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    Roster Overview and Draft Preview by Seth Doria (Analyst)

    NFL » NFC West » St Louis Rams
    Resurrecting the St. Louis Rams: Roster Overview and Draft Preview by Seth Doria (Analyst)
    April 14, 2009
    With the release last month of Orlando Pace and Torry Holt, the St. Louis Rams have finally and completely severed any ties to their glory days of 1999 to 2001. Of the 22 starters on offense and defense in the Super Bowl XXXVI loss to the New England Patriots, none will line up for the organization in 1999. In fact, if you looked up the 2001 Rams page on Pro-footballreference.com, you’ll see only one name still on the roster: defensive end Leonard Little.

    From Mike Martz to Joe Vitt to Scott Linehan to Jim Haslett.

    From 14-2 to 12-4 to 8-8 to 2-14.

    From champs to chumps.

    From the Greatest Show on Turf to same old sorry Lambs.

    The rise and fall of the St. Louis Rams over the past decade has been truly an amazing ride. But of course, we know all this. We’ve seen the highlights and lowlights and all the miserable nonsense in between. What you might not know is that from the ashes of the Greatest Show era will rise a new era of Rams football: Hard-nosed football; tough football; punch-you-in-your-face-with-a-smile football.

    Playoff football.

    It started with the death of former Rams owner Georgia Frontiere. Though a classy lady, Frontiere was never much about football. She handed the reins to trusted advisor John Shaw, who put his faith in General Manager Jay Zygmunt. And for as long as Georgia owned the team, Shaw and Zygmunt were kings of the castle. But when Frontiere passed last January, the free ride enjoyed by Shaw and Zygmunt was over. Her son, Chip Rosenbloom, became majority owner. Although Rosenbloom is far more Hollywood than Canton, he made the wise decision at the end of the 2008 season to move Shaw out of the football operations and gently shove Zygmunt out the door. Whether or not Rosenbloom and his sister, Lucia Rodriguez, eventually sell the team, their tenure as owners will be a successful one, thanks to their decision to finally hand control over the football team to a real football man, Billy Devaney.

    He learned the art of team building through two decades under Bobby Beathard in San Diego and Rich McKay in Atlanta.

    Devaney then selected former New York Giants head coach Steve Spagnuolo as head coach. A disciple of Jim Johnson’s blitzing scheme in Philadelphia, Spagnuolo’s defense racked up 95 sacks in his two years at the helm.

    They put the “1” in New England’s infamous “18-1” by harassing the living hell out of Tom Brady and the greatest offense in the history of the NFL.

    In 2008, the Giants’ defense ranked fifth in the league in total defense and scoring defense. While St. Louis was giving up 29.1 points and 379.2 yards per game, the Giants were giving up 18.4 and 292.

    But of course, Spagnuolo won’t be coaching Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka, and Antonio Pierce this year. Instead he’ll have Little, Adam Carriker, Chris Long, and Pisa Tinoisamoa.

    Devaney and Spagnuolo may bring with them exceptional pedigrees and reputations, but they’re going to need some players, on both sides of the ball, who can execute the game plan and put fear into opponents.

    The Offense

    Offensively, the Rams are just about starting over under new offensive coordinator Pat Shurmer (Eagles QB coach).

    St. Louis still has quarterback Marc Bulger and running back Steven Jackson, but the rest of the unit has a big old “UNDER CONSTRUCTION” sign taped over it.

    QB: Behind Bulger, the Rams made the wise decision to bring in Kyle Boller as a clear No. 2. Boller never became the player the Ravens thought he would become when they drafted him in the first round of the 2003 draft, but he does have 42 starts and 20 NFL wins on his resume.

    Unlike last year’s back-up, Trent Green, you could make the argument that Boller might still one day recover his status as a starting NFL quarterback.

    Would you want Boller as your starter? No. But he’s a solid guy to have on your roster if your injury-prone starting quarterback goes down again.

    Offensive Line: The Rams made a huge statement by signing former Ravens center Jason Brown to a five-year, $37.5 million contract containing $20 million in guarantees.

    The amount of guaranteed money is certainly enough to make you question the wisdom of the deal, but the Rams absolutely had to have Brown, a 25-year-old mauler at 6-foot-3 and 320 pounds.

