After a promising 2010 season, the Rams struck gold in the draft with potential franchise pass rusher Robert Quinn. That pick was followed by a number of apparent role-player selections. A rising but still-rebuilding team, St. Louis could benefit from multiple diamond in the rough-type signings as opposed to one star who’d require a blockbuster contract.
We suspect they’ll be aggressive in free agency.
1. Find a complementary back to Jackson.
Only three active backs have more career carries than Steven Jackson. Jackson’s yards-per-carry average also dropped to 3.76 last season. These are tell-tale signs of a running back in danger of falling off the proverbial cliff.
The Rams passed on Mikel Leshoure in the second round, forcing them to take seriously an unimpressive running back market. St. Louis has been speculatively connected to Cadillac Williams, Darren Sproles, and Ronnie Brown. Ideally, they’ll find a back capable of handling a significant early-down workload while Jackson goes back to dominating in passing situations. Considering who’s available, this will be easier said than done.
2. Plug defensive holes without overspending.
Every team would love to do this every offseason, of course, but what projects as the most impressive free agency class in league history could make it more feasible this year. Rather than splurge on Nnamdi Asomugha or Eric Weddle, the Rams should pursue young defensive talents who won’t require big money. And sign several of them. Justin Durant and James Anderson come to mind at outside linebacker. Brodney Pool and Reed Doughty could be value pickups at safety.
3. Move quickly with offensive install.
Sam Bradford, possibly with assistance from Ben McDaniels, got the ball rolling on implementing new coordinator Josh McDaniels’ offense at offseason workouts. This may have been a somewhat risky approach, however, since it was Bradford and — not the coach — teaching the system to players. When the lockout ends, McDaniels and Bradford will need to be sure to iron out any kinks in the information “taught” at player-organized activities. McDaniels’ scheme is very unlike old offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur’s, particularly in regard to what is required from tight ends and wide receivers.
4. Keep McDaniels out of personnel matters.
After seeing McDaniels work magic with Matt Cassel and Kyle Orton, we can confidently call him one of the game’s brightest young offensive minds. After seeing McDaniels flame out in Denver due to a slew of horrible personnel moves, we can confidently say he shouldn’t be calling any shots when it comes to player acquisition.
In the draft, we suspect McDaniels had plenty to do with the Rams’ selection of tight end Lance Kendricks over Leshoure at No. 47 overall. Kendricks may be a fine long-term player for St. Louis, but at first glance the pick didn’t seem like good value. Moving forward, G.M. Billy Devaney should be sure to listen to McDaniels’ suggestions about types of players needed to execute the offense. Devaney shouldn’t heed McDaniels’ advice when it comes to signing or drafting anyone.
5. Stick to the Four Pillars philosophy.
As stated above, the Rams are a young, rebuilding team. They’re not ready to take chances on potential locker-room cancers like Terrell Owens and Randy Moss. The Four Pillars is Devaney’s franchise-building philosophy that stresses faith, character, core values, and team first. Continuing to operate according to this creed may also rule out free agent Plaxico Burress.