St. Louis Rams 2010 Season Preview: In Sam They Trust
If it wasn't for Steven Jackson, you would have been forgiven for confusing the 2009 Rams with an expansion team. There simply wasn't prime talent anywhere else on the field, a situation that made it almost commendable that they actually managed to win one game before the year was out.
Obviously, such a situation needs to be remedied before the Rams can be looked at as a contender for anything but a top five draft pick again. It can't be done overnight, but the process looks to be well underway as the team prepares to start the 2010 season.
Offense -- Sam Bradford, this is your team. The first overall pick in April will start from day one for the Rams, a smart choice given how integral his success will be to the growth of the franchise as a whole. You just have to cross your fingers and hope that he's both good enough and healthy enough to make the choice pay off for the team down the road. The offensive line should be able to help with the "healthy enough" part. Roger Saffold and Jason Smith are a good looking pair of tackles and Jason Brown should be better in his second season with St. Louis. If he isn't, or if injuries sink things up front, it will be a long season. That would be a shame for several reasons, up to and including another wasted year for Jackson, a great back who has toiled on some terrible teams of late. Heat Index: 5
Defense -- Like we said, it's a long process and the defensive side's improvement won't begin in earnest until the team gets a Bradford-type talent to lead them. For now, they're stuck with a rather pedestrian group that doesn't figure to impress anyone even though they'll play an easy schedule this year. James Laurinaitis is a steady, unspectacular linebacker who tackles very well -- which makes him the best player the Rams have on this side of the ball and underscores the need for growth. A bounceback season for cornerback Ron Bartell would help matters, but there are miles to go. Heat Index: 4
Special Teams -- The Rams shouldn't give too much away in this phase of the game. Donnie Jones is a good punter and Josh Brown won't allow scoring opportunities to fizzle out if they need to kick a field goal, an important weapon for a team without many of them. Danny Amendola was a good return man last season and the addition of Mardy Gilyard could also be a factor. Heat Index: 6
Coaching -- We don't know much about Steve Spagnuolo at this point in time. The best coach in the world wouldn't have been able to do anything with the roster Spags had to work with in 2009, and they wouldn't be able to do much with the hand he's been dealt for 2010. The two things you've got to look for are growth among young players and the ability to recognize and reward talent, even if it means a slower climb than relying on veterans who won't help you in richer times. Heat Index: 5
Intangibles -- Honestly, this isn't a team with the time to worry about things like intangibles. They have a hard enough time with tangibles. You could make an argument that this is the perfect situation to shock the world, but shocking the world would mean five wins. They don't tend to make movies about things like that. Heat Index: 4
Total Heat Index: 24/50 -- That meter is less than halfway filled, which sounds just about right for the Rams right now. The team is on the way and has acquired some useful pieces here and there, but the sum of the parts remains unimpressive. That's the bad news. The good news is that there's nowhere to go but up.