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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

St. Louis Rams 2010 Preview and Prediction

Last Years Record 1-15
Win: Detroit
Losses: Seattle Seahawks (x2), San Francisco 49ers (x2), Arizona Cardinals (x2), Washington Redskins, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, Jacksonville Jaguars, Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints, Chicago Bears, Tennessee Titans, Houston Texans
Biggest Playmaker Steven Jackson
RB, Oregon State, Drafted # 24, 7th Year
Steven Jackson ran for 1416 yards on 324 carries, and caught a team leading 51 passes for 322 yards in 2009; with that in mind it is suffice to say that he is their offense. Producing nearly 65% of the teams rushing offense, and catching nearly 20% of all completed passes in the season, teams game-planned with one purpose; stop Steven Jackson. Yet Steven Jackson still produced league leading numbers all season long. The tenacity, effort, and will of Jackson even during a league worst 1-15 season is something special to watch. The production he brings to such an anemic offense reminds me of Barry Sanders back in Detroit; no matter what the score is, you know he’s going to give his best efforts play in and play out. Although the St. Louis Rams offense was putrid last season, with the addition of 2nd rounder Rodger Safford from the 2010 NFL Draft, look for Steven Jackson to notch in a similarly solid season.
Impact Player James Laurinaitis
MLB, Ohio State, Drafted #35, 2nd Year
James Laurinaitis wildly impressed NFL experts around the league last season with a team leading 146 total tackles. The ability to adjust to the NFL in one year such as Laurinaitis did is almost unheard of, and with the added depth around him, I can only see improvement. Big man Fred Robbins steps in as a possible 2 gap player, and Chris Long will face double teams from time to time leading to increased tackle lanes for the former Buckeye linebacker. If Laurinaitis can improve his pass coverage skills, he can develop into a top 5 ILB around the NFL. With a full season under his belt and an ailing shoulder injury behind him, look for another 140+ tackle season from the Rams Middle Linebacker
Biggest Offseason Addition A.J. Feeley/Sam Bradford
In order to improve the league’s most pathetic offensive passing game, the Rams upgraded the most important position on the football field; replacing quarterback Marc Bulger with immediate starting quarterback A.J. Feeley, and a quarterback of the future in Sam Bradford. What Feeley lacks in athletic ability, he most certainly makes up for in quick decisions, veteran savvy, and good mechanics. Whether or not Feeley will be able to find the same success he had in spot starts in Philly and Miami over the years remains to be observed, however the Rams are taking the proper steps in order to prepare young stud Bradford for a bright career in the NFL.
Biggest Offseason Loss Paris Lenon
LB, Rishmond, Undrafted, 9th Year
An obvious loss, Lenon provided the only other decent option at linebacker aside from James Laurinaitis. Lenon showed flashes of solid play throughout last season, making 7 tackles in two performances and recording 4 or more tackles in 5 regular season games. Add that with a team leading 3 forced fumbles, and the Rams lose a playmaker at linebacker. Replacing Lenon, they add a decent veteran in Na’il Diggs, an apparent downgrade. Lenon moves on to become the Arizona Cardinals starting LB in 2010, an NFC West divisional opponent; the loss will be either greatened or lessened by Lenon’s performances in the two division games that will be played between the Rams and Cardinals.
Biggest Draft Steal George Selvie
DE, South Florida, Drafted #226, Rookie
After a monster sophomore season in college, George Selvie’s production fell considerably in his junior and senior seasons. Arguably a first round talent, I believe the only reason for downturn in production is due largely to the fact that he played on the opposite side of premier end Jason Pierre-Paul. Many plays which could have been made by either one of the ends turned Pieere-Paul’s way, leaving Selvie with a smaller stat sheet to go into the draft with. Nevertheless, Selvie has impressed many with his fluidity and speed in pass coverage drills and could be used as a pass rushing 3-4 linebacker. At 6’3 247lbs Selvie is undersized like Demarcus Ware and also graduated from a non-BCS Bowl school at South Florida. If utilized correctly I believe Selvie can develop into an elite playmaker on defense. Watch him closely in the preseason games.
Biggest Draft Mistake None
To follow up the Rams 1-15 season, I believe the Rams successfully addressed as many needs as they possibly could have in the 2010 NFL Draft. With multiple picks in each of rounds 5-7, the Rams added much needed depth at the TE, DE, and CB positions; three places sorely in need of young talent. Picks 1-4 gave the team a franchise QB, a instant starter at OT, a CB who can play anywhere in the secondary, and a WR who can immediately improve a less than stellar receiving core. The Rams had a very solid 2010 Draft.
Offseason Grade A
The Rams brought in an exciting, young QB in Sam Bradford who is sure to bring ticket sales up for a failing franchise, and will also be able to be a consistent NFL player in the coming years. They brought in another solid offensive tackle, part of a continuous effort to revamp the O-Line; drafting Jason Smith 1st round in 2009 draft, and Rodger Saffold in the 2nd Round in 2010 draft. Through the next five rounds, the Rams had assembled 9 picks in which they added much needed depth at a variety of key positions. The Rams released the turnover prone Marc Bulger finally, and replaced him with A.J. Feeley, a stable starter who is very familiar with new Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurman’s system. Shurman was Feeley’s QB coach for 6 years in Philadelphia. The Rams also brought in veteran D-tackle Fred Robbins who will be able to solidify the Rams interior defensive line. The road to success for this team is a long and hard one, however I feel that this offseason the Rams made significant strides in the right direction.
