Thursday, April 17, 2008
Many holes to fill on draft day in St. Louis
By Doug Kretz
As the NFL draft approaches, "SportsCenter" is putting every NFL team with a first-round pick "On the Clock," and Scouts Inc. will break down each team and look at what questions still need answering.
The Rams are in a state of flux as they try to turn around this once-proud franchise. After a miserable 3-13 season, the coaching staff has been put on notice that improvement is expected. The Rams' front office and coaching staff were given a total makeover in the offseason. Ex-Falcons vice president Billy Devaney was hired as the new executive vice president of player personnel. Coach Scott Linehan hired Al Saunders as his new offensive coordinator and Steve Loney as his new offensive line coach. Then he named Ron Milus the head secondary coach and made Art Valero his assistant head coach and running backs coach.
This all looks good on paper, but to compete in the NFC West, Linehan must put a better product on the field. Devaney has his work cut out for him because the team is not getting any younger and lacked star power, other than RB Steven Jackson. St. Louis ranked No. 24 in overall offense and No. 21 in overall defense.
The Rams might not have made a big splash in free agency, but they did improve themselves with key additions. To try to put more points on the board, they went out and signed K Josh Brown. Not only is he a top kicker, but they signed him away from divisional rival Seattle. He has good range and has been extremely accurate over his career. They signed G Jacob Bell away from the Titans. He is young and has the versatility to play guard or tackle. TE Anthony Becht was signed away from Tampa Bay and is supposed to help improve the ground game. WR Reche Caldwell was an integral part of the Patriots' passing game in 2006 before going to the Redskins. He struggled in 2007, but St. Louis hopes he can return to his 2006 form. The Rams also signed CB David Macklin, who was a bit of a bust for the Redskins in 2007 after several productive years for the Colts and Cardinals. QB Trent Green was signed once he was released from Miami. He knows Saunders' system from their days together in Kansas City.
The Rams lost a few key players in free agency. LB Brandon Chillar, who was considered one of their top tacklers, left for Green Bay. G Milford Brown was signed by the Panthers, and it looks as though Bell will replace him. Perhaps the biggest loss will be aging WR Isaac Bruce, whom they released and hoped to re-sign, but who was lured away by the 49ers. He is not the same player he has been in the past, but the St. Louis players are already talking about how he will be missed. QB Gus Frerotte also was released, and he has since signed with the Vikings.
The Rams have several holes to fill on both sides of the ball. However, chief among them would be defensive end because they recorded only five sacks last year, partly thanks to losing DE Leonard Little for nine games with a toe injury. As a result, Virginia DE Chris Long and Ohio State DE Vernon Gholston look particularly interesting in the draft. Wide receiver is another area that is bound to be addressed on the first day of the draft because Drew Bennett was disappointing last year as the No. 3 and is now listed as the No. 2 because of Bruce's departure. Offensive tackle is another position that should be looked at early. With LT Orlando Pace getting on in years and OT Alex Barron incurring too many penalties, St. Louis could use an offensive tackle for the future. QB Marc Bulger and the Rams need to rebound after a subpar year because another dismal season will not be acceptable.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.