    They still have questions at tackle (especially after releasing Pace) and need to see a lot more out of guards Jacob Bell, Roy Schuening, and Richie Incognito (if he’s even back next year), but Brown plugs the hole in the middle of the line.

    The old wisdom goes you build a team from the inside out, meaning you build the lines first. With Brown, the Rams now have one of the game’s best anchoring the foundation of their offense.

    WR: In releasing Holt, St. Louis cast aside a seven-time Pro Bowler with 869 career receptions for 12,660 yards and 74 touchdowns.

    In his absence, the Rams now have the following players at the position on the roster: Nate Jones, Travis Brown, Derek Stanley, Keenan Burton, Donnie Avery, Joel Filani and the recently added Laurent Robinson (acquired from Atlanta in exchange for swapping positions in the fifth and sixth rounds of the 2009 NFL Draft).

    Career totals: 114 catches for 1,454 yards and six touchdowns.

    The addition of Robinson didn’t make national headlines, but it’s the kind of move good teams make to improve themselves cheaply.

    Robinson, with 4.3 speed and impressive size at 6’2”, was a third-round pick just two years out of Illinois State and caught 37 balls as a rookie. The only rookie wide receivers that year with more were Dwayne Bowe, Calvin Johnson. and James Jones.

    Robinson missed most of last season with head and hamstring injuries and never had a chance to establish himself in the Matt Ryan-Mike Smith regime.

    But if he shows the same speed and ability to catch the ball that he displayed as a rookie in 2007, this could turn out to be a significant addition to the Rams offense at a great price.

    RB: With Jackson signed to a six-year, $44.805 million contract, the Rams’ needs at the position are limited to back-ups and special teamers. Currently on the roster are Antonio Pittman, Brian Leonard, Kenneth Darby, and Samkon Gado. All are under 27 years old.

    With all the needs on the roster, this isn’t a position of huge need for the Rams (especially not after signing FB Mike Karney).

    That’s not to say they should ignore any great values that pop up in the draft, but they’d be better off trying to make the most out of what they have (Leonard in particular) than trying to add a bunch of other guys to the mix.

    TE: If we can use the Eagles offense as a barometer for what Shurmer plans for the St. Louis offense, the tight end figures to play a prominent role.

    Randy McMichael was supposed to be the perfect fit for Al Saunders’ offense, but an injury forced him to Injured Reserve after just 11 catches in four games.

    With $3.6 million left to be earned in the final year of his deal, there still remains a chance the Rams could cut ties, leaving them with just Joe Klopfenstein and Daniel Fells at the position.

    Whether or not the Rams cut McMichael, all three tight ends currently on the roster have deals that expire after the 2009 season.

    St. Louis would be well served to take a look at somebody like Missouri’s Chase Coffman or Wisconsin’s Travis Beckum in April’s draft.

    The Defense

    While the numbers indicate a unit completely lacking any talent, the Rams defense was better than that in 2008.

    They do have some talent. It just wasn’t enough. Not by a long shot.

    Defensive line: Over the last eight drafts, the Rams have selected five defensive linemen in the first round: Damione Lewis and Ryan Pickett in 2001, Jimmy Kennedy in 2003, Adam Carriker in 2007, and Chris Long last year.

    Without passing judgment on Carriker and Long before we have to, that’s not exactly a great record.

    With the top six defensive linemen back (Carriker, Long, Little, DT Clifton Ryan, DEs James Hall and Victor Adeyanju) the biggest difference between the 2008 Rams d-line and the 2009 version will be coaching and scheme.

    Perhaps they add somebody like USC’s Fili Moala or Richmond’s Lawrence Sidbury Jr., but the majority of the 2009 Rams defensive line is already in place.

    It’ll be up to Spagnuolo and new defensive coordinator Ken Flajole (formerly the Panthers LB coach) to get the most of what they have.

    LB: There’s some serious work to be done here. Will Witherspoon is a quality player and should benefit from reuniting with his old position coach in Flajole. But beyond Witherspoon, there are questions. Tinoisamoa has a much better reputation than he has statistical output. Quinton Culberson, an undrafted free agent out of Mississippi State in 2007, has shown some flashes of competence, but hasn’t yet been tested over a full season. Chris Draft is entering his 12th season and is on his fifth franchise. David Vobora may be more than his Mr. Irrelevant status from the 2008 draft would indicate, but if the Rams are depending on him, they’ve got issues.

