Last day of June. The summer races by and that means we're now less than a month away from the start of training camp. Be prepared, the last leg of the journey is usually the longest.
Outside of their recent interest in Barry Sims, the Rams finished their offseason shopping with the signing of third QB Gradkowski. Are we satisfied they've made the right moves? Is that all they need to/can do heading into the season?
Reading about Kevin Jones working out for teams this weekend got me thinking about any other player acquisitions I might like to see the Rams make before the season starts. I couldn't come up with much off the top of my head, so thought it would be worth a Monday morning discussion to make sure we feel like the bases are covered, or at least as covered as they can be a month out from camp.
Position by position...
With Pace healthy and high profile free agent Jacob Bell inked and ready to start, the left side of the Rams line is set. Incognito and Romberg will battle it out in the middle and Setterstrom and Barron will hold down the right side. Incognito and Setterstrom have done yeoman work filling in for injured starters the last two seasons, and since they both dealt with injuries last season, neither has reached their ceiling. The Rams intend to push those three, Setts, Cogs and Barron, to their ceiling, and with a couple hungry rookies, John Greco and Roy Schuening, who in the minds of some could start right away at G in the NFL, will do the pushing. Adding Barry Sims to compete with Barron as well as give the Rams a backup OT with plenty of starting experience would have been helpful. The line is in better shape to fill in around key injuries, like Pace. I don't know how many more depth linemen that best what the Rams already have among their backup ranks will shake out, but if they do, the Rams would be wise to at least make offers.
Obviously, the Rams have their starting RB, and he's primed fro a big, big season. Backing him up is Brian Leonard and Antonio Pittman, with one being expected to block more and the other coming in for their straight line speed. I'd like to see Leonard use his ball skills to catch a few passes in the middle, save some wear and tear on Jackson's legs. Is that enough? Are you satisfied with the depth behind Steven Jackson? With names like Travis Henry and Kevin Jones still out there, I'll admit, it's tempting to want to sign one of those guys, but that comes at a cost. At QB, the Rams made Bulger their starter for several years with a new contract last summer. Behind him, Trent Green's concussions give him his share of doubters, and rightfully so, but the Rams seem to think he's fit and need a QB that knows Saunders' complex offense. Finally, the addition of Brice Gradkowski gives them youth with starting expereince in the third QB slot.
Bennett has his doubters after a lackluster season last year, and Holt has a balky knee. Behind those two, the Rams are counting on a rookie, Donnie Avery, to be a deep threat. Reche Caldwell was signed this offseason to give the Rams another experienced WR. There are those who think the Rams should add another experienced #2/3 type WR, but that's not likely now. At tight end, the Rams have a blocker in Becht, a playmaker in McMichael, and something in between in Klopfenstein.
There's an argument to be made for trying to find a big guy to play tackle in the middle, a roundish nose tackle type. However, the Rams feature a solid rotation at DT with Carriker and Glover starting and Ryan and a possibly much improved Claude Wroten behind them. At DE, the future starts now with Chris Long transitioning under the tutledge of the big man, Leonard Little. Adeyanju and Hall back them up.
This is where, on the surface anyway, the need for additional help stands out. After losing Brandon Chillar to free agency, the Rams turn to Quentin Culberson to replace Chillar's 54 tackles. Added last May as an undrafted free agent, Culberson played in 14 games, staring 1, last season and recorded 24 tackles and 2 forced fumbles. Haslett and the team endorsed Culberson hardily when they made little effort to retain Chillar. It's a big leap of faith with one of the team's other three starting LBs, Pisa Tinoisamoa, having last played all 16 games in 2005.
This was a problem area last season with starters Fakhir Brown and Tye Hill both missing time due to suspension and injury. Jonathan Wade enters his second season and Ron Bartell begins his fourth. Bartell's a solid nickel and we'll know more about what Wade has to offer this season. Rumors about adding a proven veteran like Lito Sheppard circulated in the spring, but that had more to do with the assumption that Brown would wind up suspended for the whole season because of a repeat banned substance violation. At safety, the Rams have a real star in OJ Atogwe, who led the NFC with 8 INTs last year. At strong safety, locker room leader Corey Chavous was a bust on the field and the Rams will turn to Jerome Carter and rookie Chris Chamberlin, who has the speed and range to succeed at SS, to spell Chavous.
Josh Brown, K, was the big name added on ST this year, following last year's acquisition of another leg, punter Donnie Jones. The Rams have several candidates for return duties behind Dante Hall, and draft picks David Vorbora and Chamberlin headline the non-kicking/returner additions to ST. This is an area that MUST improve, and if a specialist or two turns up on the waiver wire or free agent roles, the Rams shouldn't hesitate to make a move.