NFC West: Kennan Burton
Posted by Scouts Inc.'s Matt Williamson
|Jeff Curry/US Presswire|
|Outside of Steve Jackson, the Rams are short on weapons.|
The Rams have several areas of great concern. But outside of Steve Jackson, there is a real shortage at wide receiver, tight end and complementary running backs in St. Louis. Actually, it might be prudent to add Marc Bulger to this equation as well, as he has thrown 22 touchdowns and 28 interceptions over the past two seasons. But let's just focus on the pass catchers and backup runners for the moment.
Jackson isn't the most durable player around, so having a quality back behind him is of paramount importance. There might not be a team in the league that has worse running back depth than the Rams. Jackson has missed four games in each of the past two seasons and the best options behind him are Antonio Pittman, Kenneth Darby, Samkon Gado and this year's seventh-round pick, Chris Ogbonnaya. Also, this is supposed to be a power, run-first offense with Steve Spagnuolo as the head coach. The backs are going to take a pounding.
The Rams used an early second-round pick last year to make Donnie Avery the first wideout selected in 2008. He is incredibly fast and had a more than respectable season in his rookie year. There is a lot to like about Avery, but is he ever going to be a true No. 1 guy who can dominate in tight quarters, the red zone and when coverages are rolled his way? Like most of St. Louis' wide receiver corps, he is best suited to the dome environment, which is fine -- when the Rams are playing in a dome.
While it is extremely early in his career and he has yet to be productive, Keenan Burton may end up being a solid No. 2 wideout in time. He has decent size, knows how to use it well and is a secure hand-catcher. Still, there is a learning curve here.
St. Louis also wisely traded for Laurent Robinson, who could be another very good dome player. He has a vertical aspect to his game and should develop further. Either Robinson or Burton will start opposite Avery.
While these three young wideouts have upside and very well could develop into solid pros, they are not there yet and there certainly is no guarantee that they will excel. Avery and Robinson aren't particularly physical. And learning the wide receiver position at this level tends to take a fair amount of time.
Also, these are really the only three wideouts of consequence presently on the roster. Brooks Foster might be OK as a fourth wideout and he does have ability, but forgive me if I don't get overly excited about Derek Stanley or Tim Carter. The lack of star power at wideout is the most troubling.
Randy McMichael would be a suitable starting tight end -- if the Rams were better stocked at wide receiver. Or, if St. Louis had a superstar tight end to go with their present group of wideouts, that would be fine. But neither is the case. Expect somewhat of a resurgence from McMichael this season after missing the final 12 games last year with a leg injury. He will be needed, and there is little behind him right now on the tight end depth chart, so throwing out of double tight end sets could be compromised. Keep an eye on Daniel Fells, a relative unknown. He has a chance to make an impact to some degree.
Finding questionable areas on the Rams is not a difficult chore. Both lines still have a chance to be weaknesses and the cornerback position is rather unstable as well, but the lack of offensive playmakers outside of Jackson is most troubling.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.