    St. Louis will have an interesting decision in the draft. With Detroit expected to decide between Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford and Baylor offensive tackle Jason Smith, the Rams, in all likelihood, will have the right to select Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry, widely considered the best defensive player in the draft. So the question for the Rams will be whether to bolster the offensive line, which they absolutely have to do, with Smith or Virginia tackle Eugene Monroe, or plug in a stalwart middle linebacker to anchor the defense for the next decade. I’m sure there will be some spirited debates at Rams Park over which way to go.

    DB: There’s actually a lot to like here. The Rams franchised free safety O.J Atogwe and signed corner Ron Bartell to a new four-year contract worth $25 million. Then they want out and signed former Giants strong safety James Butler to a four-year, $14 million contract.

    Unfortunately, three players does not a defensive backfield make. There should be a spirited competition in camp between Jonathan Wade, Tye Hill and 2008 second-round pick Justin King for the second starting corner spot and the nickel role. And there’s no real depth to speak of behind Atogwe and Butler at safety.

    Don’t be surprised to see several draft picks devoted to defensive backs to develop depth and hopefully identify a solid second starting option at corner opposite Bartell (Utah’s Sean Smith fits as a developmental guy with a great size/speed combination).

    Special Teams

    As far as kicking and punting goes, the Rams are covered. Kicker Josh Brown and punter Donnie Jones are two of the best at their position and signed for several years to come.

    As far as kick-off and punt returns and coverage, there’s work to be done. St. Louis ranked 22nd in the league in kick-off returns at 22 yards per return. They ranked 21st in punt return average at 8.4 yards per return. Meanwhile, they allowed 26.2 yards per kick-off return and 10.4 yards per punt return.

    You can be sure the Rams will continue to build their roster with improving the return and coverage units in mind.

    The Draft

    The Rams have just one pick in each round, so they’re going to have to make the most of their opportunities. I can see the logic in going with Curry with the second overall pick.
    And I’ve seen some compelling arguments toward them selecting Texas Tech receiver Michael Crabtree to replace the departed Holt as Bulger’s go-to guy.

    But there are certain times in building a team that you have to separate what you would like to have and what you absolutely have to have. They can get by with their current stable of receivers.

    And they can get by with their current set of linebackers. But they stand no chance in hell of competing in the NFC West if they don’t improve their blocking up front. Everything they’re planning on offense relies first and foremost on the offensive line's ability to hold up at the point of attack. Bulger has to have time to throw the ball and Jackson needs to be able to take a handoff without a defensive end crashing into his face.

    They have to take a tackle, either Smith from Baylor or Monroe from Virginia. There’s just no other choice. As for the rest of the draft, they should use their second-round pick (No. 35 overall) on a linebacker.

    The way things are shaping up, Ohio State ILB James Laurinaitis could very well be on the board. He would bring the right kind of skill set and attitude to what Spagnuolo is trying to build.

    In the third (No. 66), they could look to build the secondary with somebody like safety Patrick Chung (Oregon), or, if he’s not available, Utah’s Smith.

    In the fourth (No. 103), the Rams would do well to address the future of the tight end position. Beckum or Coffman would provide good value there.

    In the fifth (No. 160), it’s time to build up some depth on the o-line with LSU’s mammoth guard Herman Johnson.

    n the sixth (No. 196), they could take a flier on 6’6” receiver Ramses Barden out of Cal Poly.

    And in the seventh (No. 211), build something for the future at QB with somebody like Ball State’s Nate Davis or Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell.

    2009 Outlook

    The worst thing you can do in the NFL is assume that what you saw in Week 17 the prior season is what you’re going to see in Week One the next. Things change. And with the addition of Devaney and Spagnuolo, things look to be changing for the better in St. Louis.

    Depending on how many holes the Rams cal fill in the draft and with post-draft free agents, St. Louis should be able to compete in an NFC West full of holes and question marks.

    Let’s face it: When the Arizona Cardinals are your defending division champs, everybody has a chance.
    Last edited by MauiRam; -04-16-2009 at 02:46 PM.


  2. #2
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    Re: Roster Overview and Draft Preview by Seth Doria (Analyst)

    What?
    Did he do any research to suggest that barden will be there in the 6th???
    MAYBE the fourth.
    I don't see the tight end logic either. There are bigger needs to address.

