NFL 2006 Preview: The Saint Louis Rams

Quarterback- Head coach and former offensive coordinator Scott Linehan has to like the talent he has at quarterback in his inaugural season with the Rams. Starting quarterback Marc Bulger is an outstanding talent with a good arm and Linehan has to hope that he can recover from an injury plagued 2005 season to his old form. Linehan has quite a bit of competition for the two backup quarterback positions in 2006. At the number two spot, look for a heated competition between second year quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and former Texans quarterback Dave Ragone. Ragone is talented and will beat out Fitzpatrick for the backup spot. At the third spot, look for Linehan to choose Gus Frerotte over Fitzpatrick to provide a steady veteran voice in the quarterback corps.
2006 NFL Grade: B+

Running Back/ Full Back- Second year running back Steven Jackson has overtaken Marshall Faulk for the starting running back position in St. Louis, to the point where Faulk is considering retirement. However, Jackson could benefit from having Faulk on the roster to continue tutoring him on the nuances of the NFL game. If Faulk retires, Jackson’s main back up will be former Packer Tony Fisher, who is an outstanding role player and receiving running back. Look for Jackson to get between 1200 and 1500 yards in a passing offense, which speaks to his ability to make plays.
2006 NFL Grade: B+

Wide Receiver/ Tight End- Annually one of the best units in the league, the Rams’ receivers will need to keep up their excellent performance in order for the Rams to do well in 2006. Rookie tight ends Jonathan Williams and Joe Klopfenstein benefit from having a great group of receiverse around them, allowing them to adjust to the NFL and make plays on short and intermediate routes. Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce, Dane Looker, and Shaun McDonald will make big plays with the help of Marc Bulger’s arm and Scott Linehan’s play calling.
2006 NFL Grade: A

Offensive Line- Tackles Alex Barron and Orlando Pace will make the Rams happy they invested in their offensive line in 2006, with both potentially earning spots in the Pro Bowl for the Rams. Pace is a proven offensive tackle and will continue his great play, while Barron will distinguish himself in 2006 as a god young tackle. There will be some competition at the guard positions, though it will likely end up with Claude Terrell and Adam Timmerman leading the Rams interior line. As well, veteran Andy McCollum will win the center competition but rookie Donovan Raiola is the center of the future for St. Louis. Overall, the Rams are in good hands on the offensive line in 2006.
2006 NFL Grade: A-

Defensive Line- The defensive line will need to step up its game in the pass rush in 2006, with Leonard Little in particular needing to step up his game to aid the Rams defense. However, the Rams may get more help from the interior line with a plethora of defensive tackles and big defensive ends including La’Roi Glover, Jason Fisk, Brian Howard, and Jimmy Kennedy capable of stuffing the run and congesting the middle of the field. However, the defensive backs will need help in the pass game from their pass rush and the Rams’ defensive line will have troubles providing adequate support.
2006 NFL Grade: B-

Linebacker- The Rams’ linebacker unit is extremely talented and will develop into one of the better linebacking corps in the NFL. Young backers like Pisa Tinoisamoa and Will Witherspoon give Coach Linehan some playing making ability at the second level and the possibility of an even better defensive unit in years to come. Look for Tinoisamoa to have a Pro Bowl season and for the Rams’ linebackers to step up and make the big plays on defense in 2006.
2006 NFL Grade: B+

Defensive Back- The corner backs and safeties for the St. Louis Rams certainly have the talent to be a good unit in 2006, but they are not good enough team players to put it all together this season. While Jerametrius Butler, Tye Hill, Travis Fisher, and Dwaine Carpenter are good talents and will make individual plays this season, they are not yet accustomed to playing as a unit in the NFL. Look for Tye Hill to step up as a solid NFL cornerback but for the St. Louis Rams to be near the bottom in pass defense.
2006 NFL Grade: C

Kicker/Punter- The Rams have two veterans at the specialist positions in 2006, with kicker Jeff Wilkins and punter Matt Turk giving rookie coach Scott Linehan some leadership on special teams. Wilkins has been a consistent kicker over his career and will continue to give the Rams some solid kicking inside of the 40. Punter Matt Turk is aging but is a good enough punter to pin teams deep and give the Rams defense an advantage. However, don’t be surprised if these two veteran specialists start to show their age in 2006.
2006 NFL Grade: B-

2006 NFL Projection- The St. Louis Rams will hover around .500, with an 8-8 or 9-7 season and placing third in the NFC West division.

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