New coach Jeff Fisher and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer have their work cut for them in 2012 as they try to inject life into a moribund offense that was affected by injuries last season.
One thing is clear: They are glad to be building the offense around quarterback Sam Bradford and know they have to find weapons for him and make sure he is protected.
Fisher has said on several occasions that Bradford’s presence was a major factor that made the Rams’ job attractive.
“Sam was a big part of the decision,” Fisher said. “We think he has a chance to be great. A lot of people around the league believe that. We are going to everything possible to make that happen.”
Fisher recalls meeting with Bradford at the combine in 2010. He said, “I remember just about every word he said. He was very, very impressive, sharp, motivated. Hates losing like most elite college players.”
Then, after Fisher met with Rams owner Stan Kroenke in Denver four days after the end of the 2011 season, he came to St. Louis for a day and visited with Bradford for nearly two hours at team headquarters.
Said Fisher, “It went way beyond getting acquainted. I didn’t need to get him on the board. He knows more offense than I do. We exchanged ideas. I wanted to get a sense of him and the team, his teammates, the pulse, where he thought they were. His injury was a difficult thing, especially with the lack of an offseason, and it being his second year. We covered it. I felt very comfortable as he did when we went different directions.”
As Schottenheimer began watching tape of Bradford, he liked what he saw. “Obviously, he’s extremely gifted, extremely talented,” Schottenheimer said. “As I’m watching the film, getting the sense of how accurate he is with the football and how well he actually moves around and has made plays. That was one of the things that jumped off the film at me. It will be a fun process going through and looking at all the games and just getting a sense of where he’s at. Obviously, I’ve been around a lot of young quarterbacks, but I think this guy’s got a chance to be real special.”
Now, their task is to get special players around him, in addition to running back Steven Jackson. Wide receiver Brandon Lloyd is a free agent. Danny Amendola will return after missing all but one game with a dislocated elbow. Danario Alexander has the ability to be a playmaker, but has injury issues.
At tight end, Lance Kendricks had too many drops in his rookie season and Mike Hoomanawanui also has problems with injuries.
Still, the biggest question marks are on the offensive line. Guard Jacob Bell, who left Fisher’s Titans for the Rams in 2008, isn’t expected back. Center/guard Jason Brown might be a salary-cap casualty.
Tackles Rodger Saffold and Jason Smith are young, but have also had injuries. Saffold suffered a torn pectoral muscle last season, while Smith has had two serious concussions in three seasons. Harvey Dahl could end up at tackle instead of guard.
Whatever changes are made in personnel, Jackson is glad to have Fisher as his coach.
“I have played against his teams a lot and they all come with that attitude and a certain level of play,” Jackson said. “They have that ‘it.’ It’s hard to explain what that ‘it’ is to a … fan. But it’s just something about (the way they play) when they go between those lines. Coach Fisher’s teams have a certain something that’s hard to put a finger on. But I have to assume it’s (his) leadership.”