Alex's 32 Teams in 32 Days: Team 27—St. Louis Rams

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Alex's 32 Teams in 32 Days: Team 27—St. Louis Rams
(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

2008 Record: 2-14

 

2008 Season Review

The 2008 season was another disappointing one in St. Louis.

After an 0-4 start in which they didn’t score more than 14 points in any game, head coach Scott Linehan was fired. Jim Haslett was named interim head coach for the remainder of the season.

Haslett led the team to two straight victories in his first two games at the helm. But the Rams were winless after that.

The team was littered with injuries from the beginning. Quarterback Marc Bulger was beat up all year, and running back Steven Jackson missed four games due to injuries. The offensive line was injury plagued as well.

Offensively, the Rams struggled to put points on the board. They ranked 31st in points scored, averaging just 14.5 points-per-game in '08.

One of the few bright spots on the offensive side of the ball was rookie wide receiver Donnie Avery. Avery quickly emerged as a deep threat and reliable option for Bulger to throw to. He snatched up 53 catches for 674 yards and three touchdowns in just 12 starts.

Jackson, when healthy, showed he can still be considered one of the top backs in the NFC.  Despite missing four starts he was still able to top 1,000 yards and collect eight total touchdowns.

The defense could not stop anyone. They averaged 29.1 points against them, a ranking of 31st in the league. Only the 0-16 Lions were worse in '08.

Rookie defensive end Chris Long, taken with the 2008 second overall pick, did not make the impact that many expected from him. After accumulating four sacks in his first seven games, Long did not record another sack for the rest of the season.

Interim coach Jim Haslett was relieved of his duties after the season, and former New York Giants' defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo was hired to replace him.

 

Key Additions 

S James Butler, C Jason Brown, FB Mike Karney, QB Kyle Boller, LB James Laurinaitis (draft), and OT Jason Smith (draft).

 

Key Losses 

WR Torry Holt, WR Drew Bennett, OT Orlando Pace, QB Trent Green, S Corey Chavous, LB Pisa Tinoisamoa, and OT Brandon Gorin.

 

2009 Preview

New head coach Steve Spagnuolo brings an all-new, tough, physical mentality to the Rams.

On the first day of "two-a-days" at training camp, Spagnuolo had about 30 plays of full-contact tackling, a rarity this time of year. The new coach is clearly trying to set a hard-nosed mentality right at the whistle.

The Rams have more than a dozen "two-a-days" scheduled, and will be in pads for the morning workouts on most days.

The 2009 Rams' offense will be built around Jackson and the running game. Spagnuolo comes from the run-heavy Giants, and has already expressed his plan to run more. Jackson, who has missed eight games over the past two seasons, will need to stay healthy for the plan to benefit.

New fullback Mike Karney will really help the running game, while Karney, who is a great lead blocker, should really benefit Jackson.

To help the ailing offensive line, the Rams brought in young center Jason Brown from Baltimore, and used the second overall pick in April’s draft on tackle Jason Smith from Baylor.

With the departure of longtime blindside blocker Orlando Pace, Alex Barron will move to left tackle and Smith will start at right tackle. Eventually, Smith will move back to the left side.

The performance of the O-line will be essential to the health of Bulger. Bulger has missed several games in the last couple of seasons and has battled multiple injuries including rib and knee problems.

Bulger needs to stay in good physical shape if the Rams are going to have success throwing the ball in '09.

Avery, entering his second season, will need to continue his development and step up to replace Torry Holt, who is now in Jacksonville.

On defense, Spagnuolo’s specialty, the Rams should be improved a bit.

The addition of ex-Giants safety James Butler and rookie James Laurinaitis should help secure parts of the unit which were weak in '08.

The Rams now have a solid nucleus of young and talented defensive players to build around with Long, Butler, Laurinaitis, safety O.J. Atogwe, and former first rounder Adam Carriker.

 

Bottom Line

I think both sides of the ball will be much improved. Coach Spags will get a lot out of every player, which will result in a much better team. However, it still won’t be enough for any type of playoff push. I expect somewhere around five victories with the possibility of close to seven.

 

Previous Rankings

32. Detroit Lions

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

30. Cleveland Browns

29. Oakland Raiders

28. Kansas City Chiefs

Be sure to check in tomorrow for the unveiling of team 26. 

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