Rams Team Report
April 8, 2008
For Sporting News
PERSONNEL ANALYSIS: The addition of free agent Anthony Becht (Tampa Bay) gives the Rams their best blocking tight end since Brandon Manumaleuna. At 6-5, 280, Becht is almost as big as an offensive lineman, and should help Steven Jackson and the running game. He will be used almost entirely as an in-line blocker in two-tight end sets but still has value as a pass receiver, particularly in the short area and the red zone. . . .
Although he missed the first week of the team's offseason conditioning program because of a prearranged trip, quarterback Marc Bulger has been around Rams Park for much of the offseason, working out and getting reacquainted with new offensive coordinator Al Saunders. Bulger is determined to put the worst season of his career (2007) in the rearview mirror as quickly as possible, and his extra work at Rams Park is another example that Bulger is trying to assert more leadership on the club.
HARD TRUTH: With pressing needs at defensive end, wide receiver, cornerback and offensive tackle, and free agency all but over, nothing short of the best draft in franchise history will immediately fill or upgrade some holes on the roster. What that means is that the Rams need to count on better health, improved play, and increased production from returning players if they are to make a noticeable jump forward from last season's 3-13 disaster.
A healthy Orlando Pace at left tackle will solve many problems on the offensive line, although even under that scenario the team would need a reliable No. 3 tackle. Better health and better sack production from defensive ends Leonard Little and James Hall will makes the defensive line a lot better.
SCOUTING REPORT: There has been no more reliable or consistent wide receiver in the entire NFL this decade than Torry Holt. At age 31, Holt remains in his prime, but what may be a chronic knee problem could rob him of the acceleration skills, the subtle extra gear that has made Holt an underrated deep threat over the years.
Even with the knee problems, Holt's competitiveness, excellent hands, and precise route-running make him one of the league's elite pass catchers. Under Saunders, Holt -- and the entire Rams' receiving corps -- will be asked to provide more yards after catch, something that has been lacking the past couple of years.
OFFENSIVE ADJUSTMENTS: Under Saunders, the Rams will return to the terminology used under former head coach Mike Martz. Saunders was an assistant under Martz during the Greatest Show on Turf days at the turn of the century, and took the basics of that offense with him to Kansas City, and then Washington.
For veterans such as Bulger and Holt, the adjustment will be relatively painless. But for the rest of the team, there will be a substantial learning curve, because the number of players still around from Martz's tenure is ever dwindling.
Saunders likes to use all areas of the field in the passing game, which means more shifting and motion. Even though the system is basically the same as Martz's, Saunders places more emphasis on the running game.