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Monday, July 2, 2012
2012 pre-camp analysis: Rams 'O'

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Our two-day look at NFC West rosters continues with projections for the St. Louis Rams' offense.

Quarterbacks (4)

Average number kept since 2003: 2.8

Safest bets: Sam Bradford, Kellen Clemens

Leading contenders: none

Longer odds: Tom Brandstater, Austin Davis

Comment: The Rams could seemingly justify keeping just two quarterbacks in the absence of any pressing need to develop a third-stringer. Bradford is the franchise quarterback. Clemens knows the offense from his New York Jets days with new Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. Clemens' familiarity should provide some comfort even though the Rams remained in the market for other quarterbacks through much of free agency. Depth will be a concern if Bradford suffers through another injury-shortened season. But with an offense recommitted to the run, the Rams think they can improve the odds for their quarterback.

Running backs (9)

Average number kept since 2003: 5.0

Safest bets: Steven Jackson, Isaiah Pead

Leading contenders: Brit Miller, Daryl Richardson

Longer odds: Todd Anderson, Chase Reynolds, Calvin Middleton, Nick Schwieger, Ben Guidugli

Comment: The Rams got younger and more diverse behind Jackson, breathing life into the position. The team has kept only four running backs on its Week 1 roster over the previous four seasons, but the team had different leadership then. New coach Jeff Fisher could load up on tight ends. He already moved Guidugli from tight end to fullback. There will be overlap between the positions, affecting numbers. Pead projects as a change-of-pace back, as does Richardson, who impressed the team this offseason.

Wide receivers (10)

Average number kept since 2003: 5.6

Safest bets: Brian Quick, Danny Amendola, Chris Givens, Steve Smith, Greg Salas

Leading contenders: Brandon Gibson, Danario Alexander, Austin Pettis

Longer odds: Nick Johnson, Michael Campbell

Comment: The Rams have lots of second-tier options at the position. They need one or more receiver to emerge as a more dynamic option. Quick, chosen in the second round, reminded Rams coaches of Terrell Owens (physically, that is). Smith caught 107 passes for 1,220 yards and seven touchdowns with the New York Giants in 2009. He's been fighting his way back from microfracture knee surgery. The Rams saw signs this offseason that Smith could be close to recapturing past form. Can Smith make it all the way back? Gibson has been a starter, but it's unclear where he fits after the team used draft choices for Quick and the speedy Givens.

Tight ends (8)

Average number kept since 2003: 3.2

Safest bets: Lance Kendricks

Leading contenders: Mike Hoomanawanui

Longer odds: Matthew Mulligan, Brody Eldridge, Mike McNeill, Jamie Childers, Cory Harkey, Deangelo Peterson

Comment: The position appears wide open after Kendricks. Fisher's teams have generally leaned heavily on tight ends. Kendricks is a willing blocker, but he projects more as a receiving type. Hoomanawanui hasn't been able to stay healthy. That will need to change this season or the Rams will have reason to consider moving on. I've got no idea where Mulligan, Eldridge, McNeill, Childers, Harkey or Peterson fits into the Rams' plans. This position will have to shake out at training camp. Again, the fullbacks and tight ends will be interchangeable in some cases. Fisher said so when discussing the positions recently.

Offensive linemen (16)

Average number kept since 2003: 9.0

Safest bets: Rodger Saffold, Scott Wells, Harvey Dahl, Jason Smith, Rokevious Watkins

Leading contenders: Bryan Mattison, Barry Richardson, Quinn Ojinnaka, Kevin Hughes

Longer odds: Robert Turner, Michael Hay, Jose Valdez, T-Bob Hebert, Tim Barnes, Joe Long, Ryan McKee

Comment: It's unclear how the team will proceed at left guard. Watkins and Mattison could be considerations. Ojinnaka and Richardson have been tackles primarily, but they could conceivably project at guard in a pinch. Smith is back at right tackle after reworking his contract. The team hopes Smith can benefit from better luck with injuries and fresh coaching from assistant Paul Boudreau. Well's addition in free agency gives the line needed leadership. But with both tackles (Smith, Saffold) coming off rough seasons marked by serious injuries, questions persist. Dahl was the best and most consistent offensive lineman on the team last season.