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The stories that will make 2009 interesting

It's a blackout! Strangely enough, people opted to pursue other distractions this afternoon outside of the Ed Jones Dome, forcing the league to black out the Rams telecast in the local market. Not that lots of TVs would be tuning in to a battle of a couple 2-11s. 

It's all about 2009 now for the Rams, and these last three games aren't much more than auditions. Which stories are worth keeping an eye on in the waning weeks of another lost season?

  • Ron Bartell will want a new contract. He has three more games to add a zero or two.
  • What will the offensive line look like in 2009? Bar none, the most important question the Rams have to answer on the field. Will Alex Barron be back? Will Pace? Can John Greco earn a spot? Does Jacob Bell start making up for lost pounds and try to escape the "disappointing" tag? What about the "dirty" Richie Incognito? 
  • Will mid-season pickups James Darby and Daniel Fells earn roster spots? Darby, though small, looks like he might be a fine third down back; he blocks well and can catch a pass. Fells is growing as a blocker and a sometime target, erasing the memory of Joe Klopfenstein.
  • Barring a disaster of epic proportions, someone not currently on the Rams roster will be playing middle linebacker next season. But what about the two seventh rounders they snagged this year? Mr. Irrelevant, David Vobora did a nice job starting in the middle two weeks ago, enough to earn a spot on the depth chart, and Chris Chamberlain impressed us with coverage skills in camp and got some playing time at strongside LB last week. He'll continue to get playing time there, can he be a fit for '09? And what about Quinton Culberson? The Rams had such faith in him that they let a starting quality LB in Brandon Chillar flee, but now he's losing playing time to Chamberlain. 
  • Is Todd Johnson the answer at SS? Johnson's a crack special teamer and a fair bit better than the over-the-hill Corey Chavous, whom he'll replace this week, but is he starting material for a Rams defensive backfield that has to improve? I doubt it, but he'll get a chance to make the case otherwise.
  • And finally, we'd be criminally remiss if we didn't mention Jim Haslett. It's doubtful that he can get the two wins "strongly suggested" of him to earn a sure-fire bid at another year leading the Rams. 
Am I missing anything? With a long list of turnover possible this year, there's no shortage of subplots to the season's end. Back with a game thread later.