NFL Preview: St. Louis Rams

Here is the first of 32 team previews for the 2010 NFL season:
St. Louis Rams

Since I’m not a huge football fan, but resident St. Louis sports fan, I deferred to my co-workers in a roundtable to preview the upcoming season. The preview is after the required info about this season…

2010-11 Schedule
Sep 12 Arizona 3:15pm
Sep 19 @ Oakland 3:05pm
Sep 26 Washington 3:05pm
Oct 3 Seattle 12:00pm
Oct 10 @ Detroit 12:00pm
Oct 17 San Diego 12:00pm
Oct 24 @ Tampa Bay 12:00pm
Oct 31 Carolina 12:00pm
Week 9 BYE
Nov 14 @ San Francisco 3:15pm
Nov 21 Atlanta 3:05pm
Nov 28 @ Denver 3:15pm
Dec 5 @ Arizona 3:15pm
Dec 12 @ New Orleans 3:05pm
Dec 19 Kansas City 12:00pm
Dec 26 San Francisco 12:00pm
Jan 2 @ Seattle 3:15pm

2010 Draft Picks
1.1 Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma
2.33 Rodger Saffold, OT, Indiana
3.65 Jerome Murphy, CB, South Florida
4.99 Mardy Gilyard, WR, Cincinnati
5.132 Michael Hoomanawanui, TE, Illinois
5.149 Hall Davis, DE, Louisiana-Layfayette
6.170 Fendi Onobun, TE, Houston
6.189 Eugene Sims, DE, West Texas A&M
7.211 Marquis Johnson, CB, Alabama
7.226 George Selvie, DE, South Florida
7.254 Josh Hull, LB, Penn State

Key Additions
Victor Adeyanju, DE*; Oshiomogho Atogwe, S*; Travis Brown, WR*; Quincy Butler, CB*; Bobby Carpenter, LB; Craig Dahl, S*; Kenneth Darby, RB; Kevin Dockery, CB; A.J. Feeley, QB; Hank Fraley, C; James Hall, DE*; Darcy Johnson, TE; Jordan Kent, WR*; Chris Massey, RB*; Kevin Payne, S; Fred Robbins, DT; Mark Setterstrom, C*; David Vobora, LB*


Key Subtractions
Alex Barron, OT; Kyle Boller, QB; Marc Bulger, QB; Samkon Gado, RB; Paris Lenon, LB; Leonard Little, DE; Randy McMichaels, TE; Jonathan Wade, CB; Claude Wroten, DT

Question 1: What, if anything, went right for the 2009-10 Rams?

Matt: The only thing that went right was that they didn’t ruin the season by winning a game. By losing every single game they were able to lock up the #1 pick overall in the draft with ease.

And I guess the fact that somebody didn’t spontaneously combust into a pile of intestines and other organs can be seen as a plus. Though it might have helped with ticket sales.

Nick: They won once – at Detroit (had to look that up). But I agree – locking up the pick for Sam was a positive to be taken from the season. Other than that, not much else went right. They had a few games where they hung with teams they weren’t supposed, but then negated that by getting blown out by teams they should’ve hung with.

And a key offseason addition who is missing from the list is Chris Hovan. He wears Alice Cooper eye black.

Tony: Nice Alice Cooper reference.

The only bright spot for the Rams last year in my opinion was Stephen Jackson. I mean the Rams still couldn’t punch the ball in the end zone to save their souls and our defense was giving up 25-30 points per game, but Stephen Jackson was consistent and was in the Top 5 in rushing.

Eugene: The fact he started 15 games was the bright spot.

Tony: True. I can’t stand Stephen Jackson, but he was the only player we had last year.

Question 2: How would you rate the 2010 Rams Draft and the play so far of the 2008 and 2009 draftees?

Tony: The Rams are pretty much broken in every position. Bradford won’t have an immediate impact, but I do want to see him succeed. I felt that the Rams should have gone into the Draft with a Defensive mindset. When your defense, offense and special teams are shot to h*ll I personally believe you start rebuilding on the defensive side of the ball first. Maybe Bradford will sell tickets, but he’s not the answer to winning games (at least not right now). It’ll be 3-5 years before the Rams will be considered “good” again.

I haven’t paid much attention to the 2008-2009 draftees so I can’t give you an educated answer.

