Thursday, September 1, 2011
Intelligence report: St. Louis Rams
By Mike Sando
Five things to know about the St. Louis Rams, straight from our newly published 2011 preview:
1. They like their wide receivers: Say what you will about Brandon Gibson, Danny Amendola, Mike Sims-Walker, Greg Salas, Austin Pettis and any others who wind up earning spots on the initial 53-man roster. The Rams think they're talented enough at the position to put stress on opposing defenses in multiple ways. And "stress" is the word new coordinator Josh McDaniels emphasizes. He has consistently downplayed the need for a dynamic physical talent at the position. Time will tell if he is correct. The Rams made no effort to pursue Sidney Rice, for example.
2. The Rams got older, for now: The Rams have gone from fielding one of the five or six youngest teams on average to fielding one of the 10 or 12 oldest. This was by design. The team leveraged a flooded market in free agency to add veterans on short-term contracts without long-term salary ramifications. Eleven of the 14 unrestricted free agents they added signed one-year deals. Quintin Mikell's deal was the only one carrying a signing bonus with cap ramifications beyond this season. Players such as Ben Leber, Zac Diles, Justin Bannan, Daniel Muir and Al Harris brought seasoning to the defense in particular. The Rams' starting offense remains among the very youngest.
3. McDaniels wants a low profile: McDaniels' track record in personnel and people management in Denver contributed to his demise with the Broncos. He's making a focused effort to change perceptions. McDaniels consistently downplays suggestions he contributed to personnel-related decisions with the Rams, even in cases when he clearly played a role, such as with the drafting of tight end Lance Kendricks. McDaniels also has been quite congenial with reporters during media sessions. He's using this opportunity with the Rams to redefine himself and reposition himself for another head-coaching job.
4. The division race can wait: The Rams are the only team in the league without a division game before Week 9. They've got the Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants, Baltimore Ravens, Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints in the first eight weeks of the season. It's conceivable the Rams could fall behind in the NFC West race before they even play a division game. They play four division games in a row beginning in Week 11. That will be a critical stretch in the NFC West race.
5. Cornerback depth is a concern: Division rivals added some big, physically gifted receivers this offseason. Rice and Braylon Edwards come to mind immediately. The Rams have not kept pace at cornerback. Starters Bradley Fletcher and Ron Bartell give the team a solid 1-2 combination. But with an ankle injury sidelining third corner Jerome Murphy, the Rams are one injury away from facing a potential crisis situation at the position. Look for the Rams to consider adding a veteran corner before the regular season begins.