Hopes were somewhat high for the Rams last season after a surprising (see, fluky) 7-9 finish in 2010. Those hopes were quickly dashed though as poor play and injuries made it apparent that the Rams would not be making any noise.
The team finished last in scoring at just 12.1 points per game and had a -214 point differential, also the worst in the league. Not surprisingly, the team finished dead last in the NFL with a 2-14 record.
Head coach Steve Spagnulo and General Manager Billy Devaney were promptly fired the day after the season ended. The club replaced them with former Atlanta Falcons director of player personnel Les Snead at GM and former Tennessee head coach Jeff Fisher on the sidelines.
Important Additions: CB Cortland Finnegan, OLB Jo-Lonn Dunbar, C Scott Wells, DT Kendall Langford, OT Wayne Hunter, WR Steve Smith
Important Losses: CB Ronald Bartell, C Jason Brown, P Donnie Jones, WR Brandon Lloyd, WR Danario Alexander, OT Jason Smith, FB Ovie Mughelli, DE James Hall.
Reasons to Believe
1. The Fisher King - Jeff Fisher brings 16 years of head coaching experience to the Rams and immediately gives the team a stable presence on the sidelines, something they have lacked the last few years. Fisher also knows how to win having been to the playoffs six times as a head coach and comin within a foot of a Super Bowl title in 1999 when his Tennesse Titans lost to none other than the Rams.
|Chris Long is becoming one of the better defensive ends in the NFL and the Rams rewarded him with a four-year $48.2 million extension.
2. Here's to Health - A chunk of the Rams offensive woes last season can be at least partially chalked up to injuries. Sam Bradford was either on the sidelines or playing hurt, his leading receiver from the season before missed the entire year and his O-line was nothing short of decimated. With everyone starting the season fresh hopes are high that this can be the year Bradford lives up to his draft day billing as a franchise QB.
3. Walk The Line - The addition of Michael Brockers to a defensive line that already features Chris Long and Robert Quinn means the Rams could now have three first-rounders as starters in their front four. Long and Quinn can create havoc from the edge while Brockers will help plug up the middle. This young line has the potential to develop into a very fearsome unit that will will haunt opposing quarterbacks for years to come.
Reasons to Doubt
1. Losing Mentality - St. Louis has gone 15-65 over the last five seasons. That is the worst winning percentage over a five-year span since the inception of the 16-game season. That's worse than anything Matt Millen did in Detroit, worse than anything that's happened in Ohio and even worse than the woeful 1980's Buccaneers. It's tough to get that much losing out of your head, at least all at once, especially since the Rams are projected to have the fourth-hardest schedule in the league this season that includes a brutal four-week stretch of Green Bay, New England and San Francisco sandwiching their bye.
2. Leaky Line - Sam Bradford's ability to stay healthy is iffy at beast. Last season, he was perpetually injured playing behind a crumbling offensive line. The Rams brought in veteran centre Scott Wells from Green Bay to help stabilize things, but there are still alot of question marks. Left tackle Roger Saffold missed significant time with injuries and there is no guarantee he will be able to return to form .Meanwhile right tackle Jason Smith also missed a lot of games and is looking more and more like a draft bust after being drafted second overall in 2009.
3. No Prime Target - Jeff Fisher may be a run first coach but you still have to throw the ball to win in the NFL and unfortunately for the Rams, they are sorely lacking in the receiver department. Danny Amendola is back, but he is more of a poor man's (see, broke) Wes Welker than a number one or even a number two. Brandon Gibson is a decent third option at best. That leaves the team hoping that unproven rookie Brian Quick can make a giant leap from Division 1A to number one receiver in the NFL. That level of talent just isn't good enough.
What to Expect
The good news is that it's safe too assume that things aren't going to get any worse in St. Louis. The team basically has nowhere to go but up. The bad news, they likely won't be going up all that high. They have some nice pieces, but this is still a developmental year as Jeff Fisher tries to implement his philosophy on the team's core of young talent. We're still a few years away from the second coming of the Greatest Show on Turf.