Matt: Can’t say I like the 2010 draft, but I didn’t hate it. I was on board with taking Suh, solidifying the D-Line to take focus off Chris Long (2008, Pick 1.2) to see if he can take over for the departed Little as a worthy #2 overall draft pick in 08 and impact pass rusher. Plus he would have offered protection for Laurinaitis (2009, pick 2.35)who appears to be shaping into the real deal at Middle Linebacker. Lastly, Coach Spags is a D coach and doesn’t make that a secret so them taking Suh would have better fit his style of coaching. But I accept the Bradford pick because it’s hard to argue that QB isn’t the most important position on the team. Though the Ravens have proved that you don’t need one to win it all (ie Trent Dilfer). The only other knock I have against Bradford is that you drafted a guy with an injured shoulder, more importantly his throwing shoulder. His “camp” and all the experts can say he’s fully healed, but I’ll believe it once I see it. If the shoulder can stand up to its first true NFL sack without injury, all the better and I hope this guy proves my doubts wrong. I’m interested to see if Saffold is a worthy replacement for Barron, which shouldn’t be too hard as long as he can keep himself from false starting roughly 15x/game. Gilyard has the ability to be explosive and a potential replacement for Donnie Avery from the 08 draft (pick 2.33) as he appears to have been a stretch and makes us go, “hey, wasn’t DeSean Jackson available at that pick??” I’m also hoping they picked up a sleeper in Selvie in the 7th round. If he can return to his JR yr form, could have a solid rotation on the D-Line.

08 review – Chris Long has shown flashes, but hasn’t lived up to the #2 pick overall expectation. Absolutely nothing else to be said about the remaining picks from that year. Poor draft in my opinion.

09 review – Jason Smith has also not lived up to #2 overall expectations, though injuries come into play. Hopefully he can redeem himself otherwise, bust pick. Laurinaistis is the big bright spot from 09. Seems to be embracing the role of a leader that is required from the MLB. Hopefully he continues to just get better.

Nick: This is a pretty solid assessment. I think this year’s draft ended up pretty good.

I felt the same way about Suh for awhile, but I get that Bradford had to be the pick and I am starting to believe he is going to be better than I expected. Not right off the bat, but I’m looking forward to seeing him progress.

I think the 3rd and 4th rounds are the steals for the Rams this year and will make impacts this year. Murphy is a needed hitter and Gilyard is going to be fun to watch.

I agree on Selvie (he’s an IF, but could join the others as a huge steal)…and if this D-line can stay healthy; I think we start to see them become a strength this year. If some of the young legs work out – the rotation system Spags seems to be implementing will hopefully resemble his successful years in NY.

Eugene: It’s Revisionist History, but I think the Rams would have taken Suh if they knew that Jimmy Clausen would have been available in the second round. The Bradford/Saffold duo will be compared to the production from Suh and Clausen for quite a while if one of the Rams guys don’t work out.

I think it’s too early to label Long and Smith busts yet. Long has gradually improved each of his 2 years; I do think if he doesn’t take a real step forward this year, that bust label might be warranted. If Smith can come back from the concussion fine, I think he’ll be solid this year.

Question 3 – How big of an impact will Bradford have this year?

Jason: Little to none, without an OLine to protect him his impact will be minimal.

Nick: I think he will have a relatively significant impact. If he’s utilized properly, he will be effective. SJ’s health and them picking up another RB will be some of the keys to Bradford’s success. The other thing I think he has going in his favor is having Feeley here as a mentor.

I can see the logic in starting the season with Feeley, but I’d prefer to see Sam start right off the bat and get his bumps in the road out of the way sooner rather than later.

Either way, I think Sam will hit double digits in TD passes by season’s end. And double digits in INTs as well. He’s a rookie so I’m tempering my expectations somewhat for this season.

I’ll be satisfied with something like 12-14 TD, 18 INT, and 2,500 yds.

Tony: I agree with Jason’s assessment. Even if Bradford adjusts well to the NFL pressure the Rams are only going to win 3-4 games max. We’ll be lucky to average 10-17 points per game Offensively and our Defense will still give up 25-30 points per game.

I hope you’re right Nick. I’m tired of the Rams sucking!

Nick: They’re still going to suck. 5 or 6 wins, tops. But I think we will at least see flashes from Sam that will give us a little hope. The QB position won’t be as God awful as it’s been the last couple years.

Tony: True…watching Bulger near the end was horrific.

Bobby: I think that Bradford could have a minimal impact on the field if the rams can establish that they can protect him and run the ball effectively. I think the biggest impact he can have though is motivating a fan base that has had nothing to cheer about the last few years with a few flashes hear and there of franchise quarterback potential.

Matt: Can you blame the guy? He took a beating here and then was ran out of town. He was a solid QB, our line was just god awful – shameful way to end his time here. Hopefully a healthy Smith, and the addition of Saffold to the mix, will not only improve pass protection for Bradford, but also make SJ that much more effective. We would also need Jacob Bell to play up to his contract. Perhaps getting rid of Incognito will eliminate some distraction on the field, although having a fiery guy that will throw down to protect his QB is something that line will need. They need to establish an attitude that nobody messes with The Franchise which I believe is an accurate nomenclature as they are placing all their bets on Bradford being the guy. Nick’s assessment of needing an impact 2nd running back is an excellent point as well. Not sure how much longer SJ can physically carry the load solely. Bradford’s impact will be minimal, other than the previous mentioned fan interest.

