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Rams regular-season wrap-up

1/5/2011

Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 17

Preseason Power Ranking: 32

Biggest surprise: Rookie quarterback Sam Bradford took every offensive snap even though draft analysts questioned his durability coming out of college. Bradford earned the starting job and teammates' respect right away. Bradford was not perfect. He needs to continue improving as a pocket passer. An improved command of the offense and situations will allow him to make better presnap adjustments at the line of scrimmage. But all signs point to Bradford's developing more quickly than expected. He also proved to be more athletic than expected, scrambling effectively and throwing accurately on the move. The team never seriously considered letting veteran A.J. Feeley open the season as the starter. Bradford was NFL-ready.

Biggest disappointment: Injuries tore apart the receiving corps, preventing Bradford from taking the offense past its formative stages. Losing Donnie Avery to a season-ending knee injury during the exhibition season robbed the Rams of their deep threat. Mark Clayton more than filled the production void after the Rams acquired him from Baltimore, but his season-ending knee injury forced Bradford to play the final 11 games without him. Deficiencies at receiver stood out as the Rams' primary problem during their Week 17 elimination game at Seattle. The Rams didn't get much from rookie receiver Mardy Gilyard this season, adding to the disappointment.

Biggest need: Receiver isn't the only obvious need. The Rams need help at outside linebacker as they continue to build their defense under coach Steve Spagnuolo. Special-teamers David Vobora and Chris Chamberlain were starting on the outside by season's end. Both are good enough to factor into the defense as reserves. Neither should be starting for the long term. The Rams were better at the position until Na'il Diggs suffered a season-ending injury. The team was desperate enough early in the season to give Bobby Carpenter a try. The Rams need better.

Team MVP: Bradford. The Rams went 6-42 in the three seasons before they drafted Bradford. They went 7-9 in his first season. There were other reasons for the turnaround, including a favorable schedule early in the season, but Bradford was the key variable. He made those around him better, rare for a rookie.

Taking ownership: Stan Kroenke took over for Chip Rosenbloom as the Rams' majority owner. Kroenke has deeper pockets, potentially giving the Rams resources that were not previously available. How will the Rams proceed during their first offseason with Kroenke in the majority role? The unsettled labor situation complicates matters, but now is the time for the Rams to redouble their efforts. They have the right quarterback. Time to build up his supporting cast.