Free Agent Acquisitions/Losses:
They've added a considerable number of defensive players and their two key losses were all-world safety Adam Archuleta and defensive tackle Damoine Lewis.
To replace the players they lost, they added SS Corey Chavious from the Vikings, LB Will Witherspoon of the Panthers, and DT La'Roi Glover of the Cowboys. Chavious is a well respected, solid player, but he certainly doesn't have the talent or reputation of the departed Archuleta. Glover is a fine addition to the team, since he possesses both the pass rushing and run stopping skills to succeed in any scheme. However, it's been some time since he was a "game breaker" at the position, and he may only be running on fumes and reputation at this point. The marquee addition of the off-season was Witherspoon. Witherspoon is a Pro Bowl caliber player at the position that is a sure tackler and always seems to be around the ball. Of the players the Panthers lost this season, I'd say they'd most like to have Witherspoon back.
They also added depth to several positions in QB Gus Ferotte, DB Fahir Brown, and RB Paul Smith. There's also likely to be a changing of the guard at punter, with the acquisition of Miami's Matt Turk.
The biggest off-season move, though, may prove to be drafting Clemson's Tye Hill in the first round of the 2006 NFL Draft. Hill possesses rare speed and ball skills at the position and may prove to be the salve that the Rams have been missing since they lost Aneas Williams and Grant Wistrom.
What to Expect This Season:
It's hard to know what to expect from the Rams this year. They finished 2005 at a disappointing 6-10. Deposed coach Mike Martz was absent for part of the season. They brought in Linehan and added former Saints coach Jim Haslett to be defensive coordinator. No one in their right mind would say that the Rams don't have a great deal of talent on the roster that belies their 6-10 2005 record. It seems to me, though, that they might need to take a step back record-wise to take a step forward.
Linehan has made it very clear this off-season that he intends to change the personality and mindset of the St. Louis Rams. He intends to oversee a team that runs the ball, plays defense, and takes care of the football. However, under the Martz regime, the Rams were known has a high-octane pass-oriented offense that played just enough defense to get by and was careless with the football. While it may be easier to change the attitude of the players under your employ than one might think, it's considerably more difficult to change a talent base that was constructed with a certain philosophy in mind.
While the Rams have talent, they'll hardly be miscast by anyone who follows football as a defensive team that runs a smash-mouth offensive attack and tries to eliminate mistakes. From a personnel standpoint, they'll be hard pressed to execute the planned change in their identity, even if Marshall Faulk retires and Steven Jackson assumes the "battering ram" role of the featured back in a physically oriented offense.
It will take more than good coaching and resolve to turn the tides for the Rams. They'll most likely struggle through this season with their current personnel in the new scheme, but come back strong next season.