Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Rams Revolution

The Rams’ release of starting linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa underscored the dramatic nature of the Rams’ roster shakeup that’s occured this offseason.

Of the players who were listed on the roster or on injured reserve for the 16th and final game of the Rams’ 2008 season, 21 are gone.

And the Rams have gotten a lot younger during this weeding process.

Counting those who finished last season on IR, the Rams have subsequently released, traded or declined to re-sign 15 players who were age 30 or older.

That’s right, 15 thirtysomethings are gone from 2008.

That list includes Torry Holt, Orlando Pace, Drew Bennett, Trent Green, La Roi Glover, Fakhir Brown, Corey Chavous and Jonathan Craft. Several full-time starters were part of that group.

As the 2009 roster sits right now, the Rams have only six players age 30 or over: QB Marc Bulger; DEs James Hall and Leonard Little; LB Chris Draft; S Todd Johnson; and K Josh Brown. Two others — snapper Chris Massey and TE Randy McMichael – will turn 30 during the 2009 season.

That’s why Tinoisamoa was let go. He was decent enough, but wasn’t going to get any better. He was limited by size. GM Billy Devaney and coach Steve Spagnuolo would rather see what some of the young LBs could do, whether it be Larry Grant, Chris Chamberlain or David Vobora.

I think the Rams could get even younger before the 2009 regular-season opener. The Rams lack depth at DE, so Little and Hall appear to be safe. The same with Draft at LB. But obviously Devaney and Spagnuolo are on the lookout for younger plug-ins and upgrades at the position. All positions, actually. They want to freshen up this roster, and make it faster and stronger and more energetic.

Some younger veterans aren’t locks to be playing for the Rams in ‘09. TE Joe Klopfenstein is a longshot to make it to the opener, and at some point CB Tye Hill, the former No. 1 draft pick, will have to show that he can stay healthy and make plays.

If he has another poor season, Bulger could be a salary-cap casualty after ‘09.

If you are a Ram age 30 or older or in your late 20s, watch out … the bosses are probably looking to replace you unless you’re playing very well and on a consistent basis.

And this needed to be done. When a team has lost 27 of its last 32 games, a good scrubbing and aggressive housecleaning is in order. I don’t believe I’m not overstating the Devaney-Spags desire to go with the youngbloods. A perfect example is the wide receiver position. The Rams are going with the kids. They’ve had no interest, so far, in signing one of the elder-statesmen WR who could tutor their young receivers. The Rams’ three top wideouts on the depth chart right now — Donnie Avery, Laurent Robinson and Keenan Burton — have combined for 19 NFL starts and 103 NFL receptions in their careers.

That’s why I think it’s wise and fair to be realistic about the Rams’ 2009 season. This will be a young bunch, led by a rookie HC. This roster overhaul was a necessity. Sometimes you have to take take a step back before you can move forward and begin to ascend. It will be exciting to watch them grow up, but there are still a lot of roster holes, and a lot to learn.