At long last, Football has returned. On Friday the Rams open up with their first full contact practice in preparation for the 2008 season. As those of us amerced in Rams fandom have become accustomed over the past few years, a plethora of question marks are hanging over the blue and gold as camp opens. Before the Rams marketplace opens, I offer up my advice on whose stock you should buy, and whose will start falling faster then the Dow Jones.
The Rams 05 first rounder has been disappointing to this point. (you see what I did there, that was a false start.) Barron has struggled to make the most of his size and athleticism to the extent that the Rams brass was expecting when they made him the 19th overall pick. His accumulation of penalties has at times been maddening. However, one thing Barron has yet to really have is real competition at right tackle. Well arrived it has in 3rd round selection John Greco. Greco is expected to push Barron for the starting job from the beginning, and maybe the fact that #70 will have to look over his shoulder for the first time in his NFL career will light a spark in the typically placid Florida State alum. Barron is approaching the end of his rookie contract, so the time to step up is now. I feel like the loss of job security could be just what he needs to light that fire and help him turn the corner. Otherwise Greco will take over responsibility on the right side, and Barron will have to find somewhere else to jump offside’s.
In the not too distant past, Hall was feared league wide as the “human joystick” however; a season plagued by injuries has greatly diminished Hall’s effectiveness as a return man. For the first time in a while, the Rams have a few viable options in the kick return game, options that don’t turn 30 this season as Hall will. Rookies Donnie Avery, Keenan Burton, and veterans Marques Hagans and Derek Stanley, are all in the mix. In a year in which the Rams receiving core will be shaped for the next few seasons, it makes sense for the team to go young and stay young. With Tory Holt posturing for a Carolina end to his career once his Rams contract is up, it becomes that much more important to groom the young players that may have to step up to fill the void in the mot so distant future. Youth is the name of the game now, and Hall is no longer the weapon he once was. Look for him to be a cut around Labor day.
I have already grown tired of the panning of the pick by Rams fans that were in love with Glen Dorcy. Take your could of should haves and move to Western Missouri if you are that sold on Dorsey. Long got his deal done in time to not miss a snap of training camp and he continues to say all the right things. Look for him to step in from the start and assert himself as a leader on and off the field. The Rams d-line is slowly improving, and a healthy Adam Carriker next to him won’t hurt a bit. I expect good things out of the combo of Long Kariker and Ryan. And while we are on the subject of Clifton Ryan look for him to explode this season. He showed flashes last year, and I look for him to be a force inside.
Setterstrom was a guy I loved coming out of the draft, but he has shown thus far that he can’t stay healthy. The biggest red flag for me is his short-lived move to center earlier this off-season. What this says to me is that either, (a) the Rams staff is incompetent, wasting time working Setterstrom at center before moving him back to guard, (not out of the question) or (b) Setterstrom wasn’t impressing and the coaches were looking for a spark out of Setterstrom. Regardless the competition inside the ram’s line should be tuff, with Jacob bell expected to hold down the left guard spot, there will be a few guys duking it out for the right side position. Early word is that the coaches like Roy Schuening quite a bit, and I was sort of impressed by the work put in by Brandon Gorin last season, doing an adequate job starting at right tackle just days after being signed off the street. Unfortunately, I feel like Settrstrom will have to be looking for employment elsewhere come September.
All signs point towards a significantly increased role for McMichael in the offence this year. (Short of falling asleep on the bus and missing the game, his role couldn’t be decreased much more) McMichael was very recently one of the top tite ends in football, and with the arrival of Al Saunders in St. Louis, good things should be happening in the passing game where McMichael is concerned. Look for a bigger impact to be made by 2006 2nd round pick Joe Klopfenstein as well. (if not he is in danger of being moved next off-season)
A couple more names to watch:
Tim McGarigle, loved this guy coming out of Northwestern, could be time for him to step up and prove that he deserved to be kept after spending most of last year’s camp hurt
Jonathan Wade, the corner position is starting to get crowded with young guys in St. Louis, Wade is going to have to show something in Wisconsin if he is going to hold on to his current gig
That’s all for now, Friday marks my first opportunity to be proven completely wrong.