Home > NFL, Roster Roundouts > Roster Roundouts: A St. Louis Rams Training Camp Preview

Roster Roundouts: A St. Louis Rams Training Camp Preview

Previous Roster Roundouts: Buffalo Bills

If asked to sum up the job of an NFL personnel director in simply one sentence, I’d have to say that the job is all about collecting the best quality of talent from the strongest bases of talent available (i.e. the draft) while using all of the information available to avoid perilous decisions.

The St. Louis Rams probably should have asked for another sentence or two.

What can you say to a team that, under it’s prior leadership, won 5 games in it’s last two seasons?  Move to Kansas City and you’ll be the best show in town?  No, that’s no good.  The Rams have acquired talent.  They haven’t traded their early draft picks, they haven’t cut or tried to replace their proven franchise quarterback, even though we’re now two years removed from his last good season.  They’ve converted their picks into the best available talent each year, and well, it just hasn’t mattered.  They aren’t a game better than they were the day this rebuilding started.

The 2007 and 2008 Rams were talented football teams, but they were completely and utterly mismanaged.  Scott Linehan proved to be an inept coach: it wasn’t his fault that the team got off to a crappy start in 2007 following a 8-8 rookie season, but given a calendar year to pull the Rams out of the abyss, Linehan just appeared to make things worse.  The team eventually gave up on him, and he was ousted in September of last year.  The team then made Jim Haslett head coach, got three straight good performances from it’s defense leading to 2 wins in the NFC East and an near-upset of the Patriots, then got blown out of the water by the Cardinals and quit on Haslett.

flickr.com/Monicas Dad

flickr.com/Monica's Dad

Haslett is now a head man in the upstart UFL, where he can have a two win team that isn’t quite as bad.  After owner Georgia Frontiere passed away, the Rams cleaned house, got rid of their management, brought in Billy Devaney to be the new G.M., and he hired Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo as head man.  On the surface, the power structure appears to be proper.

Marc Bulger has now survived two head coach firings at quarterback, and even he knows that if things don’t get better shortly, not even the most patient of franchises can string him out any longer.  Bulger is a deadly accurate passer with a quick release, but he has always held on to the ball a long time.  That’s the Martz offense for you.  Lots of downfield action, and he expects his quarterbacks to know their protections, wait for plays to develop, and get the ball downfield.

You can’t change Marc Bulger, he’s a mid-tier quarterback who can really light up the scoreboard when given a fighting chance, but Bulger has absolutely not adjusted to life on a bad offense.  Torry Holt’s gradual decline began in 2005, and by 2008, he wasn’t really shaking No. 2 CBs with any frequency anymore.  Rookie WR Donnie Avery was a big boost last year, probably the team’s best wide receiver, but looked like a rookie more often than not.  Tertiary receivers were completely non-existant.

What’s remarkable about the Rams is that, since the 1999 season, the team has only had two leading passers, two leading rushers, and two leading receivers, and in each case, once the successor took over, he has led in his statistical category each season since breaking out.  Bulger (’02), Steven Jackson (’05), and Holt (’00) have been a dynamic trio for a very long time now, and with Holt moving on, the Rams would like to slot Avery in as the leading receiver and have Bulger, Jackson, and Avery be a set of triplets through 2011.  Jackson has been remarkably consistent–he’s had injuries that have prevented him from duplicating his excellent 2006 season, but his YPC is consistently over 4.0 every season, and he’s now produced 4 consecutive 1,000 yard seasons.  Jackson, not Bulger, is the best player on the offense.

It’s simply not fathomable that a unit led by a quarterback as historically productive as Bulger and a running back as consistently productive as Jackson could be held irrelivant three years in a row, and thanks to some upgrades on the offensive line and a scheme change, it should be improved.  Baylor OT Jason Smith went second in the draft to the Rams, and his services will be required instantly, though the team likes him on the right side as opposed to the more traditional blind side.  The line should be much better without the oft injured former pro bowler Orlando Pace, who takes his act to Chicago.

Outside of cutting Pace, the team made two controversial moves this offseason, and if they both pay off, a playoff bound Rams team in the NFC West might not be such a ridiculous thing.  First, the Jason Brown signing must work out.  Brown was a young, functional Center with upside when with the Baltimore Ravens, and now he’s walking headstrong into a disfuntional offensive line with talented blockers on either side of him.  Simply put, he needs to help the protection get better, or he was a serious waste of money.  Second, the Rams released their leading tackler, Pisa Tinoisamoa, who also signed with Chicago.  Presumably, this happened because the new regime liked what they saw of young SLB Quentin Culberson from last year, and think he can be a superstar in this defense.  If that wasn’t the reason for dumping Tinoisamoa, well, then color me confused on this one.  Both moves are high upside moves that absoultely have to work for a quick turnaround.

For the Rams, it’s a critical season.  It would be nice if Steve Spagnuolo’s defense joined the Rams offense at the party, but they simply aren’t very deep there, and the Rams offense might have to carry the day yet again.

Rams Camp, Russell Training Center, Earth City, MO

Unless the Rams do a significant amount of waiver wire shopping, there are not very many camp battles to be had.  Here are the most significant:

Running back: Antonio Pittman vs. Chris Ogbonnaya vs. Samkon Gado

The Rams may choose to keep up to four running backs, although they’ll probably settle for just three.  Pittman was a fourth round pick of the Saints who didn’t make it out of camp with them.  Ogbonnaya, is the most intriguing of the bunch, as he was undrafted out of Texas and could make an impact as a first year player.  Gado seems to be the longshot, as his days as a fantasy league savior in 2005 are far enough in the rear-view mirror where he just might be on his last shot in the NFL.  If so, it was a pretty awesome run.

Wide Receiver: Tim Carter vs. Derek Stanley

Both of these guys have special teams experience returning kicks, and as an active fifth or sixth receiver, that’s where their mark will be made.  Stanley is a young player with more upside, and probably the favorite, while Carter is a journeyman who can offer veteran receiving skills in addition to his raw speed, but not much else.

Defensive Tackle: Ian Campbell vs. Common Sense

Seems like Campbell already won this battle in OTA’s.  The K-State product was battling trade receipt Orion Harris for a defensive tackle spot, and last week, Harris got traded agan: this time to Detroit for Ronald Curry.  That makes the undrafted Campbell a strong favorite to make the team at defensive tackle.

Safety: Eric Bassey vs. Todd Johnson

Eric Bassey was a practice squad player who got on the field at the end of last year and held his own, while Todd Johnson has bounced around the league since his Bears days.  Johnson is the favorite, and since Spagnuolo plays a strong safety up near the line, Johnson has a place for him cut out in this defense.  Of course, for a journeyman, no job comes with much security.

Surprise Cuts?

  • TE Joe Klopfenstein
  • DE Victor Adeyanju
  • G Roy Scheuning
  • LB Chris Draft
  • CB Tye Hill
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