The roster turnover for the St. Louis Rams between 2009 and 2010 was nothing compared to what it was between the 2008 and 2009 seasons. Of course, that's to be expected, since a new front office and coaching staff took over the sinking ship. From there, it was on with the rebuilding.
Now, with the rebuilding process evolving into the next stage, fielding a winning team, which positions will feature new starters for the Rams?
It's not as easy as it might seem. Dive in with us after the jump.
Let's start with the offense.
Because of rotations and different sets, it's not exactly clear cut. For instance, Danny Amendola sees as many snaps as the other receivers, but he's not technically a starter. For this purposes of this exercise I'll use the Rams 21 (two running backs and one tight end) grouping, their base formation.
Right guard - It stands to reason that the Rams will address this position, which was by far the weakest point of the front five. Adam Goldberg did a fine job, but he's overmatched against the more powerful defensive tackles and had difficulty getting to the second level with much success.
Tight End - Daniel Fells started the season in this spot, though Michael Hoomanawanui was starting to play his way into the mix before injury. The Rams probably will not bring back Daniel Fells, a free agent, this year, instead looking for more consistency. They might not even have more than three tight ends (Uh Oh, Billy Bajema and Fendi Onobun) depending on what Josh McDaniels prefers as the new OC. Hoomanawanui figures to be the starter, so that still counts as a new starter for 2011.
Wide Receiver - You can bet that the Rams will have two different receivers starting for them in 2011, the question is where were those players in 2010. One of the starters is most likely Donnie Avery, barring upset. Avery would have been a starter this year, but a preseason injury ended his season before it began. And what about the second receiver in their base set? It could be someone that's already in-house, Danario Alexander would be the most likely from that bunch. Brandon Gibson is a long shot. Most of us are probably hoping for a new face in that spot, either a big name free agent like Vincent Jackson or one of the big names in the draft like Julio Jones.
Fullback - Under Pat Shurmur, fullback was all but phased out. However, Josh McDaniels comes from a New England system that used the running back by committee approach before it was cool. Could Mike Karney stick around in 2011? That largely depends on what kind of backup/committee running back the Rams add during the offseason.
Now, over to the defensive side of the ball. With one notable exception, depth is more of an issue on defense than a need for rash of new talent. Recent draft picks like Chris Long, James Laurinaitis and Bradley Fletcher along with stalwarts from a few years back like Ron Bartell and Oshiomogho Atogwe constitute a solid foundation.
Strongside linebacker - Starting with the most obvious. It's not a question of 'if' so much as it is a question of 'who.' Ancillary to that question is how the Rams get a new SLB. If they can find someone in free agency, then they'll have an experienced player likely to have a more immediate impact than a rookie, especially if they can find someone familiar with their system...we mentioned the possibility of Carolina free agent Thomas Davis earlier.
Right defensive tackle - Gary Gibson is to be commended for the work he's done. However, the Rams really could use a bona fide three-technique pass rusher here. Given how much they've talked with 2011 NFL Draft prospect Terrell McClain, a South Florida DT, don't be surprised if they draft a defensive tackle. Actually, if they can't get a receiver in the first round a new defensive lineman might make the most sense for the 14th overall pick.
Strong safety - There's much less certainty about whether or not Craig Dahl will be the starter. Dahl is a machine against the run and plays more like an extra linebacker, but he is not as solid in coverage. The Rams like their starting safeties to be interchangeable. Adding a guy with stronger coverage skills makes sense. However, that guy might not start, technically. A draft pick would likely not begin the year as a starter anyway.
There's one more role where we're likely to see a new starter: kick returner. Danny Amendola has been reliable and consistent in that role, usually giving the Rams acceptable field position. But they really need someone who is a threat to score every time he catches the ball.