The St. Louis Rams were optimistic for 2007, but they all went down the drain with injuries to their offensive line, running back, and quarterback within the first couple of weeks of the NFL season.
They 3-13 on the season and now enter the 2008 NFL off-season with a lot of questions that I have the pleasure of answering from a far.
First of all, the Rams need to get healthy. Running back Steven Jackson was all set to have a remarkable 2007, but he could only play 12 games, and he was hurt in at least a few of them. He still managed to accumulate at 1,002 yards and scored six touchdowns while averaging 4.2 yards per carry. They will need him at full strength next season if they expect to be in the playoff hunt.
Marc Bulger also was hobbled much of the season, and he too tried to play through it. Thus, he did not look himself and he threw 15 interceptions and only 11 touchdowns after a career of having protected the ball quite well.
But the reason those two were banged up, underperforming and inconsistent was because the offensive line was hurt from day one. They had three backups playing on the offensive line for most of the season. That’s why Bulger was sacked 10% of the time he dropped back for a pass, and it is also why backup running backs Brian Leonard and Antonio Pittman both averaged less than 4 yards per carry. Obviously, the key injury was to Orlando Pace.
Speaking of dominating left tackles, perhaps that is where the Rams need to draft in this year’s draft. Pace has been a standout tackle for the Rams for years, and he was probably the most important part of the “greatest show on turf” offense when the Rams were going to the Superbowl in 1999 and 2000. Good thing for the Rams is that they have the second pick of the draft. The consensus is that they will draft DE Chris Long, but I would suggest they pick up Jake Long, the offensive tackle from Michigan. He will be perennial Pro-bowler at the next level, and I just don’t see how the franchise that had the vision to draft Orlando Pace could pass up on a great tackle when they are in need of some offensive line help.
However, the Rams do have a ton of defensive problems after allowing 27 points per game in 2007. To address their defensive end woes, they could go after Terrell Suggs from the Ravens, who will certainly help out on the pass rush. And they can choose from a ton of unrestricted free agents who will be available at the linebacker position. From Kavika Mitchell and Boss Bailey, to Lance Briggs and Tedy Lehman, there are tons of LBs out there that can help rushing defense of the Rams.
As for the secondary, they need a lot of help, and I don’t see it all coming together in 2008. Thus, they can turn to the draft and hope to get a stand out cornerback like rookie Aqib Talib from Kansas who could really help boos the athleticism in their defensive backfield. And perhaps another pick or two for the secondary could help supplant the Rams current set of unproductive cornerbacks in 2008.