|All team reports|
2010 Team Report: St. Louis Rams
QuarterbacksStarter: Sam Bradford (R)
Backup(s): A.J. Feeley, Keith Null, Thaddeus Lewis (R) Starting QB: We could spend reams of virtual paper discussing how bad the St. Louis passing game was in 2009 - 28th in yards, 30th in touchdowns, 4th in INTs (wait...that's not a stat you want to have a lot of), and 31st in yards per attempt. But let's just stop there. After all, the Rams have moved on, so we shall too. Out is Marc Bulger. In is Sam Bradford. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft is the new face of the franchise. Bradford is excellent in many areas (including accuracy, quick release, decision-making, leadership, and productivity) and good in almost every other area. The two main concerns around him are his low delivery of the ball (which allows defensive linemen more chances to bat the pass down) and a penchant for holding onto the ball too long (which, of course, allows defensive linemen more chances to knock the snot out of him. All in all, this is now Bradford's team, so he will be on the field when healthy. Like most rookies, there will be growing pains, but Bradford is also good enough to have a few games where he looks pretty good. Backup QB: While head coach Steve Spagnuolo claims A.J. Feeley would start for the team if there was a game today, let's get real. If Sam Bradford is the Week 1 guy, then this team is in more trouble than we thought. Feeley was once thought of as a possible up-and-coming player and even started over half a season for the Dolphins. Of course, that was in 2004, and he hasn't even thrown a pass since 2007. Keith Null was forced to start four games last year, but he was clearly overmatched (one five-INT game and one with three picks). Thaddeus Lewis was a four-year starter for the Duke Blue Devils, but he wasn't even drafted and looks destined for the practice squad at best.
Running BacksStarter: Steven Jackson
Backup(s): Chris Ogbonnaya, Ken Darby
Fullback(s): Mike Karney, Chris Massey Starting RB: Steven Jackson has lived a tough NFL life. He seems to always have an injury of some sort and always seems to lose. According to our Chase Stuart, Jackson has the second-worst record of any back with at least 5,000 career rushing yards. That absolutely has to weigh on him week after week. Still, Jackson rushed for over 1,400 yards last year (second-highest in the NFL), despite constantly battling injury. With such a high yardage total (he also had 322 receiving yards), one would expect Jackson to finish among the fantasy elite. Unfortunately, he only scored four times and was barely able to sneak into the Top 10. Simply put - the Rams offense was too inept to allow Jackson ample opportunities to cross the goalline. Looking at Jackson's career, there was one season where he performed as a top-tier fantasy back - 2006. That also was the only season of his career as a starter where the Rams didn't have a losing record. It's a bummer for Jackson, but the Rams don't look like a winning team this year either. Backup RBs: Chris Ogbonnaya spent most of 2009 on the practice squad, but he did get on the field for two games. He is still a little bit too slow, but he looks to be the team's change-of-pace backup to Steven Jackson. Even in that role, Ogbonnaya won't get more than a few carries per game as long as Jackson is healthy. If Jackson were to miss a game due to injury, Ken Darby's role would increase dramatically. He has more speed than Ogbonnaya and would be better suited for the starting role. Darby might even be worth starting if he was facing a poor rushing defense. Of course, neither back would be fully capable of replacing Jackson. Fullback: Mike Karney is a solid blocking fullback, and that's about it. While he has seven career scores, he was kept out of the endzone last season. Chris Massey is the team's longsnapper and will only see significant action in the offense if Karney is ailing.
Wide ReceiversStarters: Donnie Avery, Laurent Robinson
Backups: Brandon Gibson, Mardy Gilyard (R), Keenan Burton, Danny Amendola (PR) Starting WRs: The 2009 season was pretty much a wash for Donnie Avery. After a promising rookie campaign, the Rams jettisoned Torry Holt and expect Avery to slide in as their No. 1 receiver. Injuries got in the way as Avery was constantly battling one ailment after another. He suffered a stress fracture in the preseason but was able to play opening week. He then experienced injuries to his ribs, hamstring, hip, shoulder, and thigh only to cap the season with a Week 17 concussion. Of course, his stats were disappointing, but that is understandable after examining his health. Now back to 100%, he has reassumed the label of No. 1 receiver. He certainly has the talent to fill that role. The other starting job will be a battle between Laurent Robinson and Brandon Gibson (with the loser dropping to the WR4 spot. Robinson good athleticism and speed, but he needs to become a more consistent performer. He won the job last season but suffered a broken leg and sprained ankle in Week 3. He was recently cleared to practice and should once again claim the starting job. Backup WRs: Brandon Gibson will compete with Laurent Robinson for the WR2 position. The expectation is that a healthy Robinson will get the nod. Gibson has enough quickness to create some openings, but he lacks the top-line speed necessary to be a viable starting option. Mardy Gilyard looks like a lock for the slot receiver job. The 4th-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft is a dynamic, open-field player and adds explosiveness to the position. Keenan Burton had a few solid games in 2009 before missing about half the season with a knee injury. He is a nice reserve receiver. Danny Amendola has good hands and runs solid routes. After injuries decimated the receiving corps in 2009, Amendola filled in admirably. However, he lacks speed and quickness, and the Rams would prefer not to need him to play a large role in the offense.
