NFL Team Previews: St. Louis Rams

There aren’t too many organizations in professional sports more inept than what the St. Louis Rams have been in recent years. Not only was their last winning season in 2003 and their last .500 season in 2006, but in four of the last five years they’ve won three games or less. I compare it to my day at the racetrack last week when I bet nine races and lost all nine—that level of incompetence is very difficult to achieve and we should appreciate it when it comes around. Is there any hope for positive change for the Rams now that Jeff Fischer is in charge? TheSportsNotebook takes a look at the state of football in St. Louis…

OFFENSE: Sam Bradford came through an injury-riddled year in 2011 where he started only ten games. In his third year in the league, Bradford is facing a key crossroads season and he’s doing it with a non-descript group of receivers. St. Louis will run out Austin Pettis, Steve Smith, Danny Amendola , tight end Lance Kendricks and hope someone can catch fire or Bradford can move the ball around effectively.

If the quarterback is going to spread the ball around he’ll need time to scan the field and in that regard young Rodger Saffold on the blind side will have Bradford’s back. The Rams’ line is pretty good across, with Scott Wells at center and Harvey Dahl at right guard. Collectively, these three are all capable of making a Pro Bowl. The downside on this line is that the other two spots are both weak, while Dahl and Wells have moved into their thirties.

Brian Schottenheimer will be running the offense after being let go from the zoo that is the Jets. Like his father, Brian’s offenses are at their best when he’s running the ball and with Stephen Jackson in the backfield he’s got a horse to ride. And I like the draft choice of Isiah Pead out of Cincinnati, a shifty back who can be a nice change of pace.

DEFENSE: This has the chance to be a very exciting group and one that the veteran Fischer can use to turn the franchise around quickly. The front four is led by Chris Long, the defensive end who posted 13 sacks and every spot in the trenches is filled with quality. Robert Quinn is a decent supporting player on the other edge, with five sacks and Kendall Langford is a talented 26-year-old in the trenches. And I love the draft choice of defensive tackle Michael Brockers from LSU, who will get thrust right into the battle.

Overseeing the front four is middle linebacker James Laurinaitis, and although there’s weakness at the other two spots, the combination of a tough front four and good middle linebacker will ensure the Rams don’t get physically whipped.

St. Louis brought in free agent Cortland Finnegan, who instantly transforms the secondary by giving them a lockdown corner, and the team drafted Janoris Jenkins, a potential dark horse on the other side. Quintin Mikell is Pro Bowl-caliber at strong safety, although the team nees to hope for the development of 24-year-old Darian Stewart at free safety.

LAS VEGAS OVER/UNDER WIN PROJECTION: 6—I like this defense and I respect Fischer, but when a team hasn’t broken three wins four of the last five years, I’m not about to be them to double that total—and doubling it only gets the Rams to a push. I think you have to go Under.