After trading Sam Bradford to the Eagles in the offseason, the St. Louis Rams are hoping to finish with a winning record for the first time since 2003 – or at least improve upon their 6-10 finish from a year ago.
How is offense different now that Nick Foles is the guy under center?
“Well, I think Nick Foles is new to it, but I think Frank Cignetti really kind of holds the key,” Rams radio analyst Steve Savard said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “He’s the new coordinator taking over for Brian Schottenheimer. I think we’re all curious to see what Frank has up his sleeve. The Rams want to run the football. They want to pound the ball. They have not been able to do that as effectively as they’d like the first three years under Jeff Fisher. They want that to change this year. I think the better they run the football, the better that is for Nick Foles. I think after watching him in the preseason, I think he is more than capable of leading this team to a playoff spot if everything falls into place. To me, the whole key is how well does this young offensive line play in front of him and do they do enough of a job to run the ball in the division away from home? That’s been their problem the last couple of years.”
The Rams averaged 102.2 rushing yards per game last season – 20th in the NFL. We’ll find out pretty quickly if the line has gotten any better, as the Rams host Seattle this Sunday.
“(The) learning curve is steep in the NFL – and it’s really steep when you face the Seahawks’ defense in Week 1,” Savard said. “What we haven’t seen is a lot of continuity. Rodger Saffold, who is the gray beard on the offensive line, was hurt in the first preseason game and hasn’t played since. He will play on Sunday. That’ll help. But we really don’t know how well the young right tackle will play in Rob Havenstein. The left guard, Jamon Brown, (is) another rookie. Tim Barnes starts at center. He’s only got three starts on his resume. And Greg Robinson starts at left tackle. He’s got nine starts at that position on his resume. So it’s very young. It’s a promising group, but they’re very, very young. I think Roger Saffold kind of holds the key. He’s the veteran in there, he knows the offense – he’s got to stay healthy for this offensive line to be successful.”
Given the uncertainty at offensive line, parting with Bradford and his damaged knees was probably a smart play.
“Every time he was hit, everybody would be holding their breath,” Savard said. “The other thing the trade did for the Rams is it freed up about $11-13 million in cap space. What they were able to do with that money is they added to an already formidable defense – specifically being able to sign Akeem Ayers and Nick Fairley. So you got better on defense, you certainly have a more cap-friendly quarterback, and Nick Foles – although he injured (his collarbone last year), there isn’t that track record of injury that Sam Bradford had here in St Louis. So I think people are very optimistic about Nick Foles holding up compared to what we’ve seen the last two years.”