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    MauiRam's Avatar
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    Re: Roster Overview and Draft Preview by Seth Doria (Analyst)

    Quote Originally Posted by jbell15 View Post
    What?
    Did he do any research to suggest that barden will be there in the 6th???
    MAYBE the fourth.
    I don't see the tight end logic either. There are bigger needs to address.
    Seems like Barden will not be there in rd 6. Agreed on the TE logic, as we do have more pressing needs. Also I believe we will retain Randy McMichael for another year if he is healthy. I don't believe Laurinaitis will be there for us in rd 2 either. Seth's overall Rams analysis is pretty much on the money though ..

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    C-Mob 71's Avatar
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    Re: Roster Overview and Draft Preview by Seth Doria (Analyst)

    I really, really, really enjoyed this read...up until the bold italicized part

    I was thinking man, finally a guy who knows something more about the Rams then the fact that they just released the great Orlando. About time someone recognized the talent on our defense. He knows we don't need no stinking rookie QB. Then BAM! just like every other analyst he completely sucked up his article by totally ignoring Alex Barron and the fact you don't draft RIGHT tackles at number two overall.

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    MauiRam's Avatar
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    Re: Roster Overview and Draft Preview by Seth Doria (Analyst)

    Quote Originally Posted by C-Mob 71 View Post
    I really, really, really enjoyed this read...up until the bold italicized part

    I was thinking man, finally a guy who knows something more about the Rams then the fact that they just released the great Orlando. About time someone recognized the talent on our defense. He knows we don't need no stinking rookie QB. Then BAM! just like every other analyst he completely sucked up his article by totally ignoring Alex Barron and the fact you don't draft RIGHT tackles at number two overall.
    Where did he state we should take a right tackle at #2 overall? He said we need to draft either Smith or Munroe .. Both players project to left tackle at the next level. Sure they could fill in at RT if need be. but they'll both be drafted to play on the left side ...

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    Re: Roster Overview and Draft Preview by Seth Doria (Analyst)

    Quote Originally Posted by jbell15 View Post
    What?
    Did he do any research to suggest that barden will be there in the 6th???
    MAYBE the fourth.
    I don't see the tight end logic either. There are bigger needs to address.
    I also don't see the secondary logic either.

    We need to stay focused on the O-line and the front 7 on defense. QB and possibly a WR or RB in the later rounds are worth a look at depending on how or who in draft in rounds 1-4.

    Overall a very good article though.

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    Re: Roster Overview and Draft Preview by Seth Doria (Analyst)

    Quote Originally Posted by C-Mob 71 View Post
    I really, really, really enjoyed this read...up until the bold italicized part

    I was thinking man, finally a guy who knows something more about the Rams then the fact that they just released the great Orlando. About time someone recognized the talent on our defense. He knows we don't need no stinking rookie QB. Then BAM! just like every other analyst he completely sucked up his article by totally ignoring Alex Barron and the fact you don't draft RIGHT tackles at number two overall.
    Shouldn't you AVY be Barron and Curry hugging each other?

    In all seriousness Barron at LT is just a terrifying thought, and i don't think he has the attitude the new regime is looking for, If we draft a OT in the first round (which is the smart thing) then Barron will be at RT until next year when he is not retained and we will find a RT in that years draft, or draft one this year and let him develop for a year.

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    MauiRam's Avatar
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    Re: Roster Overview and Draft Preview by Seth Doria (Analyst)

    Quote Originally Posted by CanadianRamsFan View Post
    In all seriousness Barron at LT is just a terrifying thought, and i don't think he has the attitude the new regime is looking for, If we draft a OT in the first round (which is the smart thing) then Barron will be at RT until next year when he is not retained and we will find a RT in that years draft, or draft one this year and let him develop for a year.
    Barron on the left side isn't terrifying to me. He actually played ok over there when Pace got hurt. Having said that, I agree that he likely doesn't have the attitude Billy and Spags prefer. But it is what it is and he's under contract for another year. Alex can play either side, and say what you will about him, he has been durable. I am really hoping the Lions take Stafford, so that Smith and Munroe are both there when the Rams pick. I am really curious which player of the two Billy and Spags prefer. Vulgar curiosity I suppose, especially with all the debate here on the ClanRam board as to our 1st rd pick.

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