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St. Louis Rams 2008 Preview

St. Louis Rams 2008 Preview

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Updated August 21, 2008
2007 Record: 3-13

2007 Rankings
Rushing: 25th (95.4)
Passing: 19th (202.1)
Total Offense: 24th (297.5)

Run Defense: 20th (115.3)
Pass Defense: 21st (225.8)
Total Defense: 21st (341.1)

What was the Rams’ best move during the offseason?
Making running back Steven Jackson happy with a contract extension was a critical move for the St. Louis Rams, but the best move during the offseason may just end up being the addition of new offensive coordinator Al Saunders, who’s system should cater to Jackson’s skill set and allow him to flourish on a level even higher than we have seen up to this point in his career. The Rams may no longer have the passing attack they once did, but Jackson has the ability to carry this offense both as a ball carrier and a receiver out of the backfield. And quarterback Marc Bulger still has the passing skills to keep teams honest in the way they defend Jackson.

Another guy who should benefit from Saunders’ presence is tight end Randy McMichael, who saw his receptions drop from 62 in 2006 to 39 after coming over from the Miami Dolphins last year. Saunders loves to work the tight end into his passing attack, and with both of the team's starting receivers on the wrong side of 30 when the season begins, they may lean more heavily on the tight ends in the passing game than they have in the past.

What needs to go right for the Rams to succeed this season?
Regardless of who’s in the lineup, the Rams’ offensive line has got to do a better job of keeping Bulger on his feet. He was pummeled by opposing defenses last season and at times looked a little shell-shocked. He also struggled through a lot of aches and pains that led to him missing all of four games and most of a fifth.

Key in all that is keeping left tackle Orlando Pace healthy after missing all but half of one game of the 2007 season with a shoulder injury, and playing in just nine games over the past two years. With Pace now 32 years old, there is reason to be concerned that his body is beginning to break down. The team has brought him along slowly this summer, however, and he could very well return to being the dominating lineman he was before the injury bug hit him.

Where will the Rams finish the 2008 NFL season?
Injuries simply decimated the Rams last season and their 3-13 record reflected their health. Their offensive line was banged up all year and they lost two quarterbacks as a result. Not all of their woes, however, can be blamed on injury alone. While I expect them to bounce back somewhat from their pitiful three-win performance last year, I wouldn’t expect them to suddenly jump back among the elite teams in the NFC either. They could challenge for the playoffs, however, in what looks like a fairly weak division.

Prediction: 8-8 and third place in the division.

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