Thursday, Jul. 27 2006

Starting point

Long before the Rams get to Sept. 10, and the season opener against Denver, new
head coach Scott Linehan must sell himself, his playbook and his program to the
players. If the veterans buy in, everything else should follow smoothly. If
not, there will be bumps in the road. For openers, Linehan has promised a
physical training camp with plenty of contact.

The corner market

The secondary was just short of horrendous in 2005. But Jerametrius Butler and
Travis Fisher are healthy and ready to re-establish themselves. First-round
pick Tye Hill and free-agent Fakhir Brown will compete for a starting job, with
DeJuan Groce and Ron Bartell in the mix.

Interior designs

Richie Incognito, who hasn't played in a game since 2003 at Nebraska, will
attempt to unseat Claude Terrell at left guard. Incognito looks the part, but
can he shake off three years of rust? But if Terrell shows enough, Incognito
could push the Donut Bros. - Andy McCollum at center and Adam Timmerman at
right guard.

Hello, Haslett

After six seasons as head coach in New Orleans, Jim Haslett comes to St. Louis
as defensive coordinator. Can the colorful Haslett handle playing second fiddle
to Linehan? More important, can he revive a defense that plummeted the past two
seasons under the guidance of the overmatched Larry Marmie?

Life after Brandon

Brandon Manumaleuna showed little interest in Linehan's offseason conditioning
program, so Linehan dumped him in favor of draft picks Joe Klopfenstein and
Dominque Byrd. The rookies will be thrown into action right away.

Not-so-special teams

Other than the normally excellent work by kicker Jeff Wilkins, this unit has
been a sore spot for years. Matt Turk and Andy Groom will battle at punter.
There are plenty of candidates but few clear-cut answers in the return game.

Bulger & Co.

Head coaches love to bring in their own backup QBs. Gus Frerotte, who started
for Linehan last season in Miami, is the new backup. Dave Ragone, who played
for Linehan in college at Louisville, will battle Ryan Fitzpatrick for No. 3.