How can one analyze an unfinished work? It's hard but I think people are mistaken about the Rams when they say they are unfinished. People question two main areas on this team - the wide receivers and the defensive line.
In years past, cuts in June and July when roster bonuses, contracts, expensive veterans and surprise rookies were the thing, a good veteran could be expected to be cut by a team and another would pick them up hoping to add that "one missing piece" that would put them seemingly over the top. Although this can still happen occasionally, it's been shown in recent years to be more of a rarity than a usual happening. Major cuts are now taking place closer to before or right after the draft.
The Rams under Stever Spagnuolo and Bill Devaney have shown us what they are looking for in a free agent pick up or a trade. A guy on the assent of his career with upside and good character. These are guys that are not usually let go by other teams.
The Rams could desperately use a top teir runner behind Steven Jackson because of his history of getting hurt in past seasons. This has not happened and probably will not happen unless they get lucky. Fred Taylor, an oft injured back who had a respectable 2008-2009 season, would have seemed the ideal back up to SJ. With limited carries a savy veteran like Taylor could have spelled Jackson and, perish the thought, if SJ was hurt he could have stepped in and helped out a lot. The Rams didn't even give him so much as a passing look. They've done the same with a number of other veteran running backs and seems comfortable with the back ups that they have.
This is pretty much the same situation with the wide receivers. Donnie Avery is a hard working, hard studying, second year player with high character and was productive last year. He has speed to burn and should do well in the new West Coast offense of new OC Pat Shurmur. After him their are a bunch of question marks. Laurent Robinson whom Bill Devaney picked up for next to nothing from Atlanta, is a speedster with a lot of potential but limited actual playing time. He is tall (6'2"), thin (approx. 180 lbs.) and very fast (supposedly under 4.3 in the 40). Keenan Burton is also a second year player but can't seem to shake the injury bug. Right now he is fighting a hamstring injury. Tim Carter, a UDFA, was signed to a two year contract after OTA's and could be a 30 year old surprise and a well travelled journeyman who sees a chance to get significant playing time. Brooks Foster, the Rams 5th round draft pick out of North Carolina. He was supposed to be the starter opposite Hakeem Nicks but got pushed aside due to injury and poor performance by Brandon Tate. He has also struggled with a knee injury for the past 8 months and the hope is he can turn into a valuable back up. After these four, their are a number of candidates. Derek Stanley, a valuable return man last year, is fighting a hamstring injury and has yet to participate in team activities. He has the best chance to make the team among Chad Allen, Jared Byars, and Nate Jones.
The question is can these guys get the job done? That's the same question on the defensive line front. Clifton Ryan and Chris Long are the only defensive lineman without questions. Adam Carriker, a high draft choice from three years ago, is trying to bounce back from an injury filled 2008 campaign. Their are other questions about Carriker besides his injury concerns. Is he too tall and slow to play DT or DE? For a guy that was drafted high in the first round, Rams' fans are wondering if he is going to follow in the footsteps of previous highly drafted defensive lineman that were busts like Jimmy Kennedy. This is really a make or break year for a number of players like Carriker, Tye Hill, Marc Bulger, etc. but especially Carriker. Leonard Little is 34 and is also coming off a turf toe injury. He's looked good in OTA's but actual games are a different story and can he make it through an entire season healthy? The Rams have solid but not spectacular lineman behind these starters - Orien Harris, whom they picked up in a trade for Brian Leonard from the Bengals; Darrell Scott, this year's 4th round draft pick; Victor Adeyanju, an up and coming player who is strong against the run and improving against the pass; James Hall, a aging vet picked up in a trade with Detroit a few years ago and played well last year; and then a bunch of UDFAs that are trying to make the rotation that new Coach Steve Spagnuolo and new DC Ken Flajole will no doubt employ. Can Spagnuolo pull the same kind of magic out of his hat that he did in New York? We'll see.
Getting back to the title of the article, I don't think the Rams will make any more big moves this year like they did when they signed Jason Brown in the first days of free agency. Why? Three main reasons come to mind:
1. The Rams are tight against the cap. Although they have cut a lot of salary with cutting Orlando Pace and Torry Holt, the Rams are still tight against the cap. Coming to a long term contract with FS Atogwe will help some, they don't have enought to sign someone who could really make a difference.
2. Devaney and Spagnuolo realize that one player at this point is not going to make the difference considering the roster holes this team has. One could make a case that the Rams have holes in their CB corp, and both their RB and WR corp as has already been mentioned above. The LB corp is also questionable as veteran Will Witherspoon will start at the WIL position and second round draft pick, James Laurinaitis, is slated to be the opening day starter. The strong side backer can be any one of veteran Chris Draft (who I think that the Rams would rather have as a super sub LB), David Vorbora (a seventh round pick from last year - Mr. Irrlevant from last year for those wanting to know), and Larry Grant, a UDFA. The first teamers for the OTA's were Vorbora and Grant with Draft playing the middle. Laurinaitis was a second teamer during the OTA's which corresponds with Spagnuolo's ideas that rookies are not just "given" the job, they have to earn it.
3. I think the Rams want to see what they have on their roster - who will step up and who will fall? I think they will go with a lot of players throughout the season and at different positions to see what players skills fit in the best possible slot. As well as who buys into the system and who doesn't. As soon as these determinations can be made over the long season, the Rams will be in a better position to determine what they need to be a better team next season and what positions need to be filled to improve this team.
I hope those who were hoping that the Rams would either make a trade or pick up a dynamic free agent are not too disappointed. Just remember, this is just my opinion but I think I've backed it up pretty well. Thanks for reading.
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