clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

New season, new questions

New, comment

As I type this the Rams are bunched in a meeting room at Rams Park for their first collective team meeting of the 2008 season. It's minicamp today, the first and only minicamp of the season.

It goes without saying that the many lingering, nay, nagging questions surrounding a 3-13 team will not be answered by Monday. But let's go ahead and ask them anyway.

Over on the official site, they've got a nice little preview that runs down some of the key issues facing the team along with some of the players to keep an eye on .Be sure to give it a read (although I wish the font size were larger for the sake of my old, weak ass eyes). The nice thing about a 3 win team, though, is the fact that there's no shortage of questions, so let's ask a few from the fans' perspective.

Clearly, health is the biggest issue, and not a single piece covering the start of minicamp avoids it. The Rams need all their injured players - which include some big names like Leonard Little and Adam Carriker - to make a full, speedy recovery, but Orlando Pace owns the most scrutinized shoulder in St. Louis. No small feat with all the bums like Mark Mulder the Cardinals are paying to rehab. The team seems to be confident in Pace's recovery, and he'll sit for most of the work this weekend. According to the minicamp preview at the official site, Pace won't be cleared for full activity until training camp starts in July. It's all about rest and rebuilding strength for Pace now, and a guy of his stature with 11 years of experience doesn't really need the work at this point anyway. Little and Carriker are not expected to practice , but there's no indication that they won't be 100% come camp time too.

There's another health question to keep you eyes on as the season's practices and camps get underway: Linehan's planning to make the offseason a little more rigorous , partly with the intention of getting players physical conditioning as close to game ready as possible. Will that innocualte the team against the injury bug? That stated desire will be most evident in the number of snaps the starters see in preseason games this year. Obviously, taking it easy on the veterans didn't do much to prevent injuries last season. We won't know until the fall how well this strategy pays off, but it's a risk the Rams have to take after the filling area infirmaries last year. Keep an eye out for subtle (or not so subtle) indications about the intensity levels of practices...and injury reports.

Before asking the necessary questions about Al Saunders' playbook, I'm particularly curious as to what we'll see from Haslett's defense this season. The unit, despite the record and some misleading stats, really played t heir hearts out last season, and gave the Rams the chance to win more than three games. What will we see this year?

With Little injured and the Rams short at DE for the pass rush last season, Haslett used a 3-4 alignment for outstanding results. OLB Will Witherspoon led the team with 7 sacks thanks to the 3-4 package, and Adam Carriker proved his versatility moving from DT to DE in key situations down the stretch. So how much are we going to see the 3-4 versus the 4-3, and more importantly, what's the overall pass rush going to look like? First round pick DE Chris Long can play in either package and really emerged as a pass rusher in Virgina's modified 3-4-esque package last year. He'll also start on the opposite side (right) of the field from Leonard Little in the 4-3 base defense. While we're on the subject of Leonard Little, will he see some time at LB in the 3-4? The Rams have incredible versatility on the defensive line, lacking only a true NT, that ought to become the stuff of nightmares for Matt Hasselbeck and other QBs.

With such a good looking pass rush on paper, it'll be interesting to see how the defensive backfield does. Fakhir Brown's freedom secure for the time being, the Rams will have both of their starting corners. Brown and emerging star Tye Hill, when they played last season, proved to be pretty solid in coverage toev. Less exposure, as pass plays die in teh pocket, could make them even better. Brown and FS OJ Atogwe combined for 12 INTs last season, and new CB Justin King has decent enough hands that the Rams should get some turnovers in the nickel package.

Now, on the offense, we know Al Saunders' playbook has the length of Tolstoy and the depth of Dostoevsky. In the preview on the official site, there's a general feeling that Bulger and Green's experience with Saunders should smooth adjustment time. And given the ridiculously conservative offense of Linehan and the old Greatest Show players' feelings about it, it ought to be a welcome change. I'm anxious to see how Bennett rebounds, as well as how Donnie Avery gets utilized as a deep threat.

Here's a few more questions about individual players.

How well will Claude Wroten's new found desire to turn it around work out?

Is this the year Joe Klopfenstein emerges into a real asset?

Can Dustin Fry, who they seem to think is a better fit a guard, move up from teh practice squad to a useful bench addition?

Does Alex Barron see the writing on the wall and does he do something about it?

That's more than enough for now. But hardly all of the questions. Starting listing the others right here.