams have interviewed at least three candidates to add to their personnel department, most recently Clyde Powers of Indianapolis. But the club seems to be in no hurry, and any hire will be added too late to have much of an impact -- if any -- on the club's 2006 free agency moves.

PERSONNEL ANALYSIS: One of the major decisions facing Linehan as he prepares for his first season in St. Louis is what to do with WR Kevin Curtis. Is Curtis ready to start? Or is he better off staying as the No. 3 behind starting WRs Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce. Curtis flourished as a starter last season when Bruce missed five games with a dislocated toe, but was lost in the passing game once Bruce returned in an offense that struggled overall late in the season without Marc Bulger. Curtis wasn't as productive operating out of the slot as the No. 3 wideout. Bruce, who will enter his 13th NFL season, remains a productive player. He has a high cap number this year ($10 million) and is in the final year of his contract. Curtis' defense-stretching speed, and improved pass-catching abilities will make him attractive to other teams even as a restricted free agent. One thing playing in Curtis' favor: The new coaching staff. . . .

The 2006 season is shaping up as a make-or-break campaign for former first-round pick DT Jimmy Kennedy. Kennedy came out strong in 2005, his third NFL season, holding up strong against the run and registering the occasional sack. But his play tailed off noticeably after the first one-third of the season. He was eventually replaced in the starting lineup by Damione Lewis. Despite his overall quickness, Kennedy still has a tendency to stand around rather than firing off the ball. And he still needs to work on getting his pad level down to improve leverage. But in fairness to Kennedy, he finished out the season playing with a hernia. Kennedy didn't always respond well to the tough-love approach of defensive line coach Bill Kollar. But with Kollar now in Buffalo, Kennedy will get a fresh start with a new line coach.

HARD TRUTH: Try as they might, the Rams just can't seem to get the linebacker thing right. Over the past five seasons, beginning with the team's 2001 Super Bowl season, there have been nine primary starters at linebacker. Of that group, only Pisa Tinoisamoa has lasted more than two seasons as a starter - and he's made it just three. The problem predates the old defensive coordinator, Larry Marmie. For all of his strong qualities, Lovie Smith wasn't much of a talent evaluator at the position, either. It was Smith who decided not to re-sign London Fletcher, who's still productive for Buffalo, in favor of Jamie Duncan following the '01 season. New defensive coordinator Jim Haslett needs to have a vision of what he wants out of the still underachieving LB position. The staff needs to have the patience to stay with developing players; and the front office needs to step up at contract time.