Eugene: Bulger was in a hole before he was the starting QB, since he displaced fan favorite Kurt Warner. Half the city was hoping for him to fail, and were all to happy when he finally did.

I really wish the Rams would have gotten someone better than Feeley so they could let Bradford watch a few games first – a la Warner and Eli Manning with the Giants. No matter who is QB, the team won’t be winning.

Matt: I’m against that completely. The formula of having a vet QB starting for a few games serves him no purpose. #1 overall franchise QB needs to step in and show that he is the guy. See Stafford last yr, Ryan yr before. Go back to Peyton Manning. They will fail at the beginning, but it only accelerates their development by learning while playing. Step in, throw the interceptions as expected but learn from it.

Eugene: I see what you’re saying, but Eli won the Super Bowl before any of those other guys did or will. Yes, the Giants built the team around him quicker than the Colts were able to for Peyton, but it says something about how he was brought along.

Question 4 – What will it take to get Bradford signed?

Nick: Lots of money – I would assume he’ll be signed soon. If he holds out, he’s a buttf*ck.

Eugene: #1 Overall QBs Since 2001:
Matt Stafford 6 yrs $72MM ($41.7MM guaranteed)
JaMarcus Russell 6 yrs $61MM ($29.2MM guaranteed)
Alex Smith 6 yrs $57MM ($24MM guaranteed)
Eli Manning 6 yrs $54MM ($20MM guaranteed)
Carson Palmer 7 yrs $49MM ($14MM guaranteed)
David Carr 7 yrs $46.2MM ($14MM guaranteed)
Michael Vick 6 yrs $62MM ($15.3MM guaranteed)

Based off the recent trends, I would think that Bradford would get something like 6 yrs, $75MM. Of that, roughly $35MM will be guaranteed. I don’t think he’ll hold out, but I know that the Rams will have to top Stafford’s deal to get him signed.

Every team is waiting for him to sign, as only Dez Bryant has signed. Bradford’s deal will set the tone for everyone else.

Bobby: If you track the gradual increase in guaranteed money, I dont get why Stafford’s jumped $12MM from Russell’s. I guess Russell was that bad that Stafford’s agent just convinced the Lions his client wasn’t taking comparable money.

Question 5 – Would Terrell Owens have been a good pick up?

Jason: His ego wasn’t going to help our reconstruction period.

Bobby: Yes, whether the Rams like it or not, they have no playmaking ability outside of Steven Jackson. Terrell Owens is at a point where he is most likely humbled by the fact that nobody wants him. I once heard Steve Young say that not everybody on your team has to be a good guy.

Eugene: I agree. They need someone that will catch anything Bradford throws his way. It’ll be more about Bradford’s confidence than TO’s ability.

Nick: I agree with everything here, but I would just be hesitant to pair him up with a rookie QB.

I honestly think the Rams were kind of the pawn in this scenario anyway and he will end up in Cincy.

Final Question – How do the Rams finish the season (record, place, potential highlights/lowlights, etc)?

Record: 4-12

Standings: Last place in the NFC West

Highlights: Stephen Jackson and Bradford for having a solid rookie year.

Lowlights: Rush defense, very little offense and no special teams.

Record: 3-13

Standings: Last

Highlights: Bradford living to the hype (I hope).

Lowlights: Defense shows little to no improvement.

Record: 2-14

Highlight: Steven Jackson, Bradford showing flashes, linebackers improving, possibly George Selvie being a steal as well as Mardy Gilyard.

Lowlights: The offense as a whole, Steven Jackson possibly being overworked again, having to watch AJ Feeley take a snap.

Record: 5-11

Standings: Last in the West

Highlights: Bradford’s development and seeing how they use Mardy Gilyard. He could make special teams a threat again.

Lowlights: The beginning of Steven Jackson’s gradual decline if they don’t get a competent backup in to camp – pronto.

Bonus Discussion: Danario Alexander

Bobby: Alexander Anxious to Return

Supposedly the Rams are interested in bringing him in for a physical but i dont know if they are one of the teams he’s interested in. Supposedly he had a workout the other day and ran a 4.4.

Nick: Hopefully Avery has some sales skills.

You talked about re-energizing the fan base yesterday. Landing him would add a lot to that.

Bobby: Supposedly the other 2 teams are the Eagles and Vikings, and thats assuming the Rams are one of the 3. I don’t see how he doesnt go to Philly unless he thinks its too crowded.

Jason: He’d have room to grow in St Louis and could become the #1-2 receiver faster here than any other team

Nick: Agree – hopefully he’ll realize this.

Playing with Maclin…or a team that was a game away from the Super Bowl last year will be hard to pass up, though.

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