It's not exactly a neutral assessment, but the Rams' top player on the defensive side of the ball, Leonard Little, likes the new look D he's leading this season. He does make a good point about the team heading into its second year of experience under defensive coordinator Jim Haslett.
I don't want to give the learning a new coach theory more credit than it deserves. Think about it this way, if the defensive roster hadn't changed from last season to now, I don't think we'd be as rosy about the Rams' prospects as we are with a crop of talented rookies and some veteran additions in the mix. However, there certainly is something to be said for that other "x factor," experience. Without a doubt a second year of getting familiar with a new coaching staff and their brand new approach to the game makes a difference.
We see that all the time when we talk about the performance of individual players, particularly rookies just cutting their teeth in the league. Although the defense was in its classic 2006 porous form against the Redskins in second to last game of the season, this idea seemed to be a factor in games against the Raiders and the Vikings.
On the other hand, you have those rookies and new guys at a few key spots in the defense, that won't be as up to speed with Haslett's approach as the guys who played last season. Nevertheless, there's enough hold over with Little, the secondary and the linebackers that some improvement based on just the experience/familiarity factor alone is reasonable to expect.
Speaking of coachability, I saw that Jimmy Kennedy continued to blame the coaches in St. Louis for his poor track record in the blue and gold. The article itself is locked behind a wall of subscription at the Sporting News but a poster at the PD's Rams Talk forum reprinted some of the key passages. You'll note the tired "didn't use me right" refrain, as Kennedy felt that last season his shortcomings were mostly because he fancied himself a play maker rather than just a straight up nose tackle. With the Broncos he feels that he can "be in a powerful situation but get sacks as well as show my athleticism and keep the linebackers free."
Uh, that's kind of what the Rams wanted him to do last year. And how are the LBs going to be free when he's leaving the center and guard to block them at will as Kennedy quixotically chases the QB?
I'll give him some room here, he went through some coaching changes and got moved around enough that it probably did have an effect on his development as a player, leading to confusion about what exactly he was supposed to do on the line and how to execute plays. However, he had a pretty clearly defined role last season and was given ample opportunity to perform and he just never was able to rise to the occasion. Whether he wanted to be a NT or not is beside the point: he was asked as a contracted employee to fill that role and practice and full access to the coaches to clarify any issues he may have had. In spite of all that, he didn't do it. (He was injured last season too.)
I do agree with Kennedy's assessment on one point though: it was best for both parties to move on in their separate directions.