Tight EndsStarters: Daniel Fells
Backups: Fendi Onobun (R), Billy Bajema, Michael Hoomanawanui (R) Daniel Fells was a parttime player in 2009, but he put up some decent numbers nonetheless. Playing behind Randy McMichael, Fells had a few productive games and ended the season with a trio of touchdowns. The third-year player may have his growth stunted a bit with a rookie under center, but Fells should be the recipient of a steady amount of targets. Billy Bajema more than doubled his career numbers last season with eight catches for 94 yards. Yep - he's a blocking tight end. Despite being taken after fellow rookie Michael Hoomanawanui, Fendi Onobun is a better fantasy option. While extremely raw, Onobun is a former basketball player and is a nice dynasty prospect. Hoomanawanui, on the other hand, will be on the field to block. Should Fells fall, Onobun could become the team's primary receiving tight end. Of course, that's not to say he'll be fantasy relevant, because this team will struggle to produce consistently.
Place KickerJosh Brown : Brown got plenty of field goal opportunities in his first year with the Rams in 2008, going 31 of 36 (86.1%) on field goals. Opportunities decreased last year, as he hit 19 of 24 (79.2%). He has the leg to hit long field goals, as evidenced the last five years by going 23 of 33 from 50+ yards. He has hit a 54+ yard field goal every year of his seven years in the NFL. The Rams have ranked in the bottom third of the NFL in kickers scoring the past three years (26th, 21st, and 31st).
Kick and Punt ReturnersKick Returners: Danny Amendola, Mardy Gilyard, Kenneth Darby, Donnie Avery, Keenan Burton, Justin King, Chris Ogbonnaya The Rams finally found stability in the return game last year when they signed WR Danny Amendola after week two. He led the NFL in total kickoff return yardage (66 returns, 24.5 avg.). Nonetheless, he'll have to battle a rookie to keep the job. Fourth round draft pick WR Mardy Gilyard averaged 30.5 yards on kickoff returns for Cincinnati last year and scored twice. RB Kenneth Darby could again serve as a backup (4 returns, 13.5 avg. last year). WR Donnie Avery averaged 28.3 yards and scored once for Houston in 2007. He had one 19 yard return for the Rams last year. WR Keenan Burton averaged 24.3 yards on 28 returns for Kentucky in 2007. CB Justin King returned several kickoffs during his freshman year at Penn State. RB Chris Ogbonnaya had several kickoff returns for Texas in 2007. Punt Returners: Danny Amendola, Mardy Gilyard, Quincy Butler, David Roach Danny Amendola ranked 7th in the NFL in total punt return yardage (31 returns, 11.6 avg.). Combining that with his kickoff returns, he ended up as the 2nd ranked fantasy returner for the year. Meanwhile his challenger, Mardy Gilyard, was productive as a senior last year, averaging 12.6 yards on punt returns and scoring once. Although he didn't do much with two returns last year (no gain and a two yard loss), CQ Quincy Butler should again serve as a backup. FS David Roach had no gain on his one punt return last year. After finishing 19th in fantasy returns in 2008, the Rams climbed to 8th last year.
Offensive LineProjected Starters: LT Alex Barron, LG Jacob Bell, C Jason Brown, RG Hank Fraley, RT Rodger Staffold (R)
Key Backups: T Adam Goldberg, T Eric Young, G Mark Lewis, G John Greco The Rams drafted tackle Rodger Staffold from Indiana with the first pick in the second round, and he'll be given every chance to start in 2010. However, the Rams may let him develop for some time before inserting him as they do have a couple of capable tackles on the roster. Alex Barron hasn't officially signed but the restricted free agent is expected to soon. He'll likely start at left tackle as he did last season. He did start all sixteen games last year but was below average in all aspects of his game and if he doesn't improve early on this season, he may find himself riding the pine. Adam Goldberg actually did a decent job at right tackle in eleven starts last season and he may be able to hold off rookie Staffold this season. Jacob Bell did a decent job at left guard last season in his thirteen starts and will be back as the starter. Hank Fraley was brought in via free agency to start at right guard this season. While his best years are behind him, he is still an upgrade at the position for the Rams. At center, Jason Brown is a very good pass blocker but struggles in the running game. He is an average talent with limited upside. Overall, this unit will likely continue to struggle this season unless players such as Barron and Bell can elevate their play and/or rookie Staffold becomes a force.
