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A Stunning Decline

by Steve Savard

KMOV.com

Posted on December 3, 2008 at 8:15 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 4 at 3:25 PM

It's startling to see how far the Rams offense has fallen since 2006. That season, the offense finished 8th in total offense at 360 yards per game. This season, they rank 28th in total offense, gaining just 266 yards.

The passing game was fourth best in 2006 at 248 yards per contest. This season, the Rams' passing attack is 28th best at 174 yards a game. And the rushing offense has fallen from 17th two seasons ago to 27th this year. The Rams have also declined in the most important stat of all: points scored. In 2006, the Rams averaged 23 points which was tenth best in the league. This season, they rank next to last, scoring only 13 points each week.

Poor personnel decisions at both the starting and back up positions have led to this alarming decline. So, how do the Rams turn the offense back in the right direction in the offseason? I have some ideas.

Number one--run the ball more consistently. That is the top priority. We know what a difference Steven Jackson makes but we also know he's going to miss time each season. The Rams under Scott Linehan failed miserably to find a legit back up for Steven. If Jim Haslett gets the job, that will be a top offseason priority.

Number two--better quarterback play. Number one will help number two immensely. I know many Rams fans have given up on or never been on board with Marc Bulger. But I think if Haslett gets the job, he'll stick with Bulger as his starter and spend time and money finding a younger back up. But there likely will be a top tier Q-B available when the Rams draft. Right now, Oklahoma's Sam Bradford and Georgia's Matt Stafford are rated as top ten picks and one figures to be there when the Rams select.

Number three--get bigger and more physical on the offensive line. Rookie John Greco should be a starter next season. Jim Hanifan believes Greco and Richie Incognito could be a nasty one--two combo at guard with Jacon Bell adding depth. Haslett also wants a bigger center and another tackle. Hanifan tells me that Orlando Pace is perfectly capable of manning left tackle at least one more season but he's going to be 34 and Alex Barron will be in his walk year in 2009. So it's essential the Rams acquire a starting quality tackle in the offseason. If you like to dream big, consider that Carolina's Jordan Gross is due for free agency. It's a long shot but a nice thought.

Number four--establish a number one receiver. This will be a challenge for sure. Torry Holt doesn't appear to be that guy anymore although I think he can still contribute more than he is now. But his cap number is high and the Rams and Torry might might be open to a trade. Drew Bennett has shown no sign of filling this role(or any for that matter) and Donnie Avery is still wet behind the ears. But if the Rams run the ball better next season, the Rams receivers will have more room. There is very little separation now because teams aren't respecting the running game and they're doubling Avery and or Holt. Kevin Curtis should never have been allowed to walk in free agency. That's among the worst decisions in the last three years.

Number five---replace Madison Hedgecock at fullback. That's right behind the Curtis decision for bonehead moves of the decade--releasing Hedgecock. Steven Jackson needs a reliable ramrod in front of him.

It seems like the Rams have a lot of work ahead of them but teams like the Jets, Dolphins and Falcons were in similar positions last season and all made three or four personnel moves on offense and are now in the playoff hunt. It can be done. I'm encouraged by Billy Devaney's first draft class. First things first--John Shaw needs to empower Devaney as the team's true G.M. The same old front office structure isn't going to get it done.

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