Receiver and defensive backfield just two of many issues for Rams

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 13:  Laurent Robinson #11 of the St. Louis Rams carries the ball during the game against the Seattle Seahawks on September 13, 2009 at Qwest Field in Seattle, Washington. The Seahawks defeated the Rams 28-0. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Merry preseason, everyone. It’s been a long offseason, but football is finally gearing up again and to celebrate I’m rolling out a new series on TSR entitled “2010 NFL Question Marks,” where I discuss one or two of the biggest concerns that teams have heading into the new season. Granted, some teams have more issues than others, but I’ll primarily be focusing on the biggest problem areas. Today I’ll be discussing the woeful Rams and their concerns at receiver and in the defensive backfield.

When a team earns the right to select at the top of the draft, it’s easy to spot its holes.

And the Rams have a lot of holes.

Outside of running back Steven Jackson and a linebacker corps led by second-year player James Laurinaitis, the Rams have issues at nearly every position. The hope is that young players like Sam Bradford, Rodger Saffold, Jason Smith and Chris Long will step up in due time, but it’s going to be a while before guys like Bradford are ready to make major contributions.

The receiver and defensive backfield are currently the team’s two biggest weaknesses heading into the new year. Wideout was already a concern before Donnie Avery went down to a season ending injury and now that they won’t even have him, the Rams have an even bigger hole at the position.

I’ve been very high on Laurent Robinson since he came into the league as a third round pick of the Falcons in 2007. But despite flashing his potential on occasion, he’s been a dud due to injuries. He caught 13 passes for 167 yards and one touchdown in his first four games last year, then suffered an injury that shelved him for the rest of the season. With Avery out, he has the opportunity to be the No. 1 guy but can he stay healthy for 16 games? He hasn’t yet.

Filling in for Avery at the spot opposite Robinson will be Danny Amendola, an undrafted second-year player out of Texas Tech. He did catch 43 passes for 326 yards and one touchdown last year and could be a potential sleeper in 2010, but it remains to be seen if he can be a full-time starter. The same goes for Brandon Gibson and Keenan Burton, two other receivers further down St. Louis’ depth chart.

Perhaps the most intriguing option is rookie Mardy Gilyard, who was a tremendous playmaker at Cincinnati, but someone who has yet to make an immediate impact. He certainly has the talent to be good at this level, but it looks like the Rams will have to bring him along slowly after he failed to impress in camp.

Switching to the defensive side of the ball, Ron Bartell was given a $25 million deal before last offseason and he repaid the Rams by regressing in coverage. He gave up 783 yards and allowed 63.4 percent of passes to be completed on him last year, which included five touchdowns. And he’s supposed to be the team’s best corner.

Bradley Fletcher (knee surgery) was expected to win the starting job opposite Bartell, but he couldn’t beat out Kevin Dockery in camp or preseason. That isn’t good considering Dockery is coming off a miserable year with the Giants and is now expected to start.

The situation appears to be a little better at safety where Craig Dahl and O.J. Atogwe will return, but for as skilled as Atogwe is at forcing turnovers his overall play leaves something to be desired.

All in all, the Rams will struggle again this season. They just don’t have the talent to match up with opponents on week-to-week and both of these positions will hold them back in 2010.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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