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Guru 2006 St. Louis Rams Preview

Here is what I had to say about the 2006 St. Louis Rams heading into pre-season:

Projected Record

5-11, 2nd Place NFC West

Projected Schedule W/L
Denver              (L)
@San Francisco      (L)
@Arizona            (L)
Detroit             (W)
@Green Bay          (L)
Seattle             (L)
@San Diego          (L)
Kansas City         (W)
@Seattle            (L)
@Carolina           (L)
San Francisco       (W)
Arizona             (W)
Chicago             (W)
@Oakland            (L)
Washington          (L)
@Minnesota          (L)

Another NFL team starting anew is the St. Louis Rams who said good-bye to self-proclaimed genious Mike martz in the off-season.  There was alot of talk that the Rams would settle on a defensive caoch but instead tabbed Scott Linehan, and offensive guy, to try and turn around a team that seemed to get old in a hurry.  In my mind that might be a tall task.  The Rams are an offensively focused team, and age is beginning to become a factor.

Team Weaknesses - When the Rams were playing in Super Bowls the relied on their offense.  Overlooked was the fact that they had a very good defense, consistently ranked in the Top 10.  As the offense has started to sputter the defense has looked less and less formidable.  Coming into this season the defense is going to have to step up if the Rams are going to have any shot at competing.  Age on offense is another down-side to this team.  Marc Bulger is an effective signal caller when he can stay on the field.  The Rams still have Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce, but each is a year older and a year slower.  It appears Marshall Faulk's storied career is over and that will be a big hit to the Rams in the locker room.  Orlando Pace is another year older as well.  Protecting Bulger will be the key, and it will be interesting to see how quickly the Rams get a grasp of Linehan's offensive schemes.

Team Strengths - Even though the Rams are getting a little long in the tooth they still have the playmakers on offense to make opposing defensive coordinators sweat.  Torry Holt is still one of the best and Isaac Bruce is still a consistent weapon.  Stephen Jackson is now the featured back and does have the youth on his side that this team primarily lacks.  If Bulger can stay healthy he is a Pro Bowl caliber player, but that is a big if.  They play in the horrendous NFC West, so two games against the Cardinals and 49′ers will help as well.  

Best Case Scenario - The offense stays healthy and drinks from the fountain of youth.  If things go the Rams way they still have the firepower to be a playoff team.  But alot has to go right.  The defense will have to step up big time to keep the offense out of come from behind situstions.  If Bulger can get a grasp of Linehan's systems and stay upright the Rams will not be an easy out for anyone.  If Bulger gets hurt, things could get ugly.

Worst Case Scenario - One of the big guns gets hurt or the defense can't stop anyone.  The Rams are going to rely on their veteran leadership to get them where they want to go.  There isn't alot of depth on this team, and Free Agency has taken it's toll the past couple of years.  

My Opinion - Stay Healthy, play smart, don't give up the big play.  Pretty basic, common sense stuff, but for many teams in the NFL the defference between 10-6 and 6-10 is razor thin.  The Rams are one of these teams.  Anytime a new head coach is hired there is a learning curve.  Similar to many teams at this point on my list I have the Rams struggling early, before going on a run late.  How much they struggle and how many games they can steal will go along way towards how successful they will be.  I think we'll know Week 1 when the Rams face Denver which direction this team will go.