X-Factor Chris Long
DE, Virginia, Drafted #2, 3rd Year
Can he stay healthy? Long’s health will determine the success or failure of a Rams defense that lacks a legitimate pass rushing threat. After a disappointing first season with only 40 tackles, Long trumped that by only playing in 4 games in all of 2009. However Long was not taken with the number 2 overall pick in the 2008 draft for nothing. If Long can play all 16 games, you could in fact see him post 10+ sacks in 2010; he is really that good. I quote this from the CBS Prospect Profile page, Long has “long arms and large hands, with good upper body muscle tone, tight waist and hips and shows good lower body thickness”; All of the given characteristics absolutely invaluable in becoming a dominant force at defensive end. Look for Long to impress if he can stay on the field,
Name You Should Know Brandon Gibson
WR, Oklahoma, Drafted #194, 2nd Year
A big, tall, physical receiver, Gibson runs crisp routes and has soft hands. Gibson came on the scene last season with a few breakout performances but was limited, as were all WRs on the Rams, by inconsistent QB play. Gibson will likely be a focal point of the Rams passing game as he projects to be the starting WR on the outside; a possible red-zone threat, and strong open field runner. Look for Gibson to surprise a lot of defenses early in the 2010 season.
Rising Star Jason Smith
OT, Baylor, Drafted #2, 2nd Year
After only making 5 starts in 8 games played last season, Smith, after learning the NFL game last season, will step in as the full time starter at left tackle. Smith is a big, strong, long-armed lineman who has the foot speed to lock down the speed rushers of today’s game. There is not much to say about Smith’s game other than it is very solid all-around, pass blocking and run blocking. With a relatively easy schedule in regards to lethal pass rushers, expect a solid season from the young 2nd year player with a low number of sacks allowed.
Offensive Outlook B-
The 2010 St. Louis Rams fans are generating serious hype around first pick Sam Bradford and expect to see him all 16 games posting numbers comparable to Peyton Manning. Sorry folks, not happening; this is why fans are fans and managers manage. The front office wisely acquired A.J. Feeley to step in as the interim QB until Bradford has grasped the system, and according to the coaches in camp Bradford is a fast learner. The combo of Feeley and young Bradford is easily a step up from last years 3 Stooge’s ©, Bulger, Null, and Boller who combined for an atrocious 11-21 TD/INT ratio. With Rodgers Saffold bolstering the young O-Line look for a slight increase in rushing production from S-Jax. The most taxing concern has to be the receiving core as it lacks a true go-to guy. I expect a good but not huge improvement in 2010.
Defensive Outlook C+
The C+ rating which I am giving the Rams is rather generous, and is in large part due to the increased depth which they have wisely added in the offseason. The Rams ranked 27th or worse in every single major team defensive statistical category, and were absolutely awful in 2009. Not a single cornerback could guard man-to-man, nobody except James Laurinaitis could make tackles, and top five draft pick Chris Long only played 4 games in the season. As this is the case, the Rams particularly cannot get any worse and will likely improve due to the added pieces through the draft and free agency. D-tackles Darell Scott and Clifton Ryan showed some flashes of potential late in 2009, and look to lead the Rams D-Line back out of mediocrity with the addition of veteran Fred Robbins. Look for an ever-so-slight improvement if any due to the lack of playmakers and solid cornerbacks.
Special Teams Outlook A
Josh Brown is one of the leagues most consistent long-distance kickers and was one of the best last season, going 6-7 on kicks further than 50 yards. First year coordinator altered punter Donnie Jones' punting form, which led to his being second in the league in punting. Donnie Jones averaged 41.7 yards in net average per punt and looks to get even better after familiarizing himself with his new form. Also Danny Amendola and newly drafted Mardy Gilyard are top notch return specialists who can provide some spark to a rather uninteresting team. Look for the Rams' special teams to be solid in 2010, as they will have more kickoff return plays than most teams normally do…(hint, hint above section).
Projected 2010 Record 5-11

After a year of implementing his schemes and system, it is not too un-imaginable to see the Rams win 5 games this season. With a new QB at the helm, and an offensive scheme he is familiar with, I expect some success out of A.J. Feeley. Once Bradford is comfortable with the offense around midseason, look for him to find his groove after a rocky first few starts. The depth on the D-Line will allow the defense to sustain decent play throughout games and will lead to some close games against teams such as Tampa Bay, Detroit, and Seattle. The depth on both sides of the ball, no matter how mediocre can increase the Rams 2010 win total by 3-4 games.

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