Defensive LineStarters: Chris Long DE, James Hall DE, Fred Robbins DT, Clifton Ryan DT
Backups: Victor Adeyanju DE, C.J. Ah You DE, Hall Davis DE (R), George Selvie DE (R), Eugene Sims DE (R), Darell Scott DT, Gary Gibson DT Starting DL: The Rams were 31st in scoring defense (27.3), and the problems started up front, with an inability to pressure the QB, as evidenced by finishing 30th in sacks (25). Aging ex-Pro Bowler Leonard Little has been alarmingly breaking down, and could return in a situational capacity, but may also retire (or sign with another team). The jury is still out on whether 2008 second overall pick Long's Hall of Fame bloodlines will translate to becoming a good or great NFL player (9 sacks in his first two seasons stacks up fairly well historically with some other high pedigree young DEs before they emerged). His career arc and trajectory could unfold similarly to fellow Virginia alum and recently retired SEA DE Patrick Kerney, who had just 5 sacks in his first two years combined, than went on to become a Pro Bowl caliber edge rusher (with 10+ sacks in four of his remaining nine seasons). Long was a collegiate 3-4 DE learning his second pro scheme in as many years, but returns to his more natural LDE role, and could be poised on the threshold of a breakout (four of his five sacks in the second half of the season). Hall is one of the few remaining 30+ year old players after an overdue roster purging of aging, declining vets in HC Steve Spagnuolo's rookie campaign. While he may not be relegated to a strictly pass rushing specialist role, the DC may decide to limit his snap count on early downs. Free agent Robbins (also 30+) lends experience, girth/mass, familiarity with Spag's system from their stint together with the Giants, and could help stabilize and make stouter the STL interior run defense. Ryan could have upside entering his fourth year. Backup DL: Adeyanju has a situational role in a thin DE positional group (outside of Long). He is a try hard guy who gets by more on effort than talent, and is better against the run, with limited pass rush skills. Ah You is another returning vet in the rotation. The good news and bad news is that the Rams took three DEs, but they came late, in the fifth, sixth and seventh rounds (possibly according to the... throw enough stuff at the wall and something might stick principle). Of the three, Davis (LA - Lafayette) may have the best chance of not only being on the final roster but making the earliest contribution. The fifth rounder not only has the highest pedigree, but is a former hoops player with an intriguing blend of size (6'4", 270 lbs.), athleticism and upside. Sixth rounder Sims could face the longest odds of sticking. Selvie (seventh round South Florida teammate of third round CB Jerome Murphy) was at one time earlier in his career viewed as a potential first round talent, but between constant double and triple teams and a less than stellar showing in the testing phase, nearly fell off the grid in the scouting community. The Rams are reportedly high on the development of second year interior DL Scott. Gibson will also be in the mix (he shined in camp last offseason).
LinebackersStarters: Bobby Carpenter WLB, James Laurinaitis MLB, Na'il Diggs SLB
Backups: David Vobora S/M/W, Chris Chamberlain WLB, Larry Grant SLB, Josh Hull MLB (R) Starting LBs: The Rams barely escaped a bottom five rush defense (27th - 2,200+ yards) and were gouged for a league worst-tying 24 rushing TDs (with the Raiders). Unsurprisingly, several changes were made. After the 2009 in-season trade of former MLB/WLB Will Witherspoon to the Eagles (since released and signed by the Titans), along with the offseason acquisitions of veteran OLBs Na'il Diggs via free agency and Bobby Carpenter through trade, the stop unit's second level has undergone a dramatic transformation and sports a distinctly Ohio State-themed makeover. They will flank fellow alum and outstanding 2009 high second round MLB James Laurinaitis (100+ solos - top 5, 2 sacks, 2 INTs & 1 FF), comprising an all-Buckeye LB troika. Whatever he may lack in elite triangle numbers and measurables (contributing to Laurinaitis fortuitously escaping the first stanza and falling into the Rams laps), he more than compensates for with an off-the-charts work ethic, football smarts and leadership intangibles, as well as exceptional instincts, first step quickness and the uncanny ability to flow quickly to the ball by avoiding false steps. He capably filled what had been a chronic and longstanding positional void for the franchise (since the fateful and disastrous failure to retain London Fletcher), and should get nothing but better. Ex-Packer/Panther Diggs (another 30+ import) is a stopgap-level talent at this point, but adds experience, savvy and competence, and represents an upgrade over the unacceptable former status quo. Former Cowboy mid-first round disappointment Carpenter has been questioned for lacking physicality, but may have been miscast taking on guards as a 3-4 ILB. He is athletic and can run and cover, and may have upside in a new scheme (turns just 27 this year). At 6'3", 255 lbs, he has the size Spagnuolo covets, and could eventually move to SLB. Backup LBs: Vobora came up the hard way (2008 "Mr. Irrelevant"), but has the handy versatility to back up all three LB positions. Fellow 2008 seventh rounder Chamberlain has a similarly low key profile, humble, modest origins and depth role. Grant is another member of the Rams Ohio State LB connection. Hull (another in a litany of seventh round LBs - detecting a theme yet?) could eventually become the primary backup of Laurinaitis. He was part of an outstanding corp from LB U (Penn State) that included Cowboys second round ILB Sean Lee and divisional rival 49ers third round ILB Navorro Bowman (probable heir apparents to Keith Brooking and Takeo Spikes, respectively). Hopefully the starters are able to remain healthy, as the talent falloff between the starters and backups is steep and perilous.
