The St. Louis Rams will have more than a few new starters in 2012, including at cornerback where rookie Janoris Jenkins, No. 21, could be one of seven new starters on defense.
Rebuilding, restocking, retooling ... however you want to classify what the St. Louis Rams are doing this season under new head coach Jeff Fisher, the one label you can't miss with is transition. The 90-man roster already includes a variety of new faces, and the final 53-man roster is guaranteed to look vastly different that the one the team had last year, both before and after all the injuries radically changed the way the team looked.
To get a better sense of the change, the transition, I wondered this morning just how many positions are likely to feature new starters. In a few cases, we already know because of free agent additions or draft picks. There is less clarity at a number of other positions.
Tevin took a look at some of the roster battles we're likely to see in camp this year. A more quantitative analysis of where we'll see new starters seemed like a natural follow up.
I'm putting leading role players on this list, because offensive formations can vary to such a degree.
Wide Receiver X - The only bit of certainty the Rams have had at either of their outside receiver positions in recent years was the brief tenure of Brandon Lloyd. Brian Quick looks ticketed to start out wide at the line scrimmage where he can take on press coverage.
Wide Receiver Z - Again, the Rams' lack of a vertical threat over recent years has made this spot a revolving door too. Chris Givens has the kind of field stretching speed and slighter build of a guy who could line up a few feet back off the line. A healthy Danario Alexander has also shown the ability to get behind defenses with his long stride.
Center - Scott Wells has this one locked down.
Left Guard - This should be one of the most closely watched position battles on the team.
Strongside Linebacker - Both the outside linebacker spots are giving fans fits. The team has struggled for answers on both sides of James Laurinaitis for three years. I don't know why the unknown is more worrisome than the status quo.
Weakside Linebacker - See above.
Cornerback, 2x - Cortland Finnegan takes over one of the starting QB roles, and will slide into the slot for plenty of snaps as well. On the other side of him, the favorite right now is 2nd-round pick Janoris Jenkins. It looks like incumbent starter Bradley Fletcher has moved to third on the depth chart, or lower, depending on his recovery from a second ACL tear last season.
Slot Corner - Jerome Murphy and later Justin King were supposed to be in the slot last season. Murphy went to IR before the season started, and King, who was not re-signed this year, was pressed into starting duty on the outside.
Kicker - Josh Brown is out; 6th-round pick Greg Zuerlein is in. If he struggles in camp and the preseason, they could still find a veteran, but being drafted at all is like being a 1st-round pick for kickers.
Punter - John Hekker replaces Donnie Jones.
There you go. Start memorizing names now, because the Rams will have plenty of new faces in new places next season. That's seven new starters in the base defense package, seven of 11. So many new starters is hardly a bad thing in and of itself when you consider the team's results recently, but it does mean that the coaching staff has its work cut out for it this year.