St. Louis Rams 2009 Preview

ChiCitySports .ComCorrespondent IJuly 3, 2009

EARTH CITY, MO - MAY 2: Steven Jackson #39 of the St. Louis Rams participates in drills during a mini camp on May 2, 2009 at the Russell Training Center in Earth City, Missouri.  (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
I will be previewing the 32 teams in the NFL over the next 32 days. I am going to go from worst-to-first. Enjoy and Comment!

2008 Summary:
The 2008 season is one many Rams fans would soon like to forget.

Coach Scott Linehan was fired midway through the year after pretty much causing every veteran to hate him, and interim head coach Jim Haslett soon showed the world that he still was not a good coach after the Rams somehow shockingly won back to back games against NFC East contenders Washington and Dallas in October—only to drop the next 10 games to finish a dismal 2-14.

In fact, life in Rams country has not been pleasant since their 8-8 record in 2006. If you take the past two seasons, the Rams have gone 5-27, which would give the Rams the worst two year stretch in the NFL.

Like you would expect out of most teams that went 2-14, the Rams were mired by injuries across the board to key players. Orlando Pace, Marc Bulger, Steven Jackson, and Torry Holt all played much of the season injured, and only Holt played all 16 games a year ago. The constant turnover on offense led to the once proud unit slugging to a 27th overall ranking in 2008, made even worse when you take into consideration the Rams 31st overall scoring offense (14.5 PPG).

Defensively, the Rams were just as awful. As a unit they surrendered nearly 30 points a game, surrendered nearly nine yards per pass, and about five yards per carry (only the Lions had worse averages in 2008).

First round pick Chris Long had a very quiet season, and really disappeared in the second half of the year when he would not register a single sack after registering four sacks during his first seven games.

However, it's not all doom and gloom for the Rams—a team in an obvious transitional period. Rookie WR Donnie Avery had a fantastic first season for the Rams, catching 53 passes for 674 yards and three touchdowns, and franchise safety Oshiomogho Atogwe had a great year on a terrible defense as he picked off five passes, forced six fumbles, and was second on the team in tackles with 85.

2009 Free Agency Additions:
QB Kyle Boller (Baltimore)
TE Billy Bajema (San Francisco)
C Jason Brown (Baltimore)
FB Mike Karney (New Orleans)
S James Butler (New York Giants)

2009 Trade Acquistions:
WR Laurent Robinson (Atlanta)
DT Orien Harris (Cincinnati)

2009 Offseason Departures:
WR Torry Holt (Jacksonville)
OT Orlando Pace (Chicago)
LB Pisa Tinoisamoa (Chicago)
OT Brandon Gorin (Denver)
FB Dan Kreider (Arizona)
TE Anthony Becht (Arizona)
C Nick Leckey (New Orleans)
C Brett Romberg (Atlanta)
QB Trent Green (Cut)
WR Drew Bennett (Cut)
S Corey Chavous (Cut)

2009 NFL Draft:
1-2. Jason Smith, OT, Baylor
2-35. James Laurinaitis, ILB, Ohio State
3-66. Bradley Fletcher, CB, Iowa
4-103. Dorell Scott, DT, Clemson
5-160. Brooks Foster, WR, North Carolina
6-196. Keith Null, QB, West Texas A&M
7-211. Chris Ogbonnaya, RB, Texas

2009 Outlook:
New coach Steve Spagnuolo comes to the Gateway City after being more well known for devising the defensive scheme to defeat the Patriots in Super Bowl XL as defensive coordinator in New York. Spagnuolo will have his hands full with a defensive unit short on talent across the board. That said, there are pieces in place at Spagnuolo's disposal, including 2008 first round pick Chris Long and 2009 second round pick James Laurinaitis.

For the Rams defense to be respectable in 2009 however, they will have to get Oshiomogho Atogwe to report to Training Camp on time, as he is far and away the most talented player the Rams have on that side of the ball.

Offensively, the Rams figure to go to a more run-oriented offense, and will need Steven Jackson to stay healthy to have any shot at turning it around here. This offseason the Rams finally spent a lot of money to repair an offensive line that's been pieced together with aging veterans and out of position younger players for the past several years. Promising young center Jason Brown comes to St. Louis from Baltimore and figures to anchor the Rams line with Orlando Pace's heir apparent, Jason Smith protecting Marc Bulger's blindside. And with that said, Bulger's health will be another major factor to the Rams success, as the last two years of Bulger's play have seemingly regressed greatly thanks to a lack of protection and an inability to stay on the field. The aforementioned Donnie Avery will play a big role on the Rams offense, with the departures of longtime icon Torry Holt, and free agent bust Drew Bennett.

The Rams pending change in ownership could also be a black cloud that hangs over the season, especially if things go sour in a hurry.

2009 Schedule:

Sept. 13at Seattle Seahawks (FOX)
Sept. 20at Washington Redskins (FOX)
Oct. 4at San Francisco 49ers (FOX)
Oct. 18at Jacksonville Jaguars (FOX)
Nov. 1at Detroit Lions (FOX)
Nov. 8BYE
Dec. 6at Chicago Bears (FOX)
Dec. 13at Tennessee (FOX)
Dec. 27at Arizona Cardinals (FOX)

2009 Prediction:
New Rams Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo may go down being the best new coaching hire out of this class, but even he will have difficulty making the Rams a contender. However, unlike Detroit, the Rams do play in a relatively weak division and if many things break their way they could conceivably sneak in the back door and win the division, leaving the Rams best case scenario as a shocking 8-8 record.

However, that's very unlikely, and another rough season appears to be in the future for the Rams.

Predicted Finish: 4-12, 4th NFC West


Hassellbeck - VSN Writer


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