The Rams have a long road back to respectability.

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The good news at QB is that the Rams have a legitimate backup—Kyle Boller. The bad news is the way the O line plays, they will need Boller and Brock Berlin to replace starter Marc Bulger when he gets hurt. Bulger is a top QB on a team with an O line that couldn’t protect a Sherman Tank.

Bulger has had passer ratings in the 90’s when the team had an O line and receivers that could catch the ball in 2002-2006. In 07 and 08 Orlando Pace was hurt and there were more injured O linemen than healthy ones. Bulger had a rating of 70.3 in 07 and 71.4 last year. Bulger needs some better protection if the Rams’ O is going to improve.

The running game has suffered a similar fate to the passing game. RB Steven Jackson is as good as any but has struggled the last few years. In 06 he carried 346 times for a 4.4 average. In 07 he had averaged 4.2 and in 08 4.1. He failed to finish either of those two seasons healthy. He is capable of being the difference in close games that the Rams could not close out last year. He has 4 guys behind him but the team will probably keep 2 or 3 at the most. HB Kenneth Darby is a 3rd down type slasher back who may not be able to carry the load should Jackson go down. Antonio Pittman has the ability but has had trouble staying healthy. Pittman could be the odd man out. The team drafted Chris Ogbonnaya in the 2nd round this year and he will stick. They also signed vet Samkon Gado who does everything OK but is not outstanding in any way. He and Pittman will battle for a 4th rb if the Rams keep that many. The FB will be vet Mike Karney.

The WR is a gab bag at best. The corps is 2nd year Donnie Avery and a bunch of guys. And Avery is a #2 quality WR at best. He is out now with a broken foot. Keenan Burton is always hurting. Laurent Robinson is trying to revive his career with the team. So far he looks decent and may win a starting job. Derek Stanley is recovering from an ACL. Players usually take 12 months to fully recover. Good luck to the Ram QBs depending on this group. The TE situation isn’t much brighter. Randy McMichael is capable when healthy. He missed 12 games last year with a serious foot injury. So far he looks OK. The rest of the group is a long shot at best.

The O line has been the walking wounded for the last 2 years. It is no different this year. The best of the group is T Alex Barron and C Jason Brown. Barron has been hurt (knee) and is in the last year of his deal. 4 year vet Brown has developed nicely and is solid. LG Jacob Bell was signed from the Titans last year and has yet to prove he is worth his game check. He is now suffering from a concussion. G Richie Incognito is a penalty magnet. He needs to get his head in the game. Rookie RT Jason Smith is going to start but has trouble with quick DE pass rush. The Rams have 10 reserve OL guys and hope to find 4 that are good enough to stick. Don’t bet on it.

The D line will be a challenge as well. The starting 4 will be LDE Victor Adeyanju, LDT Adam Carriker, RDT Clifton Ryan and RDE Chris Long with backup E Leonard Little in reserve. Long and Carriker are good as long as the later can stay healthy. Ryan and Adeyanju are fair at best. Little is a pass rusher and little (excuse the pun) else. They drafted T Darell Scott in the 4th but there isn’t much else. The problem will be that they need at least 2 more good DL guys to make a full rotation.

The linebacker crew is looking much better thanks to the addition of 2nd round steal MLB James Laurinaitis from Ohio State. He attacks the run and is an effective blitzer. Last year’s MLB Will Witherspoon slides to the weak side and should be fine. He is a playmaker. Chris Draft will start on the strong side and is OK. Larry Grant and David Vobora have potential but little experience in the backup roles.

FS Oshiomogho Atogwe and SS James Butler are set. Atogwe has good ball skills and Butler was brought here by Head Coach Spagnuolo from the Giants. The CBs are a question mark. The starters should be Ron Bartell and Tye Hill. Bartell got experience filling in for the injured Hill last year. Hill is battling young Justin King. King had the inside track last season before a toe injury ended his season. Jonathan Wade has the physical tools but has not yet learned what to do with them. He needs to learn the game and become consistent.

OVERALL: The Rams are a good bet to have an early draft choice next year again. But they are getting better with a good draft in 09 and some decent FAs. Spagnuolo should be able to get these guys to play hard and in the NFC West, that could get him some wins. I still expect the Rams to be 4th in the weakest division in the league.  The only Fantasy players are Bulger, Jackson, and maybe Avery.

That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.

Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits He has also published several novels on and edits .

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