Defensive BacksStarters: James Butler SS, Oshiomogho Atogwe FS, Ron Bartell CB, Bradley Fletcher CB
Backups: Kevin Payne SS, Craig Dahl SS, Jerome Murphy CB (R), Justin King CB, Marquis Johnson CB (R) Starting DBs: Extending the colossal ineptitude theme at each level of the defense, the bumbling Rams again tied the Raiders, with a league worst-tying mark in INTs (8). Butler is another Giants import, has good length (6'3") and athleticism, and the versatile skill set to make plays in the run (career high in solos with nearly 60, despite playing just 13 games) and pass game (3 INTs in each of the past two seasons). Atogwe is by far the biggest question mark for the defense. The front office and coaching staff seem to have an interest in locking him up to a long term extension, but Atogwe's intentions are more uncertain. He may prefer to see what level of contract he could command on the open market. If it comes down to the Rams having to plunk down $7+ million for a one year deal, Atogwe may get that opportunity. Leaving out his rookie year (2005), in his four other seasons, he has been a big play machine, with a staggering 32 combined INT/FFs (most in the league). Complicating the Rams decision is a currently unsettled ownership situation. Also, even acknowledging all the splash plays, he has flaws in run support and coverage, and probably isn't worth "Antrel Rolle" money. Bartell is a size/speed specimen with freakish athleticism, and was the biggest AND fastest DB at his Combine. The Rams counted themselves as fortunate when he somewhat unexpectedly resisted the strong overtures of the Saints last offseason. While he appeared to regress and didn't play up to his lucrative extension, he flashed great promise in a breakout 2008 campaign. Second year third rounder Fletcher (IR after seven games) from Iowa has talent but could be pushed hard by rookie fellow third rounder Jerome Murphy, who is more physical and has a nastier disposition (among the most barbarically violent, savage tackling hard cases from the deep CB class of 2010). Backup DBs: Ex-Bear SS/FS Payne could be a hedge against the possibility that the organization and Atogwe can't come to an agreement on an extension (in which case Butler could be shunted to FS to fill that void, with Payne stepping up to plug the newly created hole at SS). Even if the contractual impasse is averted, he represents a marked, pronounced depth upgrade from recent years, and valuable insurance against a season like 2009, in which the secondary was riddled with injuries. While he fell out of favor in Chicago, he was bounced around and miscast as an occasional FS, but did some exemplary work at SS earlier in his Chi-town tenure. Dahl filled in admirably with all the attrition last year, but has journeyman-caliber talent and is probably best suited to a backup role. Justin King is listed higher than Murphy in the depth chart, but that is consonant with Spagnuolo's MO of not handing rookies anything. King (5'11", 190 lbs) lacks Spagnuolo's preferred size and physicality from the CB position. Murphy (6'0", 195 lbs.) is a fierce tackler with coverage ability and ball skills, not lacking confidence. He should challenge for the nickel CB role immediately, and has the talent and fits the scheme profile well enough to quickly ascend to the starting lineup if as good as advertised. Johnson is a seventh rounder well schooled by Nick Saban at Alabama, who labored in obscurity behind probably the best CB tandem in the nation, in Kareem Jackson (HOU - 1.20) and Javier Arenas (KC - 2.18). Last modified: 2010-06-17 21:11:48