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Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Passionate Rams fan? Step to front of line

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Passionate responses from St. Louis Rams fans take priority around here for reasons obvious to those lurking in the comments sections.

If the past five seasons have squeezed life from some Rams fans, that is understandable. But there are still some survivors out there, and I'm betting k1joyce is one of them.

The earlier item about the Rams' total roster rebuild got k1joyce going. It was good to see.

"It is simply ignored that the Rams were 7-9 a year ago [2010 season]," he wrote. "I'd like to see any team weather the storm of injuries they had last year, but of course, that doesn't matter. They should win 6-8 games next year provided the draft gives them some decent players."

And this: "With Jeff Fisher at the helm, this team surprises Mike Sando and wins 6-8 games, provided 20 players don't end up on IR. ... You can't just go around looking at the record of the past five years and just continue to IGNORE that the Rams were 7-9 a year ago. While it is unlikely the Rams are over .500 this upcoming year, they are not as far away from being competitive as Sando would have you think."

A clarification seems appropriate here. I never said the Rams would be terrible. I said they were terrible last season and would have many new players this season, by design. They went into this offseason with 21 unrestricted free agents. They have not re-signed any of them. I'll be shocked if they re-sign more than one or two, if any.

Right there, we're talking about 40 percent of the final 2011 roster turning over. The team could welcome back seven or eight of the players finishing last season on injured reserve, helping continuity and supporting k1joyce's broader point.

But as I told k1joyce in the comments section of that previous item, the Rams being 7-9 in 2010 would mean more if they were bringing back a lot of the same players. Three-fourths of the starting defensive line will be new from 2010. Two-thirds of the starting linebackers will be new. The entire starting secondary could be new. At least three-fifths of the starting offensive line will be new. The receivers should be largely new.

"I just think, minus half the team on IR, they are better than what they were last year," k1joyce replied. "There is a solid core in place with Chris Long, James Lauranitis, Robert Quinn, Sam Bradford and Steven Jackson. Quintin Mikell and Darian Stewart will be the starters at safety. Cortland Finnegan is new, but Bradley Fletcher has played well when healthy, and Jerome Murphy could surprise some people at nickel."

There was more, including a note about Bradford playing well -- for a rookie, I would add -- with the receivers he had in 2010. But we should be able to settle this one without extending this discussion much further.

Again, I never said the Rams would be 2-14 again. I would simply say the evidence suggests they're in rebuild mode, starting with the fact that so many of their players from last season will not return -- by design.

The turnover since 2010 will be even more striking.

Seventy-six players played for the Rams at some point during the 2010 season. Twenty-three of them remain with the team, including restricted free agent Danny Amendola. Of the other 22, a handful project as potential starters: Bradford, Fletcher, Jackson, Laurinaitis, Long, Saffold, Stewart and Jason Smith. Mikell, referenced earlier, was not with the Rams until 2011.

I'll break down the turnover rates for rosters as the season approaches. The Rams are not finished.

Note: The 76 players from 2010 included all players with the Rams in some capacity, whether or not they played during regular-season games. That included some practice-squad players.