Editor’s note: At long last, we’re able to complete our series on the Patriots scheduled opponents in the upcoming season. The following are questions that have been posed to the beat writers of each particular team. In this case, the St. Louis Rams.
Five questions about the Rams with Mike Sando, who covers the NFC West for ESPN.com.
Date: Oct. 28
Time: 1 p.m.
Location: Wembley Stadium, London
1. What is going to be the strength of this team?
The running game, both by design and personnel. Steven Jackson should have another strong year or two left. He’s topped 1,000 yards rushing for seven consecutive seasons. New coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is installing a run-first offense designed to take pressure off quarterback Sam Bradford. The team also has a talented rookie back in Isaiah Pead, a second-round choice. One way or another, the Rams are going to run the ball. That is priority No. 1 for this team.
2. Where are they looking to get better?
They went 2-14 last season, so there are lots of areas. They need to get stronger against the run. Demarco Murray and Beanie Wells each topped 220 yards on the ground against St. Louis last season. That explains why the Rams drafted DT Michael Brockers in the first round and signed Kendall Langford in free agency. The offensive line, specifically the tackle positions in pass protection, need improvement. The situation at corner has already improved dramatically. The team ran out of them last season. Janoris Jenkins has looked great to this point.
3. Players on the spot?
Jason Smith, the second overall choice in 2009, heads the list. He has struggled at right tackle, particularly in pass protection. Free-agent pickup Barry Richardson has been getting some first-team reps. This is a make-or-break season for Smith. Bad luck with injuries have hurt him.
4. What needs to happen for this team to win big?
The Rams need to protect Sam Bradford. Realistically, they need to use the next couple drafts to restock their roster. The Rams have additional first-round choices in 2013 and 2014. They’re in position to improve dramatically if they draft correctly.
5. Realistic expectations for this team at this point?
Finishing outside the NFC West cellar is a realistic goal. The Rams should be competitive enough to win a couple division games at home, perhaps. And if one of the other NFC West teams falls off — it could happen given the state of quarterbacking in the division — the Rams could move up in the standings.